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Gaza Activists Reveal Israel Ordeal


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British activists held by Israel following the storming of an aid flotilla heading for the Gaza Strip have spoken of their terrifying ordeal.

Cliff Hanley, from Bristol, and Ebrahim Musaji, from Gloucester, arrived home on Sunday a week after Israeli commandos intercepted their ship in the Mediterranean - leaving nine activists dead.

Both men were on board the Mava Marmara ship when it was boarded in the early hours of May 31.

Speaking at a press conference in Bristol, Mr Hanley, 61, recalled the moment the gunfire began and he was clipped by a bullet.

He said: "I got up at about 4am and went out on to the deck. There was nothing much you could see, just the lights from the other boats in the convoy. Then I heard the very light whirring of a helicopter coming from the darkness. The next thing the helicopter was above our heads.

"I could see under the floodlights on the helicopters, little gun ships on the water. I heard the rat-a-tat of machine guns. There were bombs going off - or at least sound bombs."

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A Turkish organizer of a pro-Palestinian aid flotilla admitted on Thursday to seizing weapons from Israeli soldiers who stormed the boats, but said activists beat the soldiers only in self defense.

Bulent Yildirim, said activists grabbed weapons from the soldiers who dropped onto the vessel, but then threw them into the sea.

Yildirim also said that the activists attacked the Israeli commandos with chairs and metal bars.

Nine of the activists were killed in the operation on Monday and several more wounded when Israeli commandos opened fire on the ship.

Seven soldiers were also wounded in the incident.

The Israeli commandos said that the activists surrounded and attacked them as soon they entered the ship and also say they acted in self-defense

Yildirim vowed to organize bigger convoys by land and sea if Israel did not end the blockade of Gaza.

The Turkish Islamic charity that Yildirim heads has been linked by various sources to terrorism networks, including Al-Qaida and Hamas.

Former French judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere said Thursday that Istanbul-based Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief.was connected to a 1999 plot by Al-Qaida to bomb Los Angeles International Airport.

The group had "clear, long-standing ties to terrorism" when he investigated it in the late 1990s, Bruguiere, saying it was "basically helping al-Qaida when bin Laden started to want to target U.S. soil."

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The flip side of the coin , an article gleaned from the London Evening Standard

Ad campaign bid to counter negative views of Muslims


An advertising campaign aimed at combating negative perceptions of Muslims was launched today as a new poll showed a majority of people in the UK associate Islam with terrorism.

The Inspired By Muhammad campaign on the London Underground, bus stops and taxis will feature pictures of Muslim professionals including TV presenter and Islam convert Kristiane Backer.

Organiser the Exploring Islam Foundation said the campaign aims to highlight the Prophet Mohamed's teachings to Muslims on the importance of the environment, gender equality and social justice.

The launch comes as an online survey of 2,152 UK adults carried out last month showed 58% of people associate Islam with extremism and 50% associate the world religion with terrorism.

The poll also found that 69% believe Islam encourages the repression of women.

Remona Aly, campaigns director of the Exploring Islam Foundation, said: "We are a group of young Muslim professionals and a lot of us have given our time voluntarily because we are very concerned about the way our faith is perceived by the public.

"We want to foster a greater understanding of what British Muslims are about and our contribution to British society. We are proud of being British and being Muslim."

A spokesman for Quilliam, the counter-extremism think tank, said: "We welcome the Inspired By Muhammad campaign as a valuable and timely step to help improve relations and foster deeper understanding between British citizens.

"This campaign is important because it can help non-Muslims to better understand the faith that inspires and guides their Muslim friends, neighbours and colleagues.

"This initiative also helps British Muslims reclaim the Prophet Mohamed as a time-honoured guide for peace, compassion and social justice from those who seek to twist his teachings."

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Hence my two post trying to keep a balance.

This campaign is well overdue but a lot of Muslims do not help their cause by being so insular.

We have a lovely family on our close but when the rest of their family turn up they ignore their neighbours until they have gone.

This type of behaviour hardly fosters cultural ties.

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Couldn't agree more Raist , its a tricky subject to comment on without sounding prejudice to one side or the other , i posted the article to help the topic along ,and i think its good that such a campaign has been launched :thumbsup:

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All such articles have a bias, it is almost impossible to totally sit in the fence.

I subscribe to the sentiments of the great song by John Lennon 'Imagine'.... Just imagine the world without religion, it would be a far more peaceful place (my words, not his) :)

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I consider this to be a reasonable assessment & even handed, from our Independent on Line :thumbsup:

Demonising Israel will not end Gaza's pain or bring about peace

Wednesday June 09 2010

LET'S agree on the following. The people of Gaza are entitled to a proper standard of living and everything possible should be done to facilitate reconstruction of homes, commercial and industrial property, schools and other infrastructure that was destroyed or damaged in the conflict between Israel and Hamas 16 months ago.

