Judy Mandelbaum

Judy Mandelbaum
Brooklyn, New York, United States
June 01
Freelance writer, editor, and first citizen of Judy's World.

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AUGUST 19, 2010 9:30AM

New Gaza convoys set sail as Israel loses face

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Israeli navy 
Israeli naval vessel escorting a Lebanese aid ship last summer

There is no doubt about it: Israel's ongoing Gaza blockade has brought the country one of its most serious image crises yet. And there is no end in sight. Israel’s Channel 10 and Haaretz both reported this morning that yet another ship carrying humanitarian goods set sail for Gaza last night. This time, the Algerian government has launched a relief vessel containing sixty containers of food, medicine, office supplies, and educational materials. The vessel also has political and religious leaders on board. Its purpose, the “Muslim Wise Men Organization” explained, was to “show identification with the Palestinian nation."

It is unclear what reception the Algerian ship will receive when it reaches Israeli waters. In July, the Israeli navy intercepted a ship sponsored by the Libyan government on its way to Gaza and redirected it to the Egyptian port of El Arish. There its cargo was unloaded and taken by land to the Palestinian enclave.

Also today, activists in Lebanon announced that another aid ship would leave for Gaza on Sunday. According to the project leader, Samar al-Hajj, the all-woman crew of the “Mariam,” named for the Virgin Mary, would be packing medicine for the Gazan population. It will stop in Cyprus first. Israeli officials have warned it not to approach its waters. Al-Hajj told the press that "All on board were instructed to carry details of their blood groups in case they need blood transfusions in the event of being attacked by Israeli forces. There are nuns, doctors, lawyers, journalists, Christian and Muslim women on board," said al-Hajj. The passengers also include a group of American nuns and a touch of stardom: Popular Lebanese singer and femme fatale May Hariri.

May Hariri 
The new face of the anti-Gaza blockade movement -
Lebanese superstar May Hariri

Convoys and blockade runners enjoy a special mystique. The very words conjure up movie images of Humphrey Bogart and Clark Gable. Their opponents? Not so much, and anyone who stops ships can easily end up looking like a pirate, Somali or otherwise, which is the kiss of death in the image wars - unless the pirate is played by Johnny Depp, of course. But how many are?

We'll soon find out. A further blockade-busting flotilla is preparing to set sail any day now. In June, leftist British political activist George Galloway announced the formation of his latest “Viva Palestina Convoy.” As Galloway described the project,

The land convoy will leave from London, will travel though Europe, Turkey, Syria and Jordan, and it will sail from Aqaba to Sinai and enter the gates of Rafah… The sea convoy will simultaneously leave on the same day, sail from country to country around the Mediterranean. We will arrive off Gaza together. We will enter together with the mightiest breach of the siege there has ever been, and we will end this siege that day.

Galloway hopes that the showy convoys will not only put an end to the Gaza siege but also finish off Israel once and for all. “Just as Soweto began the countdown to the end of the racist apartheid State of South Africa,” Galloway told a group of supporters in London, “so the killing of our martyrs on Monday began the numbering of the days of the Zionist apartheid State of Israel, be sure about that. … There can be no peace between truth and falsehood, there can be no peace between justice and oppression, there can be no peace between the occupier and the occupied, there can only be eternal struggle between them. There can only be eternal struggle until justice has prevailed and freedom has been won.” Galloway believes that with foreign states and international organizations condemning the Israeli raid, it is time to keep up the pressure. Prime Minister Cameron appeared to back him up last month when he bluntly stated “Humanitarian goods and people must flow in both directions. Gaza cannot and must not be allowed to remain a prison camp."

Galloway reaffirmed his convoy plans in an editorial in the left-wing Morning Star last Friday. Galloway has already conducted three such Viva Palestina operations since early 2009. So far, though, there is no word on when the latest convoy – scheduled to depart yesterday – will actually get underway. (On the other hand, the “Kurdish Freedom Flotilla” supposedly being planned by a group of Israeli students, and which I wrote about here, seems to be permanently lost at sea.)

