Sunday, July 31, 2011

Hafiz (Hafez) I have come into this world to see this


The following is the poem according to Daniel Ladinsky found in "Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West" and formatted a little differently.

(I am glad to know of other translations and formats for this poem.)

I have come into this world to see this:
the sword drop from men's hands even at the height of their arc of anger
because we have finally realized there is just one flesh to wound and it is His--the Chrst's, our Beloved's.

I have come into this world to see this: all creatures hold hands as we pass through this miraqculous existence we share on the way to even a greater being of soul, a being of just ecstatic light, forever entwined and at play with Him.

I have come into this world to hear this:
every song the earth has sung since it was conceived in the Divine's womb and began spinning from His wish, every song by wing and fin and hoof, every song by hill and field and tree and woman and child,
every song of stream and rock...

every song of tool and lyre and flute, every song of gold and emerald and fire,
every song the heart should cry with magnificent dignity to know itself as God;
for all other knowledge will leave us again in want and aching--only imbibing the glorious Sun will complete us.

I have come into the world to experience this: men so true to love they would rather die before speaking an unkind word, men so true their lives are His covenant--the promise of hope.

I have come into this world to see this: the sword drop from men's hands even at the height of their arc of rage -
because we have finally realized there is just one flesh
we can wound.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

US Drones in Pakistan: One Man's Photo Documents

The Guardian - a photo of Noor Behram

The following is a kind of collage of several articles found at Al Jazeera and at The Guardian and others...to be improved and updated soon...

Bush used unmanned predator drones 45 times in his eight years in office, while Obama unleashed 118 drones on Pakistan last year alone.

To see how one photographer is showing the evidence GO here

Under fire from afar: Harrowing exhibition reveals damage done by drones in Pakistan
...(revealing) the human cost of unmanned weapons

Friday, 29 July 2011

If you want to understand the impact of the "war on terror" on America's ally, Pakistan, look no further than Noor Behram's photographs which show, he says, collateral damage as a result of US drone strikes in the tribal area. Behram, who is from Waziristan, has spent the past four years interviewing survivors of drone attacks, shooting video footage and close-up stills of the damage. The photographs – part of a new London exhibition – are gruesome.

Images of a severed hand, a child with half his head blown off, mangled body parts, demolished homes, a mosque reduced to rubble and the blood-splattered clothes of a woman held aloft by her widower have been converted to QuickTime films by the Beaconsfield gallery and projected, unedited, on to a giant cinema screen which plays on a loop. There is video footage of a lone drone hovering above a village in Miranshah, which resembles a fly on the camera lens. The background noise is of children playing and a rooster crowing.

There is another image, of an empty grave. Eighty mourners attending a funeral were struck by a missile and killed before they could bury the body. A local man who was digging the grave lies mutilated beside it. Similar images are regularly printed in local Pakistani papers, fanning the flames of anti-Americanism. A recent Pew poll found that 97 per cent of respondents viewed drones negatively and 69 per cent now view America as the enemy.
Related articles

Here in the UK, we are more likely to read reports of how many militants have been killed from unnamed Pakistani intelligence officials. For foreigners, the only way to cover the Afghanistan conflict is to get permission from defence ministries and their press minders to be embedded with the Western armies.

Behram's work appears to reveal the truth about the US drone campaign in Pakistan's tribal region – that far more civilians are being killed than the Americans or Pakistanis will admit. His images cannot be independently verified but are backed up by credible documentation. It also raises questions about the ethics of this new video-game warfare. How likely is it that a "reachback operator" sitting at a video screen up to 7,500 miles away at the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, will hit the right target in the middle of the night?

The New America Foundation, which tracks drone strikes, estimates non-militant deaths at 20 per cent of the total of 2,464 fatalities, though Behram believes the toll is far greater: "For every 10 to 15 people killed, maybe they get one militant."

Clive Stafford Smith, founder of legal action charity Reprieve, who together with Pakistani lawyer, Mirza Shahzad Akbar, has launched lawsuits on behalf of victims' families, believes that 95 per cent of those killed by drones are not legitimate targets. He says: "We need transparent figures. We know that the US is lying as they say no civilians are being killed by drones and we've seen pictures of dead women and children." He believes that Behram's photographs provide evidence.

There are other questions which the images raise. How can people surrender to a drone? Why is the US regularly bombing its ally Pakistan in the first place?

==========

Since President Obama came to office, the use of unmanned aircraft has drastically increased. Bush used unmanned predator drones 45 times in his eight years in office, while Obama unleashed 118 drones on Pakistan last year alone.

It's not just America however that is reducing its military's dependence on human beings – within 20 years nearly one third of the RAF could be made up of remotely controlled drones.

Reprieve has called its anti-drone campaign Bugsplat – the official term used by US authorities when human beings are successfully killed with drone missiles. Who needs satire?

'Gaming in Waziristan', an exhibition including images of the aftermath of drone strikes in north Waziristan, is at Beaconsfield, Newport Street, London SE11. info@beaconsfield.ltd.uk through 5 August 2011

Power of Three: Quick Thinking Saves Life of Fisherman



Loren Niurka Mora, Caitlin Petro, and Eliza Cameron: How the quick thinking of three college women saved the life of an experienced fisherman.

Hometown: FL, Sarasota

By Jason Kersten
(photo: Preston C. Mack/Redux)

Mike McClure waded into Sarasota Bay for a little fishing on a beautiful day last April. The 67-year old retired youth counselor had been angling in Florida’s intracoastal waters for years. This afternoon, the water off the New College of Florida campus was shallow enough at low tide that McClure could easily walk 100 yards offshore and cast his line in any direction. Sporting waders that reached up to his chest, he worked his way south down a sandbar, searching for his first nibble of the day.

“I was just enjoying the heck out of the experience,” says McClure.

Near sunset, still without a fish, he decided to turn back. Rather than retrace his earlier course, though, he chose a more direct path toward shore, assuming the bay wouldn’t get deeper along the way. Instead, it had become an impassable trough, and he was trapped. “When I turned around and realized that the water was getting close to my waist, I just felt so alone,” he remembers. He tried to wade along different angles, but shallower water eluded him. Finally, he decided his safest option was to head straight for land and hope for the best.

“Within about five steps, the water was coming in through the top of the waders,” says McClure.

He felt the deadweight of the flooding waders pulling him down and knew that if he didn’t get out of them, he would drown. Thinking fast, he dropped his fishing rod, then lifted his legs to try to kick his way out of the waders. Instead, they pulled him completely below the surface. Thrashing, he started swallowing water. At the same time, the current caught him, and he could no longer touch bottom.

Back onshore, Eliza Cameron, 19, Loren Niurka Mora, 20, and Caitlin Petro, 20, had been watching McClure fish as they lounged on a patch of grass after a long week of classes. They saw McClure go under and then heard him cry, “Help!” His head was back above the water, but he was still trapped in the waders, and he was losing his breath.

“We looked around, and there was no one else there,” recalls Cameron. “We realized we had to go in.”

The three friends kicked off their shoes and ran into the bay. Freestyling their way forward, they fought against a strong current for the length of a football field. As they neared McClure, all they could see was his fishing cap above the waves. They were all good swimmers, but each of them suppressed a fear that he’d already slipped back under and they’d have to dive to find him—and that he might pull them down too. McClure was floating on his back with his head barely above the surface when they reached him. He’d managed to kick himself out of the waders, but he was hyperventilating and holding his chest, and his eyes had partially rolled back—a sign that he could be losing consciousness. As the young women drew near, his desperation began to fade. “I looked over my shoulder, and these three little angel faces were looking at me,” he remembers. “It was almost mystical.” McClure was still fighting for breath, however, as his waterlogged shirt tugged him downward. The young women yanked the shirt off him. Then Cameron and Mora each hooked an arm under his shoulders, while Petro supported his back and held his hand. As they began to tug him toward shore, they realized the ordeal was far from over. The current was strong, and with McClure in tow, they felt like they were merely treading water. “I need some encouragement. I need to touch bottom,” McClure gasped. The women fought on, assuring him that they were making progress. As they finally got the upper hand of the current, they spotted another woman onshore who was phoning for help, and by the time they reached land, a campus police officer was on the scene. McClure collapsed onto the grassy bank. Finally, he caught his breath and was soon sitting up.