Also, action is required to facilitate the creation of sustainable employment for adults and to provide real hope for the future of Gaza's children. People living in Gaza should not have to live in fear of a fundamentalist repressive regime.

They should not be perpetually dependant on provisions from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and NGOs. No further conflict should take place involving Israel and Gaza that results in the injury or death of any resident of Gaza.

Let's also agree on the following propositions. No more rockets or other missiles should be fired from Gaza into Israel. No terrorist organisation should resume suicide bombings.

Israel has a legitimate concern about the increased risk to its citizens from the supply of sophisticated missiles and other armaments into Gaza by Iran.

No further conflict should take place involving Israel and Gaza that results in injury or death of any resident of Israel. The Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was abducted almost four years ago must be returned -- unharmed -- to Israel.

Those opposing the Israeli blockade of Gaza attach no importance to the genuine Israeli concern about the likely consequences of the blockade simply ending. They ignore the thousands of rockets that rained down on Israel following its withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 and the rockets that continue to be fired from Gaza into Israel.

They also choose to ignore the malevolent role played by Iran in supplying arms to Hamas and other fundamentalist groups.

They also ignore the extent to which Hamas has terrorised the Palestinian population and undermined human rights. Also ignored is Egypt's blockade of Gaza to prevent Gaza's militant fundamentalists affecting Egypt's political stability.

Whilst the flotilla to Gaza made the headlines, the media scarcely mentioned two significant events in Gaza. First, on Sunday, May 30, masked fundamentalists vandalised UN supplies for a children's summer camp in Gaza.

They left behind three bullets and a note threatening to kill heroic Irishman John Ging (director of UNRWA operations in Gaza, who organised the camps) unless the UN shut down its school-holiday activities for 250,000 Gaza children.

Hamas considers the camps un-Islamic and resents their growing popularity among Gazan children.

Second, on Monday, May 31, Hamas closed down and removed papers and computers from the offices of four independent Palestinian human-rights organisations in Gaza.

Those favouring the blockade ignore the reality that the blockade substantially benefits Hamas, both financially and politically. On the international stage, it affords Hamas a stick with which to beat Israel.

The blockade's continuance and its impact on the population are almost insurmountable obstacles to achieving genuine progress in the George Mitchell-led indirect talks to bring about a peaceful resolution and facilitate the establishment of an independent Palestinian state living in peace beside the state of Israel.

As Hamas opposes a two-state solution, the blockade assists it in sabotaging the talks and undermining support for the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Micheal Martin, is right in describing the blockade as "very counter-productive" and unacceptable from "the humanitarian perspective".

However, mere 'protest' by government contributes nothing meaningful or constructive to effect change or to assist the peace process.

Instead, the Government should replace soundbite politics with a substantial constructive international initiative addressing the genuine needs of Palestinians and the legitimate concerns of Israelis.

In doing so, it should not fall into the trap of demonising the Israeli state. Nor should it unquestioningly support non-government organisations that oppose the two-state solution.

To bring about a genuine solution to the current impasse, the Irish Government should now devise workable commonsense structures acceptable to the majority of Israelis and Palestinians, which will open Gaza to the world. They should also be acceptable to Egypt.

At the same time, it should not hesitate to demand that Israel and Hamas fully respect the human rights of Palestinians in Gaza and that Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit be freed.

Micheal Martin should also not hesitate to publicly criticise Iran's destructive role and to take action within the EU and UN to pressurise Iran to end its strident opposition to a two-state solution.

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This is a bit long, but gives the Israeli point of view from the inside :thumbsup:

Sunday June 13 2010

I was disappointed to read your letter of June 6 in this newspaper. Given the biased coverage of some in the Irish media of recent events, I was not surprised to see that you have complaints regarding some of Israel's actions.

However, I would have hoped for a more balanced analysis from you as a distinguished historian.

One of the most notable errors in your letter is your mistaken use of the word anti-semitism. In the 19th century, the German Jew-hater Wilhelm Marr coined it to describe the anti-Jewish campaigns in Europe of that time. Since then, it has always referred to the repression and hatred of Jews. While Arabs are indeed fellow Semites, the term anti-semitism does not encompass anti-Arab feelings.

Therefore, your slur against Israel as anti-semitic is not only factually incorrect; it is outrageous given the true anti-semitism that exists today, not least in the Arab world. For it is Islamist governments like Iran's, whose foreign minister was, incidentally, a guest in Dublin last week, and terrorist groups like Hamas that deny the Holocaust and disseminate anti-Jewish propaganda. Hamas's own charter is full of anti-semitic verses such as: "The Day of Judgment will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdullah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him".

On the other hand, in Israel Arab-Israelis are equal citizens with equal rights. Based on our identity as a democratic state -- and in accordance with our Proclamation of Independence which states that Israel "will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex" -- discrimination is prohibited under the law.