While Galloway’s statements may contain more bravado than beef, he is correct about Israel’s loss of prestige over the May 31 raid on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, in which nine Turkish activists were shot dead by IDF forces in international waters. He may even have been understating his case, since for the Jewish state the bad news just keeps on coming. Yesterday, the Israeli press announced that four IDF soldiers are being held for stealing laptop computers confiscated from passengers on the ships and selling them to their fellow soldiers. One of the suspects is a first lieutenant. Images of the soldiers covering their faces are now being splashed all across Middle Eastern media.

Israeli soldier 
Cover his face - one of the accused soldiers

The stolen computers are only the sticky icing on a very foul-tasting cake. IDF soldiers also stole cell phones, an undetermined amount of cash, luggage, and other personal items. An Italian journalist claims that his stolen credit card was used to purchase items. Swedish writer Henning Mankell has formally demanded the return of his personal items, including a confiscated TV script.

"The investigation has just begun,” an Israeli officer was reported as saying, “but as it appears now it will prove embarrassing and shameful. These are soldiers who don't understand what their uniform represents."

Arab Knesset member Hanin Zoabi, who herself was on board one of the ships in the May flotilla and has since been stripped of her parliamentary privileges, told Ynetnews: "Everything that happened on board the ship was an act of pirates…the state cultivates a culture of criminality. If such culture grants legitimacy to killing people, is it any wonder that belongings are being stolen from passengers?"

The IDF is desperate to get this “humiliating” situation under control. One military source told Ynet: "This matter is very problematic in terms of values, as the incident allegedly took place after it was clear that the flotilla was a serious international affair. An officer who under such circumstances steals equipment which does not belong to him, and then tries to sell it – it's almost incomprehensible." Former defense minister Amir Peretz assured the public that “the IDF will do all it takes to clarify that this is a failure in values which cannot be ignored or forgiven,” adding that the offending soldiers are "weeds which must be uprooted."

Eden Abergil 
"I would gladly kill Arabs, even slaughter them" -
The pretty face of the "ugly Israeli"
(AP/Daily Mail)

“Weeds” nor not, the soldiers have seriously damaged the IDF’s already shaky reputation for fair play and are helping to make the Gaza Flotilla fiasco into even more of a public relations meltdown than it already is. Coming on the heels of the Facebook scandal, where IDF soldier Abin Abergil posed alongside blindfolded Palestinians under the caption “the best time of my life,” the scandal has done more damage to Israel than a thousand Qassam rockets. As Hanin Zoabi puts it, “This isn't the first time we hear the IDF being linked to looting and robbery. We've heard about incidents that took place in the West Bank; dozens of incidents involving Palestinians who were robbed and whose homes and businesses were looted. So I'm asking: Is this the society that claims that its army is the most moral in the world?"

It is almost as if Israeli society has simply stopped caring what the rest of the world thinks about it. As Israel steadily loses face thanks to these and a long list of other ugly actions, it seems determined to lose the image war, which means everything in today's media-driven world. And yet, this lack of caring can have some worrisome consequences for the future: In more bad news for Israel, a recent poll by Stanley Greenberg and the US-based Israel Project found a significant loss of US popular support for the Jewish state, particularly among American liberals affiliated with the Democratic Party. “One of the questions that the poll presented was ‘Does the U.S. need to support Israel?,'" Haaretz reports. "In August of 2009, 63% of Americans polled said that the U.S. does need to support Israel. In June of this year, 58% of respondents shared the same view; by July only 51% of respondents said the U.S. needed to support Israel.”

While it's not immediately clear to what extent all these negative images are to blame for this decline in public acceptance, there is no doubt that in the Middle East these days, a picture is worth a thousand friends.