But he didn’t have much time to thank them. Mora had punctured her foot on a fish bone while helping McClure out of the bay, so once he was safe, the young women headed for the campus infirmary, where a nurse bandaged her wound. Later that night, McClure reached Mora on the phone. Exhausted and unable to speak for long, he told her that he planned to thank them in person.

At first, the friends thought the rescue was nothing special. “It seemed like something anyone would have done,” notes Cameron. Looking back on the rescue, however, the women agree they had drawn strength from one another. “I think because the three of us were together, it made us a lot braver,” says Mora.

It was only when they met McClure several evenings later at the college’s student union, and he laid pictures of his wife, kids, and grandkids on a table, that the young women understood suddenly what they had given him, says Petro. “That’s when I realized we’d done something amazing.”

From Power of One at American Towns dot com here

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Items affecting the Common People (On a UN Anniversary)

The Geneva Refugee Convention marks its 60th anniversary today as forced displacement becomes increasingly complex and as developing countries struggle to host the large majority of the world’s refugees.UNHCR marks 60th anniversary of Refugee Convention GENEVA, 28 July 2011 -

FIND full article here

Love Comes More Naturally
To The Human Heart: Nelson Mandela
By Diane V. McLoughlin

The dark clouds of racism and war swell ominously on the horizon today. Nelson Mandela's heartening message is more timely than ever, and it is his lived experience; from oppressed political prisoner, to president of a nation that aspires to be a rainbow nation of many colors, free from oppression, discrimination and fear

FIND article here

Every Great Social Movement
By David Korten

The biggest shifts of our time have been sparked by ordinary people rejecting the cultural stories that dominated them

CLICK here

The Edge of Peace (A Play Tonight in US) with thoughts for all

GO here and here

The Scourge Of 'Peak Oil'
By Dahr Jamail

As consumption continues to increase in such major users as China, India, and the US, existing oil fields are being depleted and new discoveries are not keeping apace in order to offset growing demand

CLICK here

Growing Water Deficit Threatening Grain Harvests
By Lester Brown

The shrinkage of irrigation water supplies in the big three grain-producing countries—the United States, India, and China—is of particular concern. Thus far, these countries have managed to avoid falling harvests at the national level, but continued overexploitation of aquifers could soon catch up with them

GO here

Terrorism Hits Humanism of Norway
By Sadanand Patwardhan

A lot of commentary has already appeared from various quarters. Instead of adding to the bytes, I have collected some relevant material at one place for anybody to make an informed judgement. The presentation below has following 7 sections: (i) Introductory Observations (ii) Norway's Middle East Initiative (iii) Humanistic Norwegian Official Response (iv) Media Spin on the Terrorist Attack (v) Key Investigation Areas (vi) Views of Terrorist Anders Behring Breivik (vii) Defenders of Anders Behring Breivik

GO here

US Needs To Replace Pentagon's Approach With Peace Corps
By Sherwood Ross

We have a clear choice between continuing to fight on the Pentagon's endless battlefields of war or working in the vineyards of peace

CLICK here

"The Ragged Edge of Silence: Finding Peace in a Noisy World" a book review
GO here

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Single Survivor of Hate Spree Forgives; Texas Does Not

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Crime victims’ rights “...symbolic, says Texas

Stroman's last words reflect Bhuiyan's campaign message: "Hate is going on in this world and it has to stop. Hate causes a lifetime of pain." (Director of the SMU Embrey Human Rights Program and former Amnesty International, Chair Rick Halperin, Ph.D., became involved in Bhuiyan's campaign...)

Crime victims’ rights “essentially” symbolic, says Governor

By Patricia Boh

Email: pboh@smu.edu

Published: Friday, July 22, 2011

"Arab slayer" turned peace seeker, Mark Stroman, was executed by the state of Texas on July 20th for shootings that killed two men and seriously injured a third in 2001.

His death sentence has garnered intense media coverage due to the aggressive campaign for life in prison without the possibility of parole instead of the death sentence.

Stroman's main defender is none other than his only living victim, Rais Bhuiyan.

Stroman's last words reflect Bhuiyan's campaign message: "Hate is going on in this world and it has to stop. Hate causes a lifetime of pain."

Following the 9/11 attacks, Mark Stroman went on a Dallas-area shooting spree with the intention of gunning down people of Middle Eastern descent "as a patriotic response to terrorism."

The shootings took place in the Dallas area during September and October 2001.

Stroman, an alleged member of the Aryan Brotherhood, was free on bond for a gun possession arrest at the time of the shootings.

All three of Stroman's hate crime victims were South Asian convenient store workers. Both Waqar Husan, a Pakistani immigrant, and Vasudev Patel, a naturalized U.S. citizen from India died. Bhuiyan was critically injured. He survived the shooting, although he is now blind in one eye and still has 35 shotgun pellets embedded in his face.

During his recovery, Bhuiyan, a devout Muslim, pledged to "dedicate his life to the poor and needy."

Embodying this new resolve, Bhuiyan, as well as the families of Husan and Patel, took legal action to dispute the death penalty sentence.

Under the Texas Code of Criminal Procedures, article 56.02, crime victims have the right to seek mediate with their attacker. Bhuiyan claims that this right was violated. The plaintiffs claim that the prosecutor never consulted regarding the death penalty charge. Members of the jury also claim that they would have honored the families of the victims and not agreed on the death penalty charge.

Bhuiyan appealed to have the death penalty charge changed to life in prison on grounds of clemency. Gov. Rick Perry and other Texas officials ignored Bhuiyan's campaign.

In response, Bhuiyan filed a lawsuit against the state, claiming his rights were violated. Unfortunately, all efforts failed to prevent the state's decision to execute Stroman.

Director of the SMU Embrey Human Rights Program and former Amnesty International, Chair Rick Halperin, Ph.D., became involved in Bhuiyan's campaign a year ago. A well-known human rights activist and advocate for abolishing the death penalty, Halperin is "not surprised but […] extremely disappointed in the callousness that the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Gov. Perry have taken toward these specific pleas for mercy and compassion and life from both the survivor and the victims' family members."

"The governor of the state is an enemy of human rights, apparently no friend of crime victims, and [presents] a fraudulent picture of himself as a champion [of crime victims' rights]," said Halperin.

Perry has been a strong advocate of crime victims' rights in the past. In response to Bhuiyan's claims of his violated rights, Perry's legal team stated, "the ‘right' [guaranteed to crime victims] is essentially symbolic . . ."

This is the eighth execution in the state of Texas this year. During his tenure as Governor of Texas, Perry has overseen 233 executions.

Bhuiyan, a native of Bangladesh, became a naturalized US citizen last year. This fall, he will attend SMU to study journalism and human rights.

Find a posting about this story on aclu.org death penalty blog

Find earlier stories on related topic also go to thejourneyofhope dot blogspot dot com or CLICK here

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Drones: False Claims (Voices of Creative Nonviolence)


Reaper Drone -

Library photo/
Ministry of Defence

Claims of ‘no civilian deaths’ in Pakistan drone strikes - untrue
July 18th, 2011
by Chris Woods

Claims by President Obama’s chief counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan that ‘there hasn’t been a single collateral [civilian] death’ in Pakistan since August 2010 are found to be untrue today, following a major Bureau investigation.

According to Brennan, Barack Obama himself has ‘insisted’ that US drone strikes are ‘exceptionally surgical and precise’ and ‘do not put… innocent men, women and children in danger’.

Yet a detailed examination by the Bureau of 116 CIA ‘secret’ drone strikes in Pakistan since August 2010 has uncovered at least 10 individual attacks in which 45 or more civilians appear to have died.

READ more at Voices for Creative Nonviolence -- GO here

Saturday, July 16, 2011

READ Dave Eggers!


