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They even arrest Peace Nobels now, don't they?
by Yacov I. Claude
2009-07-09 09:09:08
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No, this is not about Shirin Ebadi, in Tehran. Neither is it about the Dalai Lama, President Carter, or Archbishop Tutu. This time, after Aung San Suu Kyi, detained in Burma by the military, it has been Irish Peace Nobel Mairead Maguire, 65, detained in Israel after being “hijacked” at sea.

Upon writing these lines, we hear she was finally deported out of Israel, back to Ireland. Mairead Maguire’s problem is that she had no intention whatsoever of going to Israel this time. She was aboard “a rusty, rickety, unarmed boat bobbing in the middle of the sea” (Gideon Levy, Haaretz, July 6th). Along with twenty other peace-makers, among them the 2008 Green Party nominee for President of the United States Cynthia McKinney, 54, who was the first African-American woman to have represented Georgia in the House of Representatives.

What was their crime ? Carrying a ton of humanitarian assistance under a Greek flag (the Spirit of Humanity had left the island of Cyprus on June 29th, and was stopped in international waters twenty-five miles off the shore of Gaza the next day).

Nobel Maguire thus described the scene in a phone call from jail that has been made public :
“We are being charged with entering illegally into Israel… We did not choose to come to Israel ! Our little boat was boarded by the navy combat soldiers, and they came in in full riot gear onto our boat… there were heavy winds, there was water coming in, and really we were in a very, very dangerous position. So we were literally hijacked, taken at gunpoint by the Israeli military. And now we are here in prison…” 
1- The 8 journeys towards Gaza
Now, we may agree, or not, with Nobel Maguire’s idea of a trip to the Strip of Gaza in such conditions, but a little investigation into the matter is needed. It was her second such trip. When she reached the Gaza harbour by the end of October 2008, the first time, it was the maiden journey of the 20-meter yacht Dignity. Until the end of December 2008, there were five such trips, operated by an organization named Free Gaza Movement, and the Israeli policy was not to play “into their hands”. Called “professional provocateurs”, “ridiculous people”, and other birds’ names, they were ignored by the General Staff in Israel, who had concluded that “forcibly preventing the boats from landing would be a mistake”. The boats could not only reach Gaza safely, but leave it as well (Amos Harel, Haaretz, Israel not planning to detain activists’s boats leaving Gaza, August 25, 2008).
Not anymore since the Israeli assault on Gaza after Christmas 2008. On December 30, the Dignity was brutally rammed by war ships, three times, “without any warning, or any provocation”, according to its captain, Denis Healy. Aboard were, among others, three surgeons volunteering for hospitals in Gaza, the 2008 Green party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney, and three tons of medical supplies. 

Since that time, the badly damaged Dignity has been replaced by the Spirit of Humanity, on the 12th of January, 2009, and then on June 29th, 2009, for an eighth journey to Gaza, but none of these times has it been allowed to enter the harbour of Gaza. In January, the boat was simply deterred from pursuing its course. Now, its crew and passengers have been taken to the port of Ashdod first and then to this Israeli jail.
It is obviously not for safety reasons, as could have been argued on December 30th and January 12th, 2009. Let us then take this thing one year back, when there were no boats at all, knowing that for forty years not one boat has been allowed to reach or leave Gaza… How long has the Gaza Strip been really cut off from the world ?
2- from Sarajevo to Gaza
Would you remember January 23rd, 2008, when whole sections of  the steel wall that separates the Gaza Strip from Egypt were sliced through and brought down ? Tens of thousands of Gazans on foot, on donkey carts even, rushed into Egypt that morning, then hundreds of thousands. All to be pushed back after a few days, when the Egyptians closed the gap with huge rolls of barbed wire.

