Israel Political Brief July 21, 2011: Flotilla activists sent packing from Israel

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

Source: JTA, 7-21-11

The activists aboard the lone Gaza-bound flotilla ship intercepted by Israel were deported.

Some 15 activists, journalists and crew members were deported throughout the day Wednesday, a day after the French-flagged Dignity al-Karama was boarded by Israeli commandos near Gaza waters and towed to Israel’s Ashdod port. One activist was an Israeli journalist and was not deported.

The ship reportedly had declared a port in Egypt as its final destination in order to be able to leave Greek waters. At least seven other flotilla ships were detained and remain in Greek ports for safety violations.

The Dignity was carrying about 10 French and Greek activists, as well as three journalists and three crew members.

After boarding the ship, Israeli troops checked the condition of the passengers and offered them food and drink, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

The passengers were turned over to officials from the Israel Police, the Immigration and Population Authority and the Interior Ministry. They could be denied entrance to Israel for the next 10 years because they are being deported.

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Israel Political Brief July 21, 2011: Israel minister rules out flotilla apology to Turkey

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

Source: AFP, 7-21-11

Israel will not “take responsibility” for the deaths of nine Turkish nationals by apologising to Ankara over its botched 2010 raid on a ferry heading for Gaza, a senior cabinet minister said on Thursday.

“We are not ready to apologise, as apologising is taking responsibility,” Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Yaalon told reporters in Jerusalem.

“There is no room in my mind for any kind of apology that means taking responsibility,” he said of the pre-dawn raid on a six-vessel flotilla that attempted to sail to Gaza in May 2010 in a bid to break Israel’s naval embargo.

Yaalon’s comments come after several failed attempts by Israel and Turkey to patch up ties that frayed almost to breaking point after commandos stormed the Turkish-owned Mavi Marmara ferry that was leading the flotilla.

He said Turkish representatives continued to insist that relations could only be restored if Israel apologised for the raid, compensated the families of those killed and the injured, and lifted its blockade on the Gaza Strip.

“We tried very hard to bridge the gap … (but) as long as they insist on this position I can’t see any agreement between the two sides,” he said.

“We are ready to regret the loss of lives, we are ready to create a kind of humanitarian voluntary fund,” he said, explaining that if such a fund were set up by Ankara, Israel would be prepared to pay money into it.

But he said there would be no official apology nor direct compensation offered to the families of those killed and the injured.

“A voluntary fund is acceptable, but compensation … means that you are responsible.”…READ MORE

Israel Advocacy Group Forces Delay in Gaza-Bound Flotilla

Source: NYT, 6-28-11

The departure of a pro-Palestinian flotilla of international ships with plans to break the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza has been delayed, in large part due to the efforts of an Israeli advocacy group, both sides said Tuesday.

Greek authorities have held two of the ships docked here in recent days, including an American vessel, after the Israeli advocacy group, Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center, filed a complaint to the Greek coast guard suggesting that seven of the ships might be lacking insurance or improperly registered.

Ten ships are slated to head toward Gaza this week, in a challenge to Israel’s naval embargo of the Palestinian coastal strip governed by Hamas, the militant group that opposes Israel’s right to exist. All the vessels are insured and have been certified as seaworthy, said Adam Shapiro, a coordinator and spokesman for the flotilla….READ MORE

Activists, Israeli Navy prepare for flotilla bound for Gaza

Source: JTA, 6-28-11

Israel’s Navy is preparing to intercept the pro-Palestinian flotilla due to set sail for the Gaza Strip from Mediterranean ports later this week.

Commandos from the Israeli Navy’s elite Shayetet 13 unit have spent weeks preparing to stop the flotilla from reaching Gaza, including practicing new ways to quickly board the ships’ upper decks and how to use water cannons and other non-lethal riot control methods.

The Navy wants to avoid a repeat of  the violence that occurred when Israeli commandos boarded a ship in last year’s flotilla to Gaza. Nine Turkish activists, including a dual Turkish-American citizen, were killed in clashes with the commandos aboard the Mavi Marmara in May 2010.

This year’s flotilla activists, whose stated goal is to break Israel’s maritime blockade of the Hamas-run coastal strip, have attended workshops on the use of passive resistance tactics. The activists also have been trained to transmit information from the ships until the last minute and keep video chips hidden from boarding Israeli soldiers, according to a blog post by flotilla participant Medea Benjamin.