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Gee... attacking an unarmed ship, murdering 9 people on board and then stealing their "booty"... nah, THAT's not state sponsored piracy now is it!
thank you for this detailed update r.
I think Israel stopped caring a long time ago what the rest of the world thinks and only now is being forced into some small recognition of the fact. It appears at this time the Arab nations have finally found a way they can agree upon to bring further attention to the suffering of the Palestinians and are capitalizing on it.

Is it not better for both sides than hurling rockets so that in return more innocents are killed and that becomes the price of not being subjugated?

If Israel once again overreacts what will be the opinion then of those who are still indifferent or believe in Israel "right or wrong?" It could be that finally some issue will present itself that will allow for a new Israeli constituency to form that is pro-peace and comes up with genuinely original solutions that mediate for change. As the new generation forms the hope is that the national psychosis will have less a hold on them--as indicated in the recent research.
"the hope is that the national psychosis will have less a hold on them"
That's my hope too - on both sides.
have you considered moving to gaza and opening a paddle boat business?
Not that this bit of info fits the topic, but I thought I'd add that I went to Israel last summer on vaca and while in Tel Aviv, sitting by the Mediterranean Sea, the israeli's thought nothing of the military air traffic overhead every 45 minutes. It's sad to think of the Gaza strip being so near and full of sad action and the locals seem to think of it as "normal" activity.
just sayin...
Excellent reporting Judy. Rated
Nice Post thanks for sharing this one here on OS..keep it up and keep on posting.
CFD Technical Chart Analysis
I appreciate Your courage and convictions, and note that while You have a well-deserved 16 EPs on Your first page of posts, alone, You've garnered a real fan in MJ GOTT, a sock puppet who has never posted a blog post, yet.

When You posted Your excellent review of the Rachel Corrie story (may She r.i.p), this moron had this to add:

"i'm sorry this young lady died. any organization that the letters form the the acronym ISM sounds wrong from the get go. the photo provided by ISM above looks staged."

You quote: "The investigation has just begun,” an Israeli officer was reported as saying, . . ."

ANYONE following israeli "investigations" knows that these are farcical affairs designed to maintain the beneer of a democracy.

Furthermore, You comment: "(On the other hand, the “Kurdish Freedom Flotilla” supposedly being planned by a group of Israeli students, and which I wrote about here, seems to be permanently lost at sea.)"

The entire country seems to be in a perpetual state of lost at sea.

I've said before, and I'll repeat, israel has less to fear from Arabic or Moslem countries, than their fanatical suicidal wish desire to die of a thousand self-inflicted wounds.

Israel is maintaining a constant state of war that can’t end by using these tactics. This has been building up for a long time; they are becoming almost as violent and oppressive as those that once persecuted them. There is still some persecution of the Jews but now they seem to be the ones that are worse in many cases.

It would help if the more moderate Jews spent more time speaking out and the people providing them support also spoke out. The majority of the propaganda until recently has been in Israeli’s favor which is part of the reason it got this bad.
Your coverages are always so thorough and excellent, Judy. I enjoy reading your reports. I hope you are safe personally. ~R
So basicly the nazi where just "ahead of there time" .
The nixon quote refering that the jews have a deathwish is another example.

How long will the American people accept to be targeted as a result of there protection of these criminals ?
9-11 was NOT a atack against "american freedom" its was retaliation for the us suported crimes by the jews.

And guess who will pay for those new fighter jets they just ordered?
They have to grow loads of oranges if you think they pay that themselfs.
What a load of garbage this "article" was! Can't believe the nisinformation, distortion and outright lies in this blog and the responses. Shameful.

Are you going to comment on the relief supplies that the Mavi Mamara was carrying?

You know, desperately needed tons of expired medication, mopeds and office supplies?

I fear more Darwin Award candidates are on the way.
Well, let's see. We Yanks and Canucks stole a whole continent from the Indians but we can still get irate at Israeli doings on a strip of desert that no one in his right mind would want to settle. OK.