Nicosia, Cyprus - On Monday, a movement known as FreeGaza.org held a press conference in Nicosia, Cyprus, in which a group of 40 people from around the world announced that they would board two small boats to travel by sea to Gaza to "break the siege" that Israel has placed upon Gaza.
There was no acknowledgement that in June of 2007, the Hamas regime took over Gaza and formalized a total state of war against Israel with the aim of liberating all of Palestine and using Gaza as a stepping stone to recoup any and all land ruled by the Jewish state.
With increasing boatloads of Iranian military hardware landing on the Gaza coastline, the Israeli navy was forced to impose an embargo of goods coming into Gaza. Israel offered to oversee goods and services for humanitarian needs in Gaza, by allowing specified supervised land crossings for supply to Gaza.
The press conference, held at “Journalist House” in Nicosia, was launched with an opening statement by an Israeli American Jerusalem resident, Jeff Halper, who alleged that Israel was behaving in defiance of international law by closing shipping lanes to Gaza. He also claimed that the people of Gaza faced a severe shortage of milk and medical supplies.
Mr. Monir Deeb, a native Gazan who has lived in Los Angeles since 1979, explained to the media that he was boarding these boats to reunite with his siblings in Gaza.
Mr. Deeb described Gaza as a "peaceful community under Israeli military siege" and said that this small convoy was meant to deliver a message to Israel to stop the siege of Gaza.
This reporter asked Mr. Deeb about the armed Gaza militias who have fired thousands of missiles over the past eight years against Israeli civilian communities that surround Gaza.
I also asked for his comment on how the Hamas government is using the current cease fire period to regroup and train for the next attack on Israel. Mr. Deeb said that he "could not relate to this question," since it was "political" and his concern was "only humanitarian" in nature.
The convener of the FreeGaza.org press conference, Ms. Greta Berlin, an American woman formerly married to a Palestinian whose family was dislocated from Safed in Northern Israel during the 1948 war, gave examples of the humanitarian mission on which they were embarking.
“One of her missions,” she said, “was to supply 9,000 hearing aids for Palestinian children who suffer hearing loss at a young age, due to Israeli missile attacks on Gaza.”
I asked Ms. Berlin if it were not the case that the missile attacks that she had claimed had been fired at Palestinians in Gaza by Israelis were actually fired by Palestinians towards the Western Negev, as they screech over Palestinian villages en route to hit Israeli civilian targets.
Ms. Berlin would not comment, saying repeatedly that the purpose of the voyage to Gaza was not political, even though the press statement issued by FreeGaza.org touched every raw political nerve possible.
FreeGaza.org also clearly stated that it strongly condemns Israel for not allowing "refugees and their descendants the right to return home" to the villages that have since been resettled by Israel after the 1948 war.
Meanwhile, the "FreeGaza.org" press statement also decried "Israel's illegal occupation of Palestine," laying aside any pretensions that the group only favored Israel's full withdrawal from Gaza.
Ms. Berlin reported that the operation to bring two boats into Gaza was independent of any foreign entities.
She mentioned that FreeGaza.org had already raised $210,000 of the total budget needed, more than $300,000 for the boats.
However, on July 31st, the Palestine Information Center issued a press release in which it stated that a member of the Lebanese Parliament had confirmed to Hamas leader Abu Marzook in Cairo that the boats had been provided by Palestinian popular committees by the Hamas.
That would mean, in effect, that FreeGaza.org received two sources of support for its work - from American Jewish groups and from the Palestinian popular committees which are run by Hamas.
Nothing like the profit motive to move things along the high seas.
The boats are timed to arrive in Gaza this coming Saturday night, which this year marks Tisha 'av, the ninth of Av on the Jewish calendar, a fast day which marks disasters which have befallen the Jewish people.
By coincidence or not, pro-Palestinian movements around the world have designated this Friday and Saturday as a time of solidarity with their cause.
Indeed, an international Palestinian solidarity conference will convene this coming weekend at Wyndam Ohare Hotel in Chicago, Illinois, where a coalition of fifty Arab groups will gather under the umbrella of the first “Palestinian Popular Conference in North America.”
The theme of the conference, promoted in all of their publicity, leaves no room for the imagination: “Ending Zionist occupation and colonization of Palestine.
By Cinnamon Stillwell
|‘Popular Palestinian Conference’ Peddles Propaganda
This weekend, the “Popular Palestinian Conference 2008” will be held in Chicago, and if past is prologue, a slew of anti-Israel propaganda will be part of the repertoire. The organizers make no effort to conceal their nefarious intentions, titling one of the workshops [emphasis added], “Inserting Palestine into High School Curricula in the US & Empowering Students to Challenge Dominant Narratives” and subtitling the conference, “Palestinians in the US: Reclaiming Our Voice, Asserting Our Narrative.” Unfortunately, this “narrative” is a false one in which Israel is the oppressor, the Palestinians its perpetual victims, and the United States an accomplice in crime.
Various Middle East studies academics will be on hand to help propagate this fictitious narrative. UC Berkeley lecturer Hatem Bazian, a skilled propagandist for Palestinian victimhood in the classroom and a radical activist outside it (he called for an “Intifada in this country!” at a 2004 anti-war rally in San Francisco), will be speaking on a panel titled, “Palestinian Political Prisoners in the US: The Attack on Palestinian Activists and Scholars.”