No such exodus had been seen in such a short time, even in Kosovo, when the Kosovars left to Albania, but it took them weeks, both ways.
What can this siege be compared to ? To the siege of Sarajevo, certainly. Which lasted more than three years and a half. I have no connection to the Free Gaza Movement, but I have met Nobel Peace Laureate Maguire on two occasions, and have kept in touch with General Morillon from the days of the conflict in Bosnia, after he’d been the commander of the UN Protection Forces there. They both support a campaign called the Open the Doors Campaign.
In February 2009, in Strasbourg, when General Morillon was still a Member of the European Parliament, I asked the general if the two sieges could compare. He lowered his deep, raucous voice, and whispered : “it is really worse in Gaza… for one thing, whatever some may say of the UN, there is no protection force there…”. I would trust someone like General Morillon on such issues. He also went to Gaza in February 2008, with a delegation of European Parliamentarians. He was in a position to compare.  
Equally noteworthy is the George Galloway Viva Palestina convoy, of 120 vehicles with more than 300 drivers, which did reach Gaza in March 2009, all the way from England, through France, Spain, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt. As a striking coincidence, the first convoy ever to break into the Sarajevo siege, in August 1993, “Mir Sada” (Peace Now in Serbo-Croat), was also composed, initially, of 120 vehicles…
3- Open the Doors – of Gaza, of prisons
It is one of the most glaring facts that one and a half million people locked in behind 9-meter concrete walls are left to rot among the ruins, under the summer sun. We know that books, records, clothes fabrics, shoes, needles, light-bulbs, candles, matches, musical instruments, sheets even, blankets, mattresses, cups and glasses are all on a list of prohibited items. Not to mention the materials necessary for reconstruction (cement, doors, windows…) after the devastating bombings of December 2008- January 2009: “strictly forbidden” (Amira Hass, Haaretz, May 17, 2009, Israel bans books, music and clothes from entering Gaza).
Who cares that the Gazans are “muslims”, and that a majority of them voted for this or that party ? Would it change anything if they happened to be Turks, who voted the AK Party in, known to belong to the Islamist tradition ? Would neighbouring Greece then feel so frightened that it would start a blockade of Turkey ? Would it make sense to starve the Turks ? For, after all, we are talking of people, in Gaza, who are both Muslims, as others are atheists, or Buddhists, and (potential) members, in the same time, of the Union for the Mediterranean, just like the Turks, the Cyprians, the Algerians, the Spaniards…

And it certainly is no accident that all of the Members of the European Parliament (2004-2009) from both Cyprus and Ireland support the Open the Doors Campaign.

This Campaign is inspirited by 10 Peace Nobel Laureates – among them the Dalai Lama, Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi, American Peace activist Jody Williams (International Campaign to Ban Landmines), South-African Archbishop Tutu – and 50 other Nobel Laureates, among whom African American writer Toni Morrison, Austrian playwright Elfriede Jelinek, Nigerian author Wole Soyinka, Professors Baruj Benacerraf, Torsten Wiesel, François Jacob, Roald Hoffmann, Sir Harold Kroto, Yuan T. Lee…
It aims at the end of the Gaza blockade, of all war acts and killings, and a series of liberations according to humanitarian and legal criteria.
“Israel must (…) enable Gaza to open to the world, so as to guarantee the possibility of a viable economy, and improve the humanitarian situation.”
“The Palestinians must end all rocket attacks against Israel and the Israelis.”
These 61 Nobel Laureates have been joined by 202 Members of the European Parliament (2004-2009) (UN General in Bosnia Morillon, May 68 activist Dany Cohn-Bendit, Italian astronaut Umberto Guidoni, former Prime Ministers French Michel Rocard, Belgian Jean-Luc Dehaene, Latvian Guntars Krasts, former Presidents of the European Parliament Josep Borrell Fontelles and Nicole Fontaine, former Vice-Presidents Luigi Cocilovo, Miguel Angel Martinez, Luisa Morgantini, Gérard Onesta, Diana Wallis…) and an array of personalities (Algerian writer Yasmina Khadra, survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto Martin Gray, Israeli writer David Grossman…).
Their plea and pledge is that “human beings are not bargaining chips”. Recalling that more than ten thousand prisoners are kept in Israeli jails to this day, they ask all political and moral leaders to do everything in their power to get women prisoners, sick persons, and the eldest ones, all those held without a trial, out – starting with Sergeant Shalit, who has been kept underground for three years, and former Minister of Education al Shaer, arrested on March 19th, 2009, in conditions which are contrary to international laws.
First, they arrest people without a name or a reputation. Then, they come for parliamentarians, elected members of legislature. When they arrest a Peace Nobel Laureate on a humanitarian mission, in a country whose President himself is a Peace Nobel laureate, it sounds as if this President is arresting himself, arresting in himself all that the Nobel award represents of commitment, and hope, for humanity in quest of sense, and fundamental justice. In Burma, a military junta was the first instance that dared lay hands on a Peace Nobel Laureate.
A woman, moreover. Has it become meaningless, in July 2009, that they dare set upon two women Peace Nobels, the Burmese Aung San Suu Kyi, the Irish Mairead Maguire ?
“It is not power that corrupts but fear.” Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Freedom from Fear

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Emanuel Paparella2009-07-09 12:37:52
Vico put it best: "E alla fine impazziscono." (and at the end they go crazy." Fanaticism always wins out when apathy reigns among good people.

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