Zeitoun
by Dave Eggers

"We try not to be hit and run. We give micro-loans and I have no problem helping people out financially. Three-dimensional results are important to me. I did once spend some time just writing, and floating around, and I lost my mind a little bit. I wasn't so good at that. I guess I'm very practical. My mom taught me that. That's why I get along with Zeitoun so well, and with Valentino. They build things. They make things happen." (Eggers on his multi-dimensional writing and work combo)


New Orleans American Hero
Abdulrahman Zeitoun

From 'staggering genius' to America's conscience

Author, publisher and literary trendsetter: Dave Eggers is all those, and he's fast becoming the conscience of liberal America too. Here he tells how he went from 'staggering genius' to the man who gives a voice to the downtrodden and dispossessed
(This long interview - or just a bit - is well-worth your time)

Rachel Cooke The Observer, Sunday 7 March 2010

I'm a little nervous of meeting Dave Eggers. On the way to San Francisco, where he lives and runs his groovy and influential publishing empire, McSweeney's, I consider his reputation. When Eggers published his first book, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, he mostly refused to do interviews except by email, and then his answers were spiky and oblique, and occasionally just a joke. He once railed against a journalist who he said had quoted him off the record with a fury that seems to me to have been just a touch disproportionate. Sure enough, before I leave London, I get an email from an assistant warning me that he will only talk about his new book, Zeitoun, and that it will drive him nuts if I ask him "what he had for dinner the night before last" (I reply that I have never asked anyone, ever, what they had for dinner the night before last and I certainly would not dream of flying half way round the world to pose such a question). As for his human rights work and many charitable projects, these things are so intimidating. Faced with such abundant goodness, I furtively examine my conscience and find it wanting.

As it turns out, though, I am wrong. Entirely wrong. Granted, he is not big on self-revelation. But he is neither difficult nor mean. McSweeney's is in the Mission district of the city: it's like Camden only with wider roads and more second-hand bookshops. When I arrive, I'm led past the desks of half-a-dozen bright young things and into his office, which is small and gloomy and womb-like. Time to break the ice. You hate doing interviews, don't you? I ask, sitting down (there is no desk; he works on an old sofa). "No, not at all," he says. There is a look of mild amazement on his face as he tells me this and it's not disingenuous; as he will explain later, he feels a certain sense of distance from his old self. Perhaps he prefers not to remember exactly how he used to be.

Eggers at the 2007 Brooklyn Book Festival

Anyway, he could not be more warm if he tried or more modest (given his prodigious talent, his energy and his general morality, he is so modest it's almost embarrassing). He talks softly, in long paragraphs that trail off, like the puff of smoke that follows the snuffing of a candle, and his answers, all of them, are tinged with anxiety, lest he make something that is white seem black or vice versa.

His preferred form of full stop is to hop up and scrabble for books he thinks I should take home with me. By the time I leave I'm practically a mini-satellite of City Lights, San Francisco's most famous independent bookstore. All I need is a black T-shirt and a goatee and I could set up stall right outside.

Zeitoun is a work of narrative non-fiction; it tells a true story but with a novelist's eye, paying attention to such things as character and suspense. Along the way, it revisits two of the indelible stains on the character of the Bush administration: the relief operation following hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005 and the conduct of the war on terror. Eggers was, and is, furious about both these things but, from his measured tone in Zeitoun, you would hardly know it. He leaves it to the reader to get angry and it's a trick that works, because I can guarantee you will.

"It is showing, not telling," he says. "I just went back to all the things I learned in journalism school. There have been so many polemics about the war on terror, but [individual] stories illustrate these things much better. I'm interested in the human impact of the giant foot of misplaced government. After all, we encounter it every day. Every day. Right now, for instance, I'm trying to help a friend get his deportation delayed."

Zeitoun describes what happened to a middle-aged and exceedingly upright Arab-American, Abdulrahman Zeitoun, in the days following hurricane Katrina. Zeitoun and his wife, Kathy, who comes from southern Baptist stock but is a hijab-wearing convert to Islam, are residents of New Orleans, where they run a successful decorating company and own several rental properties. They have four children.

Eggers takes up the story on Friday 26 August 2005, three days before the hurricane makes landfall in Louisiana. At this point, the couple are unruffled by the storm warnings; they've heard this stuff before. But then it becomes clear that this could be the real thing. Kathy decides to take the children out of town. The phlegmatic Zeitoun, however, is determined to remain behind, the better to safeguard their home, their castle. If a window smashes, he can board it up. He can also check his tenants are OK.

So they part. Zeitoun hunkers down in his adopted city. The levees break. He wakes up and finds that the water is rising, fast. He moves what he can of the family's possessions upstairs; he releases the fish in his aquarium into the flood waters, thinking this their best chance of survival. All this is awful but, for Zeitoun, this is also, at least at first, a time of strange contentment. In his metal canoe, he heads out into the empty, soupy street and is soon making himself useful. There are old ladies to be rescued, abandoned dogs to be fed. "Help me!" comes the voice of an old woman. "Her patterned dress was spread out on the surface of the water like a great floating flower. Her legs dangled below. She was holding on to a bookshelf." On his first day in his canoe, Zeitoun helps to rescue five individuals. "He had never felt such energy and purpose," writes Eggers. "He was needed."

Quickly, though, the situation grows darker, desperate and sinister. The water is filthy and polluted – "a wretched melange of fish and mud and chemicals" – and it is clear, now, that there must be bodies floating in it. For Zeitoun, it is also becoming apparent that the forces massed to help the people of the city are not necessarily working on their behalf. On 1 September, he comes upon his neighbours, the Williamses, a couple in their 70s. They have run out of food. Realising that he cannot evacuate them in his canoe, he paddles off to get help. Zeitoun approaches a group of soldiers. "Not our problem," says one of them. They tell him to go elsewhere. "Why not call somebody?" says Zeitoun. They have walkie-talkies. "We can't call nobody," says another soldier. Zeitoun turns his canoe around.

Eggers has asked me not to spoil the "reveal" in his book by describing what happens next. I'll do my best. The date is now Tuesday 6 September. Zeitoun is at the house of one of his tenants when five men and a woman arrive. They are wearing fatigues and bulletproof vests. All of them carry M-16s and pistols. They push Zeitoun on to a huge military fan boat. After this, Kathy does not hear from her husband again until…

Well, you need to read Zeitoun. All I can tell you is that it is like something out of Kafka. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) should have been there only to help. But its absorption by the Department of Homeland Security, itself a creation of George Bush following 9/11, seemed somehow to have muddled priorities. As hundreds of Americans drowned, the people at the Department of Homeland Security were still worrying obsessively about the many and various ways in which a terrorist might seek to "exploit" a hurricane.

Eggers found Zeitoun via his Voice of Witness project, a non-profit venture which produces books in which ordinary people tell their stories (the first book in the series told the stories of victims of miscarriages of justice in America; Zeitoun first appeared in a volume devoted to Katrina; the next will be about Zimbabwe). "A few weeks after the storm, we started working with local interviewers, sending them into Atlanta and Houston, and all the places people had fled. I was struck by Zeitoun's story, so the next time I was in New Orleans I met the family. I was angry about the war on terror and the suspension of all sense of decency. This seemed like the absolute nadir of all the Bush policies and here was this family squeezed between all these distorted priorities. We talked, and in the first hour it was clear that there was so much to say." Eggers the novelist found a pleasing watery symmetry in Zeitoun's story; his brother, Mohammed, had been a world-class swimmer, a famous man back home in Syria. The family came from originally from Arwad, an island. An island, off Syria? Eggers had never heard of such a place. He was hooked.

Given all that had happened, wasn't Zeitoun nervous about the project? "We find that once people decide to tell their story they're always quite determined to do so. We've only ever had one narrator who's recanted; we had to pulp a full press run of a book about Sudan. Usually, when people decide it's time, that someone has to be held accountable, they become incredibly determined. I was nervous for the Zeitouns. I said: I think we should change your names and disguise as many facts as possible, so no one can find you. I was nervous about crazies with anti-Muslim feelings.

"But Zeitoun was not mad about that idea. His face just fell. So we went back to treating it as non-fiction and, in fact, none of the things I worried about has happened. Every day, someone comes up to him, shakes his hand, and says: I'm sorry on behalf of all Americans for what happened to you. The Zeitouns stand for everything that we consider all-American values: hard work, community, family, personal responsibility and that's what he hears: that he's an example to us all."