Bazian has long perpetuated the idea that off-campus criticism of Middle East studies is a form of persecution. To state the obvious: there are no “Palestinian political prisoners” in the U.S., only criminals convicted through the justice system of aiding and abetting terrorist organizations.
One of them, former University of South Florida computer science professor Sami Al-Arian, who pled guilty in 2006 to conspiring to provide goods and services to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and who awaits an August 13 trial for criminal contempt, will be represented on the panel by his daughter, Laila Al-Arian. Al-Arian has enjoyed unstinting support from the Middle East studies establishment, particularly founding director of Georgetown University’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, John Esposito. Unmoved by the murder of innocent civilians by Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Esposito penned a letter last month to the presiding judge urging that Al-Arian be granted bond and describing him as “a man of conscience with a strong commitment to peace and social justice.”
Al-Arian’s radicalism is nothing new: at a 1991 commemoration of the Palestinian Intifada featuring Islamic Jihad spiritual leader Abdel-Aziz Odeh, he called Jews “apes and pigs.”
Wayne State University anthropologist Thomas Abowd will moderate the “political prisoners” panel. This is fitting, for Abowd fashions himself the victim of what his supporters call “right-wing Zionist elements on campus.” But Abowd is hardly impartial. He is affiliated with the radical group Anti-Racist Action (ARA-WSU), whose members have accused Israel of “ethnic cleansing” and pro-Israel groups at Wayne State of practicing “white supremacist politics,” along with defending the use of a swastika to equate Israel with Nazi Germany at one of their rallies.
Abowd spoke at “Palestine Awareness Week,” an anti-Israel event at the University of Michigan in February 2008. Several students who attended Abowd’s lecture described in a Michigan Daily op-ed his hostile and dismissive attitude towards a student who dared ask a challenging question. Abowd, as they put it, “smirked and glared” and “used scare tactics to intimidate and to alienate the student and to negate the importance of his question.”
The conference ends with the panel, “One-State Solution to the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict.” The so-called one state solution is really just a fig-leaf for the destruction of Israel. There’s no evidence that the Palestinian political leadership has any inclination towards the sort of multi-religious, multi-ethnic democratic nation envisioned by “one-state solution” proponents. The pathological hatred towards Jews, persecution of Christians, advocacy of Sharia law, indoctrination of children, and violence among rival Palestinian clans and terrorist groups all demonstrate the danger to Israel that lies down this path.
Yet some scholars advocate the “one-state solution” in spite of these glaring obstacles. Jennifer Loewenstein, associate director of the Middle East studies program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will be one of the conference panelists doing just that. In a March 2008 article for the rabidly anti-Israel, far-left publication Counterpunch with the ridiculous title, “Gazan Holocaust,” Loewenstein asserts that “Israel and its U.S. Master have long since resided in the lowest circle of Hell for betraying the name of humanity.” No word from Loewenstein on the betrayals of humanity by the Palestinians, both towards Israelis and each other.
Another panelist, Tomis Kapitan, chair and professor in the Department of Philosophy at Northern Illinois University, displays a similar blind spot. In a 2004 paper on the Arab-Israeli conflict, Kapitan waxes philosophically about the “reciprocal” nature of Arab terrorism, calls the suggestion that “cultural or religious beliefs” motivate suicide bombings “incredible,” and concludes that “the maximalists in charge of Israeli policy and their supporters in the United States and elsewhere, are chiefly to blame for the ongoing cycle of violence.”
Panelist Seif Da’Na, professor of sociology and international studies at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, takes a Marxist, populist approach. In a 2001 Media Monitors Network article, Da’Na calls for a “Palestinian liberation strategy” and urges activists to view the “Palestinian struggle against Israel…in the larger context of the struggle to bring human dignity and social justice to the world.” Surely “human dignity” and “social justice” would first need to be established within before serving as some sort of shining beacon to the world, but Da’Na overlooks this minor matter.
So too do conference organizers, who, as part of pushing their “narrative,” bemoan the 60th anniversary of “al Nakba,” the Arabic word for “catastrophe” used to describe the creation of the modern state of Israel in 1948. But the “60 Years of Catastrophe” trumpeted at the conference website would more appropriately be placed upon the heads of Palestinian and regional Arab leadership.
They have perpetuated a constant state of victimhood and refugee status while fomenting chaos and violence. Palestinians are the second largest per capita recipients of foreign aid in the world, yet precious few resources have been dedicated to the building of a functioning civil society. In fact, rising levels of violence can be directly correlated to rising levels of aid. The current civil war between Fatah and Hamas and the resultant human rights abuses are just the latest examples.
If the Palestinians in the U.S. that conference organizers profess to represent, and Middle East studies academics sympathetic to their cause, truly wanted to effect a just resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, they would start looking within for answers. Instead, such conferences simply peddle propaganda intended to demonize Israel. Those seeking the truth would do well to steer clear.
See photos of the newest ISM recruits:
It is not true that a likeness of Greta Berlin will be placed on teh bow of one of the shiops because she looks like a gargoyle. For more on Greta Berlin visit www.StoptheISM.com and find her under our Rogues Gallery section.