Unnamed Israeli officials told Israeli media outlets that some flotilla participants hope to kill Israeli soldiers and are planning to bring aboard bags of the chemical sulfur to pour it on soldiers as they attempt to board the ships. Israeli officials have identified at least two participants in the flotilla as having ties to Hamas.

However, a flotilla organizer, Israeli expatriate Dror Feiler, told journalists that flotilla participants have signed a declaration of nonviolence. Feiler said that dangerous chemicals would not be allowed on board flotilla vessels.

“If Israel suspects anyone, it should provide us with information so we can stop him,” he told Israel Army Radio Tuesday morning. “Violent people are not permitted to take part in the flotilla.”

The flotilla is expected to be a smaller version of last year’s, with some 10 ships, including two cargo ships, carrying about 500 activists reportedly set to take part, instead of the at least 15 ships carrying thousands of activists originally planned.

Earlier this month, the Turkish Islamic charity IHH, which helped organize last year’s flotilla with the Free Gaza Movement, withdrew the participation of the Mavi Marmara in this year’s flotilla. The IHH, which is considered a terrorist organization by Israel and the European Union, said the ship did not gain necessary approval from Turkish port authorities for technical reasons.

The flotilla ran into further problems this week.

The departure date of flotilla ships from Greek ports was pushed off from the originally scheduled Tuesday launch due to a nationwide strike. Meanwhile, one ship’s propeller was cut off in what flotilla organizers are calling sabotage….READ MORE

Israel drops threat of ban to journalists covering Gaza flotilla

Source: JTA, 6-27-11

Israel has dropped the threat of a ban against journalists who participate in the Gaza flotilla.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday ordered Israeli authorities to formulate a special procedure for journalists who are arrested on board the flotilla, which is trying to evade the country’s maritime blockade of the coastal strip.

The order came a day after the head of Israel’s Government Press Office had threatened to deny entry to the country for 10 years to any journalist who participates in the flotilla.

Netanyahu said in a statement that the policy for journalists covering the flotilla should not be the same as against infiltrators and those who enter Israel illegally.

Members of the Israeli media and international journalists will be embedded in Israeli Navy vessels in contact with the flotilla “in order to create transparency and credible coverage of the events,” said a statement issued Monday from the Prime Minister’s Office.

The Foreign Press Association, which had criticized the threats made to journalists, applauded Israel’s decision.

“We are pleased to see that Israel has recognized the value of allowing reporters to cover an important news event and understands that journalists should be treated differently from political activists,” the association said Monday in a statement. “We urge the government to continue to do its utmost to promote freedom of the press as core values of a democratic society.”…READ MORE

Iranian Gaza aid ship won’t sail due to ‘Israeli threats’

Iran flotilla organizers note Israel sees vessels from Iran, Lebanon as ‘sign of war’. Iranian MP: Different boat to sail next weekSource: YNetNews, 6-24-10

An Iranian organization announced Thursday evening that the vessel carrying aid to the Gaza Strip, which was to have started its journey on Sunday from Iran, will not set sail. An Iranian member of parliament said a different boat, carrying four Iranian lawmakers and many other Iranians would set off from Turkey instead.

The secretary general of an Iranian organization supporting Palestinians, Hussein Sheikh el-Islam, said during a press conference that the main reason for the cancellation was “the violent and inhuman attitude of the Zionist regime to humanitarian aid.” The vessel’s intended voyage was originally announced by the Iranian Red Crescent.

Gearing Up
Preparing for flotillas like on eve of war / Ron Ben-Yishai
IDF examining ways of improving non-violent siege-enforcement methods ahead of next aid sails to Gaza while political rank holds frequent status evaluation meetings, which some say are unnecessary
Full Story

“The vessel was supposed to leave for Gaza on Thursday, but because of hurdles put up by the Zionist regime regarding the impossibility of getting some of the goods (into the Strip), it was decided to postpone the departure to Sunday, but now this too will not happen,” Sheikh el-Islam was quoted by the Iranian news agency IRNA.

Israel sent a letter to the UN announcing that the arrival of vessels from Lebanon and Iran to the Gaza area would be a sign of war and it would act against them,” he added….READ MORE

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