Zeitoun's civil case against the state, Fema and all sorts of other people and institutions is ongoing, but it is unlikely ever to reach any kind of conclusion. "There are thousands of cases like his, and if a precedent was set it would cripple the entire judicial system of Louisiana and bankrupt the state," says Eggers. Nevertheless, the reaction to his story has been gratifying: even the weariest of commentators have professed themselves horrified by the events it describes. And no wonder. "It's like science fiction. Within 24 hours of Katrina there were bus loads of maximum security prisoners from Angola, which is known as the toughest prison in America, heading down into New Orleans. When people were still stuck in their attics, these prisoners were headed there to build a prison. People are trying desperately to leave the city, and the authorities are setting up a gleaming outdoor prison that's exactly like Guantánamo in the back of a bus station in New Orleans! It was probably one of the most efficient government actions after Katrina. They can't save people, they can't feed people, or get water into the convention centre [where desperate residents were told to gather], but they can just build a prison. If you could see how close this prison, Camp Greyhound, was to the convention centre and the Superdome – you could throw a stone between them.

Camp Greyhound is now closed; barely a sign of it remains. Does Eggers think the new administration has put a stop to the abuses of which it was a symbol? "I don't expect anybody to turn this Titanic of a country round in a year. But Obama has changed the tenor; the clouds have parted a little bit. There is attention to reason and science and the rule of law. The mood matters a lot. What I set out to imply, if not prove, in Zeitoun is that there's a trickle-down from the White House. Due process, habeas corpus – Alberto Gonzales [the former US attorney general] and Dick Cheney and all the rest of the administration believed all that stuff was great, but not for everybody and not in all circumstances. This was the biggest suspension of habeas corpus since the civil war. In New Orleans, it was partly just systemic dysfunction. The judges had fled. There were no public defenders: the public defence office is funded by parking tickets and, after Katrina, there were no parking tickets and no one paid anything for months. "But part of it was also: so, if a guy does a few months [in prison], so what? That is still a problem in this country. We're willing to put people away for months, years, and if we get it wrong it's just: oh, sorry." He believes Zeitoun provokes two responses. "First of all, you get to know an American Muslim family, and you grow to care about them. Then you realise that what happened to them must have happened many times since 9/11 and that we need to wake up."

The story of the Zeitouns and their war on terror via nature and gov't "overkill" via Eggers' storytelling genius won this peace award in 2010

What about Eggers? Does it get him down, this work? Grasping the full weight of the state, witnessing the suffering of those caught in its mechanisms, can make a man sick at heart. "If you feel like you can't have an effect… I would find that totally paralysing. Knowing the family is fine, and that some good will come out of it, that makes it easier." All profits from the book go to the Zeitoun Foundation, established in 2009 by Eggers, McSweeney's and the Zeitoun family. Its purpose is to aid in the rebuilding of New Orleans and to promote respect for human rights in the United States. "Quite a lot of money is already starting to flow through it," says Eggers, with a smile. Besides, not to be too serious: as his heroine Joan Didion has noted, sometimes research is the most fun a writer can have. He went to Syria, where he stayed with Zeitoun's extended family in Jableh. It was a beautiful place. Eggers has two small children now and plenty of other responsibilities besides. But this isn't to say that he doesn't permit himself the occasional adventure.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius was published in 2000 and it made Eggers a literary star. Wild and angry, tender and ironic, it is a memoir with made-up bits and postmodern bits, and it tells the story of how, at 21, Eggers was left to bring up his eight-year-old brother, Christopher ("Toph"), following the death of both of their parents from cancer within the space of weeks. In the book, Eggers leaves college in Illinois and takes Toph west to California, where they do a lot of sock-sliding and where Eggers goes half-mad with the responsibility of sudden parenthood – which seems to have been pretty much what happened in real life. But Eggers was, and is, a private kind of a person. So were his family (his father was an attorney, his mother a teacher). Writing the book was, he has said, an act of rebellion in some ways, and once it was out there, selling so crazily, and winning itself a Pulitzer prize nomination, its success was kind of alarming, though he is at pains to emphasise that he always welcomed the responses of individual readers.

"I thought it would be read by 29 year olds in Brooklyn, treating it as an experimental text. But the first few hundred people who came up to me said, 'I lost my parents, too.' I know authors who hate that kind of thing. It drives them crazy. But I feel like any point of intersection is valid."

Anyway, he seems to have been rowing away from it ever since. After A Heartbreaking Work… he wrote a novel, and then, in 2006, What Is the What, which he called fiction but which was based closely on the true story of a Sudanese Lost Boy called Valentino Achak Deng. The book was widely acclaimed – it won the Prix Médicis in France – and has since become a much-loved totem for liberal America.

President Obama read it and urged his White House aides to do the same; Duke University's Class of 2012 was sent a special edition of the novel and told to read it before arriving on campus. Eggers is still close to Valentino. The desk that runs the foundation that was established by McSweeney's in his name is right next door, beside those of the bright young things.

Thanks to the proceeds of What Is the What, Valentino has built a school in Sudan. Eggers hopes to visit it this year. "We try not to be hit and run. We give micro-loans and I have no problem helping people out financially. Three-dimensional results are important to me. I did once spend some time just writing, and floating around, and I lost my mind a little bit. I wasn't so good at that. I guess I'm very practical. My mom taught me that. That's why I get along with Zeitoun so well, and with Valentino. They build things. They make things happen."

Does he also find it relaxing to hide behind them on the page? "Yes! It's ideal. Remember that I started as a journalist [he worked on slate.com and founded his own magazine, Might]. Then, when I was 29, I wrote a memoir. I didn't know it would make sense to anybody. I certainly didn't think anyone would read it…" He pauses. "I feel like I scratched that itch, I guess." Does the memoir now feel like some kind of aberration? "Yeah! Aberration is a word I have used a lot. That's exactly how I see it. I don't know how to improve upon aberration. Even using the first person; I've been desperately trying to avoid that."

It is, I tell him, as though Valentino and Zeitoun give him licence to be sincere. He can shake off the irony, the verbal pyrotechnics, of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and not worry that anyone will think any the less of him. "Yes, there can be a little bit of an unhelpful whirlpool of cleverness that eats its own tail and, having spent a little time in that, it wasn't always the best company to keep and it wasn't the people I was used to."

What's more, when it comes to memoir, the line between truth and fiction is, for him, an agonising one and perhaps best avoided. When the James Frey row blew up – it was discovered that Frey's "memoir" about his drugs hell, A Million Little Pieces, was largely fiction – Eggers received at least 100 emails asking him to comment. "I am obsessed with explaining my processes, in my first book, and elsewhere. I didn't weigh in because I hadn't read the book. But I felt for everybody. For him, for his readers, for Oprah – I'm a fan of hers and what she does for books. He stretched things, but you can read the book how you want, and that's how it's read now. With a grain of salt." Sometimes, fiction takes you closer to truth. "Tim O'Brien's book about Vietnam, The Things They Carried, has won every award, is studied in college and is considered to be definitive. But it's fiction." He sighs. "Oh, I'm always sad at book controversies!"

He thinks it's possible that his huge appetite for work – for juggling a publishing company with philanthropy and writing – comes from a sense of how short life is. His parents were in their 50s when they died; his older sister, Beth, killed herself when she was 33. "Having lost people when they were young, you feel intimately acquainted with mortality, I guess. Though I procrastinate worse than anybody." Writing is so hard. "I need eight hours to get maybe 20 minutes of work done. I had one of those yesterday: seven hours of self-loathing. I used to write in the middle of the night. I suppose I was surprised by the sedentary nature of writing: like, wow, most of this is sitting down and typing! So I used to add a bit of adventure by starting at midnight and working until five. That was excitement! But now I have two kids [he is married to the novelist Vendela Vida, with whom he wrote the screenplay for the Sam Mendes film, Away We Go; she also edits another of their projects, The Believer, a literary magazine]. So it's bankers hours for me."

