Blog Archive

Blog Archive – June, 2010

A Call for More Gaza-bound Flotillas

June 22, 2010

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

The end of May confrontation on the high seas when Israelis attacked the Free Gaza Flotilla may have been a turning point in our efforts to support Palestinians. We must be proud of the martyrs who gave their life to expose the truth.

The 9 martyrs, the scores wounded and the hundreds of supporters on the Free Gaza ships show what determination and courage is needed and in the face of Israeli crimes and what can be achieved. It is also reminder of the sacrifices Palestinians must daily make in their struggle for justice.

In a June 1 article in Information Clearing House, journalist Yvonne Ridley makes a poignant comparison between the Israeli assault on the Mave Marmara flotilla and the infamous Achille Lauro attack in October 1985. There, a single passenger was killed by the hijackers. As she notes: “The incident created headlines around the world and polarized people over the Palestinian cause. It also prompted the law makers to create new legislation making it an international crime for anyone to take a ship by force.

“And this is the reason for the brief history lesson - under article 3 of the Rome Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation of 1988, it is an international crime for any person to seize or exercise control over a ship by force, and also a crime to injure or kill any person in the process.The treaty necessarily adopts a strict approach. One cannot attack a ship and then claim self-defense if the people on board resist the unlawful use of violence.

“…. Whatever your view, a number paid the ultimate price for their international right to resist. “Israel now stands virtually alone having exposed itself as a pariah state.”            Today, across the entire world informed free-thinking people are signing up for a presence on the many ships setting out to again break the blockade.

Some of us know what Palestinians endure daily; we read accounts of the murderous blockade and Israel’s criminal policy. We can recognize Israeli and US propaganda that mask their brutal policies. But it took this civil action by brave souls in the international community to completely expose the reality of Gaza life to the world. Words are not enough. Support the campaigns by joining a flotilla.

[ A Call for More Gaza-bound Flotillas ]

Helen! What did you say?

June 10, 2010

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

I want to shake her, gently. “How could you have so misspoken, my dear sister?”

I am not willing to simply reprimand Helen Thomas and leave it at that. Unarguably, it was a mistake. Of course the media is making this into a major story, with calls for her departure.

Many will agree that what she said is timid compared to the utterances of other public figures against homosexuals, Muslims, and Arabs. Those more despicable and racist remarks not only pass without censure. They incite further racism. They are unchallenged.

Helen Thomas is no stranger to the racist environment we live in today. Being Arab she and we are regularly targeted; we are even baited in the quest to uncover any word that could somehow be interpreted as a criticism of the ‘holiest of holy’ creation, Israel. Thomas must have passed many huddles on this course.

Helen is a public figure. Today, any celebrity’s every word is recorded somewhere, by somebody. One has to be particularly judicious on any controversy. Look how Justice Sonia Sotomayor skirted her interrogators. Brilliant.

Today even the most humble of us has to avoid being snared by new technology; recording devices are easily secreted. Not only is government security noting our every move and word. The public can too. Anyone identified as Arab and Muslim should expect to be subjected to close vigilance and scrutiny. We have enemies—known and unknown. Forces are at work trying to entrap us, to topple us.

I may owe more gratitude to Helen Thomas than most journalists inspired by her groundbreaking career. She is one of the few high profile Arab American leaders. And she represents a large community of Arab intellectuals and media workers working in the Arab lands. Her workplace—Washington-- is one of the most fearsome political and professional arenas. She survived for more than 57 years. That ought to have exposed her to any agent or agency waiting to entrap her. And she is a journalist known for her audacity.

She said she made a mistake. She affirmed her commitment to peace between Palestinians and Israelis. She apologized. But in anything involving Zionist settlement, no apology is acceptable. You’re gone. She must know this.

Helen could have salvaged her self-respect by a more extensive explanation of her remarks.

If I see her, I will want to know the full context of the interview in which she said they should “get the hell out… and go back to …”. I wonder: what was behind this outburst? She is known for her general criticisms of US policy on Iraq and Afghanistan; as far as I know Helen Thomas does not stand out as a champion of Palestine. Was it the Gaza massacres in 2008-9 that turned her? Was it the recent murders and kidnappings of FreeGaza Flotilla members? Did she overhear some ugly remark about Arabs, Muslims, or Palestinians at the event where she was caught with these comments?

I wonder: will we ever hear from the remarkable Helen Thomas again?  

[ Helen! What did you say? ]

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