Monday, October 4, 2010

Not All Jews Support Israeli Policies Toward Palestinians

Not all Jews support Israeli policies toward Palestinians…..on the last week in September, nine people on the Irene, a 40-year-old, 32-foot boat were hoping to raise awareness of the ongoing blockade of Gaza by attempting to break Israel’s blockade and deliver humanitarian supplies, including medicines, therapeutic toys, water purifiers and outboard engines, to the people of Gaza.

As IDF soldiers boarded their boat, the group appealed to the consciences of the soldiers, urging them to disobey orders and allow the boat to land in Gaza: “The blockade as well as the occupation is inhumane and contradicts universal and Jewish moral values. Use your conscience. Remember our own painful history. Refuse to enforce the blockade. Refuse to occupy Palestine.”

Nine Israelis, standing against their government’s occupation of Gaza—
  • Reuven Moskovitz, from Israel, was a founding member of the Jewish-Arab village Neve Shalom/Wahat al Salaam (Oasis of Peace) and a holocaust survivor
  • Rami Elhanan, from Israel, lost his daughter Smadar to a suicide bombing in 1997 and is a founding member of the Bereaved Families Circle of Israelis and Palestinians who lost their loved ones to the conflict
  • Lilian Rosengarten, from the US, is a peace activist and psychotherapist. She was a refugee from Nazi Germany
  • Yonatan Shapira, from Israel, is an ex-IDF pilot and now an activist for Combatants for Peace
  • Glyn Secker, from the UK, is the boat’s captain and a member of Jews for Justice for Palestinians Executive Commitee
  • Dr. Edith Lutz, from Germany, is a peace activist and a nurse. She was on the first boat to Gaza in 2008
  • Itamar Shapira, from Israel, is Yonatan’s brother, and a member of the boat’s crew
  • Eli Osherov, Israeli reporter from Israel Channel 10 News
  • Vish Vishvanath, Freelance photographer and reporter

A news release from the Israeli Defense Forces reported that Israeli naval commandos “peacefully boarded” the ship, the Irene. This is what we heard on our news in the US as well. But participants’ accounts offer us another story.

It is September 28…. The Irene is 20 miles off the coast of Gaza, naval vessels speeding toward them, and the passengers know that two Gaza fishermen have been killed in these waters during the past week by the Israeli Navy.

Captain Glyn Secker reports: “with the frigate in the background, two gunboats, two landing craft and four high powered ribs [rigid inflatable boats] spread out in a semi-circle speeding towards us at perhaps 35 knots, with their bow waves and wakes flashing in the sunshine. It was surreal, it was like an action movie….this overwhelming force for a 9.7 metre 40 yr. old boat, the majority of its Jewish occupants over 60 years old, with no weapons and a publicized policy of passive resistance.”

When the Irene approached Gaza, 20 miles offshore, the Navy responded with the exact declaration they made before attacking the Mavi Marmara in May:
“You are entering an area which is under military blockade and is closed under international law.”

Itamar, who was in charge of communicating with the Navy, responded by reading a declaration from the group in English and Hebrew:

“We are a boat of the European organization Jews For Justice For Palestinians. We are unarmed and non-violent and determined to proceed to the port of Gaza. You are enforcing an illegal blockade and we do not recognize your right to do this. On this Jews For Justice for Palestinians boat are peace activists of all ages among us holocaust survivors, bereaved parents and Israelis who refuse to collaborate with the illegal occupation of Palestine.”

“We call on you IDF soldiers and officers to disobey the illegal orders of your superior officers. For your information, the occupation of Gaza and the Palestinian Territories are illegal under international law; therefore your risk being tried in the international courts. The blockade as well as the occupation is inhumane and contradicts universal and Jewish moral values. Use your conscience. Remember our own painful history. Refuse to enforce the blockade. Refuse to occupy Palestine.”

As the passengers were holding hands, hugging one another and singing “We Shall Overcome,”
the soldiers continued with their planned takeover of the boat, roughing up passengers, using a tazer on Itamar, placing the tazer over his heart and firing it. Itamar reports: “The officer came towards us, pulling out his taser ordered us to stop holding on to each other. The soldier threatened if I did not let go they would hurt me, then tasered me on my right shoulder and shot twice – it was very painful – but not as painful as the next shot where he pulled aside my life jacket, put gun on my chest and fired. My whole body lost control and I convulsed like a fit, I let out a high pitched scream. Then they took me to one of their boats.”

As he goes on to say, “And that was the ‘non-violent’ take over of the Jewish boat to Gaza.” Read more of his and others’ accounts of the event: "What Really Happened When the Jewish Boat to Gaza was Boarded."

Read the Ha-aretz report

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