Accordingly, Arab-Israelis are involved actively in all areas of Israeli life and serve as government ministers in the Knesset (parliament), in the Supreme Court, as ambassadors, army officers and mayors. And while Israel -- like most Western nations with a sizable minority population -- still has much to do before absolute equality is reached, its achievements in this area are impressive, particularly given the hostilities that still rage between Israel and some of its Arab neighbours.

Your letter is laced with false accusations against Israel, not all of which can be answered adequately due to space considerations. However, running through these claims, and indeed almost the entire letter, is a dearth of balance or elucidation of the reasons for those events you lament.

Never once is the role of the Palestinians in any of the events questioned. They are automatically absolved of any responsibility for their actions. If the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is to be analysed respectfully and fairly, then both sides must be subject to equal scrutiny.

Since 1948, and indeed before, Israel has suffered from the enmity of its neighbours, but sadly, you never once refer to the far-reaching concessions Israel has made to achieve peace. We gave to Egypt the Sinai, an area three times the size of Israel. In Lebanon, we withdrew to the internationally recognised borders.

At Camp David, we offered the Palestinians an independent state on almost all of the territories occupied by Israel. We withdrew from the Gaza Strip.

That goal of peace will remain elusive until one phenomenon ends: the unwillingness by some to recognise Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people and to allow that state to live in peace and security.

It was on these grounds that the nascent-state of Israel was attacked in 1948 by five Arab armies and it is on this basis that peace seems ever more elusive despite the start of the indirect proximity talks.

Although both sides have made mistakes over the years, the Palestinians are responsible for much of the conflict. They were the ones who rejected the UN Partition Plan of 1947, which would have given the Palestinians a state on 45 per cent of the Mandate Territory and the Jews 55 per cent for their state (more than half of which was desert). There would never have been a conflict had they accepted UN Resolution 181.

It is also the Palestinians who have refused to abandon violence and terrorism, even at the height of the peace process. Your letter made certain to mention two events: one (Sabra and Shatilla) a massacre actually carried out by Lebanese Christian forces, the other (Deir Yassin), a 1947 battle whose details remain contested till today. Yet while the list of Palestinian terrorist atrocities which caused thousand of Israeli civilian deaths, including hundreds of children, is endless, you have neglected to register any, despite their negative effects on hopes for peace.

Another inaccuracy occurs with regards to your statements about settlements. Not only are your figures concerning the percentages of land held by each side false, so too is your statement that "Jewish settlements proliferate almost hourly".

As I am sure you are aware, last November the Government of Israel instituted an unprecedented 10-month moratorium on new residential construction in the West Bank. That comes in addition to the long-standing policy that states that Israel would refrain from building new settlements in the West Bank, expanding existing settlements, providing government incentives for settlement activities or expropriating land for settlement-related use. Indeed, the presence of settlements is merely a pretense for the Palestinians, as the built-up area of all the settlements in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) constitutes less than 2 per cent of lands of that territory.

There are a few more subjects that deserve more attention, but to which I can only supply a quick reply:

• Israel left Gaza completely in 2005 in the hope that peace would follow, instead the number of rockets fired from Gaza increased from 108 in the preceding year to 946 in the following year.

• Israel did not drop white phosphorous on apartment buildings housing women and children. Subsequent research has shown that the vast majority of Palestinian casualties of the operation in Gaza were combatants.

• The Balfour Declaration is not the "foundation text" on which the State of Israel is based. Rather, that position of pride should be given to the 1922 resolution of the League of Nations, the predecessor of the United Nations, which decided to establish a national home for the Jewish people in their ancient homeland.

• Hamas is not the equivalent of the IRA. Rather, it is an Islamist, fundamentalist organisation that seeks not a political resolution, but the destruction of Israel and the Islamisation of a Palestinian state. Israel is willing to talk to former enemies and has done so with the Palestinian Authority. However, given Hamas's goals and continuing terrorist actions, Israel cannot negotiate with Hamas any more than the British could negotiate with the Real IRA.

Allow me to conclude by noting that while you went to the trouble of enumerating your pro-Jewish credentials, you disappointingly fell prey to anti-semitic myths. Israel does not have a "stranglehold" on the White House. Israel's close friendship with the US is based not on the power of any lobby, but on shared values. Both are strong democracies that believe in freedom, human rights and the rule of law. Both are allies in the campaign to rid the world of the scourge of terrorism. And it is in the interests of both that a stable, terrorism-free Middle East emerges.

Similarly, allow me to assure you that there is no "Zionists' hit list" and that the "Israel lobby" has little influence over the media. If it was so powerful, surely we would have been able to prevent publication of your unfortunate letter.

Zion Evrony PhD

Ambassador of Israel

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Excellent find, It's not often our side of the tale is allowed to surface thumbsup.gif

Thanks Raist :thumbsup:

Our Irish Independent is a quite liberal & broadminded paper & tries to show both sides of every question.

I have a feeling that there is an Independent of some sort available in the UK, but it is in no way connected with ours, to my knowledge :unsure:

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