Israel’s War Against Palestine: Documenting the Military Occupation of Palestinian and Arab Lands

Gideon Levy, Fatima Mohammadi on the Gaza siege and Jewish Boat to Gaza (video)

28 September 2010

Democracy Now – 28 Sept 2010

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to the latest in Israel and the Occupied Territories. Israeli commandos have boarded and seized a Gaza-bound aid ship of Jewish activists just miles off the Gaza coast. The activists were attempting to deliver a symbolic load of medicine, a water-purifying kit and other humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. The “Jewish Boat to Gaza” was the latest attempt to break the blockade since Israel’s deadly attack on an aid flotilla in May. The aid efforts for Gaza come just days after a high-level UN probe recommended the prosecution of Israeli officials for the May 31st attack on the flotilla.

The developments also come as Israel escalates its hold over the Occupied Territories. In the West Bank, Jewish settlers resumed building settlements Monday, one day after Israel refused to extend its partial freeze on settlement expansion. The US had quietly lobbied for the extension, and Palestinians had threatened to walk away from peace talks if settlement building resumed.

We’re joined now by two guests. Fatima Mohammadi is a Chicago-based attorney who was aboard the Mavi Marmara when it was attacked by the Israeli military. She was detained and held in Israeli prison for two days. She’s joining us from Kansas City, Missouri. In that attack, nine of the passengers on board the Mavi Marmara were killed, among them a US citizen. And here in New York we’re joined by Gideon Levy. He’s an Israeli journalist and author who’s written about life in the occupied Palestinian territories for the Israeli daily Ha’aretz for nearly three decades. His latest book is called The Punishment of Gaza.

I want to turn first to Fatima. This report that’s come out of the UN Human Rights Council recommending prosecution of the Israeli military for what it did on the Mavi Marmara, your response? You were on board that ship. Describe it.

FATIMA MOHAMMADI: I was. I was on board the Mavi Marmara, was on deck for a majority of the attack, until having to assist a cameraman who had been shot twice in the arm downstairs. The report did a very accurate job at describing not only the injuries to the people on board, as well as those who were eventually—who were killed either on the ship or later died from their injuries, but also the political and humanitarian situation both around Gaza and as well as with the activists that were attempting to break the siege of Gaza. I thought that the Human Rights Council report did a very good job, especially at pointing out the various international laws that Israel was in violation of in their attack, as well as pointing out the larger scope of things, which is the illegality of the siege on Gaza.

AMY GOODMAN: Israel still says that the attack was self-defense and considers the Turkish charity group which led the flotilla to be terrorists linked to Hamas. Fatima Mohammadi?

FATIMA MOHAMMADI: IHH was never called a terrorist organization until after the Israeli attack on the flotilla. Prior to that, they have worked for nearly a decade in 120 different countries doing nothing but very commendable work across the board in many conflict and crisis areas. IHH is absolutely the farthest thing from a terrorist organization. But, of course, anything—anything that is related to assisting the Palestinians, not just in their liberation but also just in their very basic survival, is labeled as terrorism, and that is the—a central problem with the humanitarian aspect of the Palestine situation, especially that of Gaza.

Additionally, Israel’s, you know, insistence on believing only their side of the story and showing only video and footage from midway through the attack, when all of us on board the ship, including the Human Rights report, which verified that all of the activists and the humanitarian workers that were on board consistently said that the attack started about thirty minutes before the soldiers even boarded the ship, with gunfire from the Zodiac rafts that surrounded us from about 4:00 in the morning on.

AMY GOODMAN: Gideon Levy, you’re an Israeli journalist. You’ve now written the book The Punishment of Gaza. You’ve written extensively about Gaza, reported from there. The Israeli government says there’s no siege of Gaza, so these Jewish activists, for example, who have just been detained, attempting, like Fatima did on the Mavi Marmara, to break the siege—they say it’s a myth, it’s a misnomer.