At home, where he writes, he no longer has internet access. A four-month stint with wi-fi proved "deadly" for his productivity and having no access at all ensures that he is not tempted to "look at Kajagoogoo videos and old ads for Wrigley's Spearmint Gum" on YouTube. "Writing is a deep-sea dive. You need hours just to get into it: down, down, down. If you're called back to the surface every couple of minutes by an email, you can't ever get back down. I have a great friend who became a Twitterer and he says he hasn't written anything for a year."

But, in any case, he is a paper man, not a screen man. "I only read on paper. I don't have an e-reader or an iPhone. I have the best time reading newspapers. I don't believe books are dead. I've seen the figures. Sales of adult fiction are up in the worst economy since the Depression." He hops up again. This time he's in search of a recent edition of his quarterly concern, McSweeney's – The San Francisco Panorama, which was a "celebration of the newspaper". It included cartoons by Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes and Art Spiegelman, dispatches from Afghanistan and fiction by George Saunders and Roddy Doyle and it sold out in minutes. In New York and London, the McSweeney's empire – it is named after Timothy McSweeney, a mysterious stranger who used to write to Eggers's mother, claiming to be her long lost brother – often gets characterised as a kind of cabal: a hip, young gang. He and Vida, whose writerly circle includes Nick Hornby, Rick Moody, Jonathan Lethem and Joyce Carol Oates, tend to be seen as tastemakers. He thinks this is ridiculous.

"We don't have much of a record to support that, unfortunately. There's a lot of stuff that we like that doesn't go anywhere." He waves an arm in the direction of the hip young staff. "These things exist but they're not financially robust. Vendela doesn't get paid. If we were genius tastemakers we wouldn't be running this broke company. I mean, we're not going to fold any time soon but I wish we were what you say."

He believes passionately in the power of reading and of writing; one evening a week, he and a group high-school students get together to talk about American journalism, though tonight they will be interviewing me, a "real-life British person" (given that their last special guest was Spike Jonze, the film director with whom Eggers wrote the script for Where the Wild Things Are, I fear I could be something of a disappointment). At the end of the year, these students help Eggers compile a volume called The Best American Nonrequired Reading, a showcase for journalism and short fiction. His passion also led him to establish 826 Valencia, a place where children can come after school for help with their homework and to learn to write stories; it's right across the street. It's a screen-free zone, run pretty much entirely by volunteers, and has been so successful that the model has been rolled out across America (there are now branches in six other cities) ."Shall we go over there?" he says.

We scoot across the road. When Eggers and his team signed the lease at 826 Valencia Street in 2002, the landlord told them the building was zoned for retail; they could put their tutoring centre at the back but out front they would have to sell something. Eggers hit on the idea of pirate store. Not a kitschy place about pirates; a store for pirates. Every 826 now has a shop up front: they're welcoming, the children love them and they raise funds (in Brooklyn, it's a superhero supply store; in Boston, it's a Bigfoot research centre). Today, the children are just arriving, which, as Eggers says, "is pretty cute to see" – though perhaps it's more touching to watch the volunteers, who come in all shapes and sizes, and who give their time so willingly.

It's in the pirate store that I fall into a swoon of happiness. When I was small, a favourite book told the story of a bunch of pirates who were not much good at the stuff with planks and cutlasses; they suffered from seasickness and, on one voyage, contracted mumps. As we survey the scene – the staff, young and smiling, invent all the stock themselves – I think how my pirates would be right at home here, shopping for peg-leg oil, emergency treasure burial sand and tins of mermaid repellent/bait ("Sprinkle a small amount of this substance into the sea. Sometimes they come closer, sometimes they swim away. It's complicated").

I glance surreptitiously at Eggers, wondering if he is fed up with taking journalistic visitors like me on tours like this. But his face is a picture of contentment and pride. He picks up a small, flat piece of wood. "This is a kitten plank," he says. He picks up a smaller, flat piece of wood. "This is a hamster plank." Finally, he picks up what looks like a school ruler. "And this is a parrot plank." We don't look at each other but I know we are both smiling.

McSweeney's drive-thru: a short history of the Eggers empire
Founded The McSweeney's empire began in 1998 with Timothy McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, a literary journal edited by Dave Eggers. The first issue, which had a print run of 2,500 copies, many hand-distributed by Eggers himself, featured only work that had been rejected elsewhere. Though this policy was swiftly relaxed to introduce more established writers – among them Jonathan Lethem, AM Homes, David Foster Wallace, Joyce Carol Oates and Michael Chabon – the desire to champion emerging and excluded voices persists today.

The McSweeney's generation shares an offbeat, self-consciously po-mo aesthetic that is reflected in the magazine's distinctively whimsical design. Past issues have been packaged as a bundle of mail, printed on playing cards or arrived on subscribers' doormats secreted within a cigar-box. Over the past decade the empire has expanded to include four publishing imprints, a website, a monthly magazine, The Believer, edited by Eggers's wife Vendela Vida, and a quarterly DVD magazine, Wholphin, featuring films by the likes of Spike Jonze and Steven Soderbergh . In 2002 Eggers co-founded a community writing project in San Fancisco, which has since spread to other US cities.

Best of times In 2009 McSweeney's challenged the supposed death of the newspaper by publishing the San Francisco Panorama, a one-off Sunday-sized newspaper featuring sports writing by Stephen King, fiction from Roddy Doyle and George Saunders, dispatches from Afghanistan and a comic-strip by Art Spiegelman. Despite costing $5 on the street and $16 in bookstores, the entire print run of 20,000 copies sold out in 90 minutes.

Worst of times In 2006 the magazine's distributors filed for bankruptcy while $600,000 in debt to McSweeney's. A rescue bid by Perseus Books took care of future distribution but Eggers and co were forced to hold an internet fire sale to make up the $130,000 shortfall. Items listed included signed books, back issues, and a painting by Eggers of George W Bush as a double amputee.

They said "I can't think of another organisation that so successfully combines playfulness with literary excellence and a genuine and effective social conscience."
END

This article appeared on p10 of the The New Review section of the Observer on Sunday 7 March 2010. It was published on guardian.co.uk at 00.08 GMT on Sunday 7 March 2010. It was last modified at 15.41 GMT on Thursday 16 December 2010. You may want to see the video made upon his acceptance of The Dayton Literary award here

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Turning with the Spirit (expanding)

*

An epiphany enables you to sense creation not as something completed, but as constantly becoming, evolving, ascending. This transports you (and I) from a place where there is nothing new to a place where there is nothing old, where everything renews itself, where heaven and earth rejoice as at the moment of Creation.
( From "Renewal" p. 99 The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism transl. by Daniel C. Matt )

The Great Turning is a name Joanna Macy gives to the essential adventure of our time: the shift from the industrial growth society to a life-sustaining civilization. See Macy's challenges for our time here

‘The East and West is God’s: therefore whichever way ye turn, there is the face of God’ Qur’«n 2:115

Allah is never "done" with His work, because the process of creation is ongoing. Each new child who is born, every seed that sprouts into a sapling, every new species that appears on earth, is part of the ongoing process of Allah's creation. "He it is Who created the heavens and the earth in six days, then established Himself on the Throne. He knows what enters within the heart of the earth, and what comes forth out of it, what comes down from heaven, and what mounts up to it. And He is with you wherever you may be. And Allah sees well all that you do" (Qur’«n 57:4).

================

You Come And Go

You come and go. The doors swing closed
ever more gently, almost without a shudder.
Of all those who move through the quiet houses,
you are the quietest.

We become so accustomed to you,
we no longer look up
when your shadow falls over the book we are reading
and makes it glow. For all things
sing you: at times
we just hear them more clearly.

Often when I imagine you
your wholeness cascades into many shapes.
You run like a herd of luminous deer
and I am dark, I am forest.

You are a wheel at which I stand,
whose dark spokes sometimes catch me up,
revolve me nearer to the center.
Then all the work I put my hand to
widens from turn to turn.

—Rainer Maria Rilke, from Love Poems to God, The Book of Monastic Life.

=========

Inspired by a gifted writer who will remain anon., I wildly took off on his theme and paraphrased the following:

In a quiet passage of the prophet Isaiah 42:9 is the message the Creator is new beginnings, new creations, and always new tomorrows. What a shame to get stuck in the past and begin to regress and lose the joy of the ever evolving progression...new songs, new mornings, new hearts, new garments, new heavens, and a new earth. In fact, even in the closing words of the Bible, God finalizes His eternal agenda by declaring, "Behold I make all things new..." (See Rev 21:5)

Newness can also come from rediscovering the older joys and wisdoms - an amazing sky like no other - the quiet majesty of the mountains in continual change. no camera could capture the total experience of any panaramic display or any full-sensual, fully spiritual happening in such an experience. Partake of the moment to see what is required of you.

July 14 UPDATES: Peace Activists in Israel: Latest Reports

US Center in DC for ongoing dialogue/films/events on these issues:
See The Jerusalem Fund GO here where you can find a google map by going to home and then Contact Us (bottom of page)
2425 Virginia Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20037
202.338.1958 (main)
202.333.7742 (fax)
info@thejerusalemfund.org

=================

Press Release 6 "Welcome to Palestine" - Court Challenges of the Deportation Orders Today and Tomorrow: Bethlehem and Jerusalem, July 13, 2011. Court dates have been set for noon today and tomorrow at 9 am for the court challenges of "Welcome to Palestine" participants against the deportation orders of the Israeli government that they and their attorneys consider illegal. The hearings will take place at the Central District Courthouse in Petah Tikva.

The hearing at noon today concerns two Australians who flew from Athens to Ben Gurion airport yesterday to join the "Welcome to Palestine" initiative: Sylvia Hale, a retired member of the NSW Parliament and member of the Green Party, and Vivienne Porzsolt, a member of Jews against the Occupation, both 69 years old had, been aboard the Flotilla II Free Gaza ship, the "MV Tahrir," which the Greek government prevented from sailing to Gaza. Other members of Flotilla II have decided to come visit Palestine and contacted the "Welcome to Palestine" campaign, including the US activist Kathy Kelly. "We are now inundated with requests to visit Palestine which is the opposite of what the Israeli authorities had tried to do by their brutal denial of travel to a few hundred activists" said Mazin Qumsiyeh, one of the organizers and the campaign's local media spokesperson.

Tomorrow at 9 am (Thursday as of this posting) Angelica Seyfrid of Berlin, Germany, will challenge deportation orders. Ms. Seyfrid, an artist and translator, worked for many weeks to raise money for travel costs so that unemployed persons and students in Germany could join "Welcome to Palestine." On July 8th, Ms. Seyfrid flew from Berlin to Tel Aviv with members of the German, Austrian, French and Belgian delegations of "Welcome to Palestine." All were immediately detained upon arrival to Ben Gurion airport and most were deported without opportunity of legal counsel. Members of the German and Austrian delegation were deported on Sunday, July 10th via Lufthansa Airlines, and on Monday, July 11th, via Australian Airlines respectively. According to the German Embassy in Tel Aviv, the Israeli authorities denied access to attorneys seeking to represent the incarcerated Germans.

"Israel denied the entry of Noam Chomsky because he wanted to have a talk with students from Nablus," said Attorney Omer Shatz. "Israel denied the entry of Ivan Prado the famous clown just because he wished to make Ramahalla's kids happy. Israel denied entry to anyone who wants to visit Palestine. Such a regime that doesn't let people to visit millions of Palestinians living under oppressing military occupation for 44 years now."

"Our hearts go out to Angelica, and we fully support her courageous refusal to accept the illegal Israeli deportation orders," said Elsa Rassbach, a US citizen living in Berlin and member of CODEPINK and the German section of the War Resistors International, who helped organize the German delegation and is coordinating the international media for the initiative from Berlin. Together with members of the French and UK delegations to "Welcome to Palestine," Ms. Rassbach visited Palestine during an earlier campaign of support during Christmas last year. However, the French activist, Olivia Zémor, was denied entry and deported during the same time.

While Israel succeeded in preventing hundreds of people from entering Palestine, many others did enter to join this week's program of activities. Israeli forces have incarcerated at least two supporters, including a young man from Belgium who participated in yesterday's peaceful attempt to enter the Palestinian villages of Beit Ommar (now off-limits due to Israeli colonial activities). Israelis also decided to join the activities and several were also arrested.

"The local organizers of the 'Welcome to Palestine' campaign, while sad about the continuing attempts at isolation from the international community, are pleased that this episode of brutal Israeli assault removes one of the last illusions about 'Israeli Democracy'," said Dr. Qumsiyeh.

Media Contacts:

GENERAL: info@palestinejn.org

JERUSALEM: Sergio Yahni, sergioyahni@gmail.com, +972(0)526375032

BETHLEHEM: Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh, mazin@qumsiyeh.org, +972(0)598939532 (English and Arabic), and Fadi Kattan (French) press.welcometopalestine2@gmail.com +970 (0) 595 754 100

FRANCE: Nicolas Shahshahani, bienvenuepalestine@orange.fr +33(0)1 42 94 39 94 and +33(0)673 38 24 84

GERMANY: Sophia Deeg, sophia_deeg@yahoo.de, +49(0)88 007761,+49(0)1799878414

UK: Sofiah MacLeod, secretary@scottishpsc.org.uk,+44(0)7931 200 36100,+44(0)131 620 0052

USA: Karin Pally, myizzy@gmail.com or kpally@earthlink.net, +;1 310-399-1921

INTERNATIONAL Media Coordination: Elsa Rassbach, elsarassbach@gmail.com, +49 (0) 30 326 01540 or +49 (0) 170 738 1450 Skype: elsarassbach


Please stay informed through our websites:

- http://palestinianspring.palestinejn.org

- http://welcometopalestinenews.blogspot.com/

- http://ahlanfefalasteen.blogspot.com/

- http://bienvenueenpalestinepresse.blogspot.com/

- http://www.kopi-online.de

-------------------------------------------------
The Israeli Knesset passed a law barring Israeli citizens from speaking out in support of the growing civil campaign of boycotts, divestments, and sanctions (BDS). The response of all of us should be unambiguous: increase our focus on BDS around the world. Just like with Apartheid South Africa, the Zionist regime will not give back any rights to the native people without significant pressure from both outside and inside. We in Palestine urge all people of conscience to apply maximum pressure and continue to grow civil society campaigns to challenge Israeli apartheid. Silence is complicity.

Action: Call to free "The Audacity of Hope" from Greek military doc

http://www.codepinkalert.org/article.php?id=5891

Action: Tell TIAA-CREF CEO Roger Ferguson he can't run from Occupation.

http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/301/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=7276

After banning international activists from West Bank, Israel tries to do same with Israelis

http://972mag.com/what-is-the-israeli-response-to-palestinian-non-violence/

Why the Left shouldn’t take boycott law to the High Court

http://972mag.com/skip-the-court-system/

Children playing kites in Jerusalem Shot by the Zionist army in the day of "Freedom in Colors"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzQG9kcQsEs

Children vs Israeli terror

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ewo69ch01OU

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1r6wpUZ_RnA

Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD

A bedouin in cyberspace, a villager at home

http://qumsiyeh.org

http://palestinejn.org

http://pcr.ps

http://IMEMC.or

http://www.alrowwad-acts.ps

See other related items soon at the blogsite nomorecrusades.blogspot.com

=====================

EARLIER Events/contacts:

"Welcome to Palestine" Coalition and Others Join in Condemning the recent Attack by Israeli Forces on HR Activists.

(links to some media stories at bottom along with Dr. Qumsiyeh's own sites)

Please circulate

Press Release 4: Human rights advocates attacked by Israeli forces after detention at airport

Bethlehem and Jerusalem 9 July 2011.-- Palestinians in the "Welcome to Palestine" coalition condemn in the strongest possible terms the attack by Israeli forces on dozens of detained human rights activists. One of those detained reported (before his phone was apparently removed) how 32 people were held together in one room and then attacked, forcefully handcuffed and dragged into separate transfer vehicles. They were then forcefully transferred to the Ramle detention facility by the forces of the apartheid regime. Lawyers have been trying to reach the Ministry of Interior to gain access to the abductees and to assure that they receive their right to legal representation, to visits from their country consular staff, and to call their families. Israeli authorities said they are holding 85 people pending deportation "on the next available flight". We know of activists held who come from Britain, Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, Holland, and Ireland. Multiple flights were also delayed before departure (apparently to give Israel more time). Activists held demonstrations at several airports in Europe.