GIDEON LEVY: Yeah, the Israeli propaganda can invent a whole world of itself, you know. Gaza is under siege. Gaza is still the biggest prison on earth. The fact is that there is no movement out of Gaza. No one—almost no one can get out of Gaza. The fact that no goods can be taken out of Gaza. Gaza is a siege. It was a siege before, but the guards were sitting inside. After the evacuation, the guards, for their own convenience, decided to get out of this prison, but it remains the biggest prison on earth. Nobody can contradict it, even not the Israeli propaganda.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re a Jewish journalist. What is the response of the Israeli Jewish community to your reporting, to how you’re describing it?

GIDEON LEVY: It differs. I am an alternative voice. I can’t stay—I don’t stand for the majority, for sure not. And the majority loves to hate me. I mean, it’s not very pleasant to be Gideon Levy in Israel today. But in the same time, there is also quite an audience, quite a readership, who sees different, eye-to-eye with me. And with all my modesty, I get also very warm reactions. But no doubt that the other ones are the majority.

AMY GOODMAN: Fatima Mohammadi, the US slammed the UN probe of the flotilla raid. They said, “We are concerned by the report’s unbalanced language, tone and conclusions.” That was US Ambassador Eileen Donahoe at the UN Human Rights Council.

FATIMA MOHAMMADI: Well, Ms. Goodman, it’s really difficult for any report, I think, to give a completely unbiased portrayal of what happened or what is happening inside of Gaza, especially given the fact that the Israelis will not participate and refuse to participate in multiple requests for investigation. In fact, this panel of investigators sent from the UN were refused entry into Israel and refused the opportunity to speak with the soldiers and with those who were involved in the massacre on the flotilla. They were, in fact, turned away. So the only investigation that they were able to conduct, after multiple requests that were denied by the Israelis, was by the Jordanian and Turkish officials, as well as with IHH representatives and with the eyewitnesses and the participants on the flotilla. Israel consistently denies participation in any sort of an international or unbiased or unpolitical investigation of its tactics. And essentially, I mean, I think that that speaks very clearly to their guilt, essentially, because they will refuse to participate at any time. And they’ll only participate in a, I guess, investigation that they themselves conduct and want to propagate to the rest of the world.

AMY GOODMAN: Gideon Levy, do you think the Israeli population, the Israeli government will view the flotilla differently, the one now, the aid ship that is of Jewish activists, than the Turkish flotilla?

GIDEON LEVY: Unfortunately not. I mean, the brainwash system works like this, that anyone who dares to criticize Israel or anyone who wants to help Gaza, to help the people in Gaza, is immediately labeled as anti-Semitic. And it might even be the Jewish activists. They will be—I mean, there are a few Israelis on this boat. They are “traitors.”

AMY GOODMAN: And the resumption of the building of the settlements in the West Bank, the effects of this and what this will mean?

GIDEON LEVY: This is the best way to judge the real intentions of Israel, the real intentions of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. On one hand, these talks about two-state solution, and as we knew from the beginning, totally empty because he’s not ready for the most minimal, minimal step, which is required, you know, just to start some kind of talks, just to demonstrate some kind of good will. And even this is too much for Israel and too much for the current government. So the expectations, which were low in any case, should be now even lower.

AMY GOODMAN: The New York Times says Israel’s foreign minister, Yossi Levy, suggested one of the activists on board the ship of Jewish activists, Yonatan Shapira, is a former pilot in Israel’s air force, has joined the ranks of Hamas. The official also said the eighty-two-year-old Holocaust survivor on board has probably not learned anything from the terrible past. Your response?

GIDEON LEVY: Here you get it. That’s the Israeli propaganda. Instead of asking ourselves what is wrong with what we are doing, we are immediately blaming anyone who dares to criticize or who dares to do anything on a humanitarian basis. Yonatan Shapira is Israeli patriot. He is a refusenik, and he’s a real Israeli patriot, much more than all the right-wingers in Israel.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s all we have time for now, but we’ll do a post-show with you, and we’ll put it online. Fatima Mohammadi, thank you so much for being with us. She was aboard the Mavi Marmara, Chicago-based attorney. And Gideon Levy, his latest book, The Punishment of Gaza.

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