Supporters who tried to welcome our visitors were stopped and denied entrance to the airport. Each airport visitor was asked to show either that he/she is traveling or that they are there to meet a specific person (names were checked against arriving flight passenger lists). The few who did manage to get in were immediately attacked even as they peacefully tried to wait for arriving guests. Six were arrested for exercising their right to free speech.

We held a press conference Friday morning to explain our invitation, our campaign, and the week program. We decried the compliance of some airlines in human rights violations (Air France, Alitalia, Austrian Airlines, Lufthansa, Malev, and Easy Jet). It amounts to the export and outsourcing of policies of occupation and human rights violations from Israel to other countries. Friday weekly demonstrations in the West Bank raised the banner of human solidarity and decried the Israeli attacks. We decried the defamatory statements about our visitors that paved the grounds for violating their rights. A demonstration was also held Friday afternoon in front of the Israeli Ministry of Interior.

We announced our program for the week which commenced successfully with vigils in solidarity with those detained at 6 PM on Friday in the Manara square in Ramallah and the Nativity Square in Bethlehem. Many internationals were there including four who came for our July 8-16 program despite Israel's draconian measures to stop this. Their presence at these peaceful events showed the lie told by Israeli authorities that these are "hooligans" and "trouble makers" whose mere entrance to Palestine was presented to the Israeli public as an existential threat. The real hooligans and trouble-makers turned out to be Israeli government officials and security personnel.

Israeli Occupation forces are now searching for Internationals crossing the (illegal) checkpoints to the South of Ramallah. But our program continues with two concurrent events scheduled in the Ramallah governorate 9 July 2011 (anniversary of the World Court ruling on the illegality of the apartheid wall and colonial settlements): 11 AM gathering in Bilin for an event elsewhere and then ending in Qalandia at 3 PM and a noon function at Qalandia. Details of other functions are available upon request.

We urge all people to write to the media, to their governments, and to all fellow human beings to say that "enough is enough": Israel must be forced to respect basic human rights, allow free travel and most of all end apartheid and colonization. As a matter of urgency, Western governments must insist that Israeli authorities release those they kidnapped, afford them all protections due them, and punish officials who mistreated our guests.

Media Contacts: info@palestinejn.org

JERUSALEM: Sergio Yahni, sergioyahni@gmail.com, +972(0)526375032

BETHLEHEM: Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh, mazin@qumsiyeh.org, +972(0)598939532

FRANCE: Nicolas Shahshahani, bienvenuepalestine@orange.fr

GERMANY: Sophia Deeg, sophia_deeg@yahoo.de, +49(0)88 007761, +49(0)1799878414

UK: Sofiah MacLeod, secretary@scottishpsc.org.uk,+44(0)7931 200 36100, +44(0)131 620 0052

USA: Karin Pally, myizzy@gmail.com or kpally@earthlink.net, +;1 310-399-1921

Web: Palestinianspring.palestinejn.org

English Blog: http://welcometopalestinenews.blogspot.com/

Arabic Blog: http://ahlanfefalasteen.blogspot.com/

French: http://bienvenueenpalestinepresse.blogspot.com/

Videos

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YrP9LiqPNjY

http://www.reuters.com/video/2011/07/08/pro-palestinian-activists-barred-from-is?videoId=216887109&videoChannel=1

Photos

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/israels-no-go-to-pro-palestinian-activists/2011/07/08/gIQAYxtG4H_gallery.html#photo=9

http://www.upi.com/News_Photos/News/Israeli-efforts-to-arrest-pro-Palestinian-activists/5386/?spt=rcc&or=bna#!/1/

Other strides in major news outlets

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/09/world/middleeast/09mideast.html?_r=1&ref=world

http://globalspin.blogs.time.com/2011/07/07/the-ben-gurion-airport-protest-picking-the-wrong-line/

http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/features/2011/07/201178123322534460.html

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/middleeast/la-fg-israel-airport-protest-20110709,0,6383210.story

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/propalestinian-flytilla-stopped-at-airports-by-israeli-security-2309521.html

http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/25-pro-palestinian-activists-from-germany-stopped-upon-arrival-in-israel-1.372233

Report on event at Nativity square

http://english.pnn.ps/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=10419

AFPS: Roissy n’est pas Ben Gourion Airport !

http://www.france-palestine.org/article17829.html

Mazin Qumsiyeh

A bedouin in cyberspace, a villager at home

http://qumsiyeh.org

http://palestinejn.org

http://pcr.ps

http://IMEMC.or

http://www.alrowwad-acts.ps

90 US Law Professors Urge Rejection of the PROTECT-IP Act of 2011 (S. 968)


Authors of the letter, Professors Mark Lemley, David Levine, and David Post.

Find original article here

A group of intellectual property professors (around 90 as of this writing) led by Mark Lemley, David S. Levine, and David G. Post have delivered a letter to Congress urging rejection of the PROTECT-IP Act of 2011 (S. 968).

The professors stress that the bill’s drawbacks outweigh its benefits in terms of the way in which it addresses online copyright and trademark infringement. The bill is not constitutionally sound, has the potential to damage the stability and security of the Internet’s addressing system, and flies in the face of the United States’s history of supporting free expression on the Internet. Intellectual property owners currently have an array of tools to fight online infringement; this bill is unnecessary and a true threat to freedom of the Internet.
The bill’s most visible flaw is its unconstitutional restriction of speech. The Supreme Court has rejected prior restraint, which is exactly what this bill would allow were it to go into effect—a judge would be able to shut down websites upon an application by the Attorney General without notice and a proper hearing to the adverse party. The bill would also significantly harm the Internet’s infrastructure. A court’s ability to remove or replace entries from the Internet’s Domain Name System (an act which this bill would authorize) would seriously imperil the principle of domain name universality on which countless Internet applications are based. Finally, the United States has always been a leading proponent of free speech on the Internet. This bill is antithetical to the principle of freedom of expression, as it allows for the removal of content from the Internet regardless of where the content originates or where it is located. For all of these reasons, the professors strongly advise that Congress reject the PROTECT-IP Act of 2011.

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A variety of other groups are also urging strong opposition to this proposed Bill
as of now still: S 968 Some of these groups include site-masters who claim there is already a kind of hacking or false redirecting or NO requested directing of various messages as well as those opposed to the death penalty who are trying to get their messages sent to others.

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Let's call the American Library Association because they may not be fully aware of the implications of S 968 or they surely would speak out as they've done until May 2011 with the renewal of the Patriot Act. GO here

Friday, July 8, 2011

Gitmo Archive & Action: April-to-June-2011 (with urgent comments)

Plz GO here ASAP and be sure to read the Comments under this post as well.

Two Suggested ACTIONS:

One) Support Andy Worthington as he's way at the top of our Gitmo/Human Rights writers today

Two) Let's work to defeat the passing of US Senate bill S.968

See the conversation among the Comments to this post by Andy:

See here Evidently, if this bill passes this would extend the already permissive legalities re. torture by our nation...Andy said: I do recommend readers to check out the bill, which, as OpenCongress describes it:

Establishes a system for taking down websites that the Justice Department determines to be “dedicated to infringing activities.” The DoJ or the copyright owner would be able to commence a legal action against the alleged infringer and the DoJ would be allowed to demand that search engines, social networking sites and domain name services block access to the targeted site. In some cases, action could be taken to block sites without first allowing the alleged infringer to defend themselves in court.

The OpenCongress page is:
http://www.opencongress.org/bill/112-s968/show

And this is the text of the bill:
http://www.opencongress.org/bill/112-s968/text

Andy added "...what’s absolutely certain is that what’s said on the campaign trail is essentially meaningless, as vested interests dictate what actually happens when people are in power. It’s why we truly do need a revolution in political and economic thinking, so that we the people can be represented, instead of our enemies —the corporate interests who place shareholders’ interests and profits above everything else.

Allison Lee-Clay wrote:

I heard rumors that gulag ships are being used more frequently now to circumvent even rudimentary GITMO oversights & documentation.

Andy Worthington said:

It may be so, Allison, after the emergence of the story about the Somali, Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, who was held on a ship for two months before being brought to New York to face a federal court trial. I haven’t had time to write about this yet. For a compromised, supposedly “objective” account of the issues at stake see this New York Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/201​1/07/07/world/africa/07det​ain.html

Freedom Flotilla 2: Report from Kathy Kelly

"Embassy of the U.S. in Athens. The U.S. Embassy takes up about four square blocks of land. Nondescript, boxy white buildings are surrounded by spiked fences of battleship gray. Embassy employees arrive at a checkpoint and are subjected to search routines that include examining the base of their vehicle as it drives over a pit. Dozens of guards maintain round the clock security. What necessitates such elaborate security measures? Is it simply that U.S. lives are more precious than the lives of others and therefore must be intensely safeguarded, or might it be that menacing economic and military policies enforced by the U.S. have caused antagonism and rage sufficient to endanger official U.S. representatives in almost any part of the globe?"


July 7-8, 2011

It looked like a scene from an opera. Massed in the doorway and second floor balconies of a quaint building in Athens, facing a magnificent view of the Parthenon, Spanish activists hung banners and flashed peace signs and proclaimed that they wouldn’t leave the building, the Embassy of Spain, until their government assured them that their boat, “The Guernica,” could at last leave for the suffering and besieged territory of Gaza.

Like other boats in the “Freedom Flotilla 2,” an international flotilla aiming to end the naval blockade of Gaza, the Spaniards’ boat has been blocked from sailing by bureaucratic measures imposed by the Greek government. This was unacceptable to the activists. On July 4, 2011, the Spanish Ambassador to Greece had agreed to meet with only four of the Spanish activists, but at a pre-arranged time, one of the four had gone downstairs, opened the door and ushered in 17 others to help them occupy the Embassy. Today, three days later, they have issued an eloquent statement explaining why they still refuse to leave. They call for an end to the illegal blockade of Gaza and for immediate release of their boat so that it can soon reach Gazan shores.

I’m here as an activist passenger on the United States flotilla boat, the Audacity of Hope, also blocked by the Greek government decision. We tried to escape to international waters but were towed back to dock by heavily-armed boats of the Greek Coast Guard. We haven’t tried an embassy occupation. “That’s what your group should be doing,” said one of the main organizers of the international flotilla effort, referring to the Spanish action.

He’s right. And yet, crucial and telling differences exist between the Embassy of Spain in Athens, where I counted exactly one security guard nonchalantly keeping watch in the first afternoon of the Spanish activists’ demonstration, and the Embassy of the U.S. in Athens. The U.S. Embassy takes up about four square blocks of land. Nondescript, boxy white buildings are surrounded by spiked fences of battleship gray. Embassy employees arrive at a checkpoint and are subjected to search routines that include examining the base of their vehicle as it drives over a pit. Dozens of guards maintain round the clock security. What necessitates such elaborate security measures? Is it simply that U.S. lives are more precious than the lives of others and therefore must be intensely safeguarded, or might it be that menacing economic and military policies enforced by the U.S. have caused antagonism and rage sufficient to endanger official U.S. representatives in almost any part of the globe?

Several of us who were quietly fasting, across the street from our Embassy, earlier this week, called upon the U.S. to help free Gaza, free our ship from a Greek port, and free, or at least visit, our captain who was, at the time, detained in a Greek jail. When we politely declined to end our fasting presence, we were loaded into Greek police squad cars and held for several hours. The next day, the Greek police again detained six U.S. activists, this time for sitting on a park bench across from the home of the U.S. Ambassador to Greece.

Had U.S. activists attempted to occupy the U.S. Embassy in Athens, in an action comparable to that of the Spaniards, we surely wouldn’t have been filmed waving from open air balconies. It’s likely that the only cameras within the U.S. compound that would cover such an event would be U.S. surveillance cameras.

And, of course, the plight we want to make visible is not ours but rather that of the Palestinians in Gaza who rarely have an opportunity to raise or amplify their voices. Our guiding question, our rudder, as we contemplate next steps, asks to what extent we can focus world attention on the plight of Palestinians in Gaza. Today, I read an article by Professor Noam Chomsky in which he asked Chris Gunness, a spokesperson for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency in Gaza to describe the humanitarian crisis Gazans face. “If there were no humanitarian crisis, if there weren’t a crisis in almost every aspect of life in Gaza there would be no need for the flotilla,” said Gunness. ” 95 percent of all water in Gaza is undrinkable, 40 percent of all disease is water-borne … 45.2 percent of the labor force is unemployed, 80 percent aid dependency, a tripling of the abject poor since the start of the blockade. Let’s get rid of this blockade and there would be no need for a flotilla.”

And so it goes. Our formation as peace and antiwar activists should be guided by focusing on the most impoverished people who bear the brunt of our economic and military warfare. We U.S. activists must continue to learn from the durable actions and plans of the Spaniards and numerous other internationals gathered here in Athens, many of whom are facing draconian new economic policies in their home countries as financial institutions hold sway over governments and demand new austerity measures..

Greek activists who assemble every night in Athens’ Syntagma Square have constructed an inspiring, effective means for developing free speech and determined, risk-taking action in a setting that has evolved to emphasize simplicity, sharing of resources and a clear preference for service rather than dominance.

I leave Greece tonight with sincere regret that I didn’t spend more time learning from these sturdy activists.

I and another US Boat to Gaza campaign member, Missy Lane, headed to Tel Aviv earlier today, where we planned to be part of a “flytilla,” a new campaign which will bring hundreds of activists together in Israel’s Ben Gurion airport, all of whom are intent on reaching Palestinian refugee camps and/or visiting Gazan families. Missy and I wore T-shirts identifying us as part of the U.S. Boat to Gaza project. Upon arrival at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, we were swiftly taken to what an Israeli guard called “the immigration hotel” and told that we were denied entry to the country for security reasons. The Israelis put us on a plane back to Athens.

Yesterday evening, a group of U.S. activists who’ve been able to remain longer, here in Athens, demonstrated at each of the heavily guarded streets leading to the residence of the U.S. Ambassador to Greece. The Ambassador is hosting a huge festival tonight, in celebration of the U.S. July 4 holiday that commemorates independence.

Several Greek people passing us read our signs seeking freedom for Gaza and asked us to understand that as recently as one year ago, the government of Greece showed no sign of submitting to Israeli or U.S. pressure and allowed international flotilla boats to sail. But, now they are dependent on the whims of financial elites around the world. The IMF is prescribing extremely severe measures which will wreck their economy and make them subservient to the dictates of foreign multinationals. What would happen if the government defied the masters?

The Greek government has been told to bend down and kiss the dirt, and if it doesn’t do so it will be told to bend down and eat the dirt.

So far, the government has complied, and one instance of galling obeisance is their cooperation with Israeli and U.S. governmental insistence that no boats bound for Gaza be allowed to depart from Grecian ports.

The flotilla may not leave Grecian ports this month, but the idea and practice of dissent surely will. The Arab Spring has planted seeds throughout the eastern Mediterranean, from its birthplace in Tunisia, through the Mubarak overthrow, here to Greece, and of course throughout the world as it spreads into a heralded European Summer. With democracy in Gaza, here in Greece, and throughout the world so dependent on what our own government does in the United States, U.S. citizens should surely be thinking, thinking constantly, of daily actions, gutsy and inspiring, which we can take in our home country where we face so little risk compared with so many living in utmost precarity – so many beckoning all of us to carry their hard-fought struggle beyond one Arab Spring into a perennial human striving for freedom; into hope, perhaps outlandish hope, even for an American autumn. A grand drama is unfolding here in Greece, in Egypt, in Barcelona, in Gaza, and throughout the world, which may end in sorrow or in jubilation largely depending on whether people of the United States are watching, and themselves getting ready to take the stage.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Yemen Continues to Inspire Amid Great Odds

The revolt in Yemen is proving the most robust out of all the Arab revolutions. (Aljazeera)

Excerpt from this article: The Yemeni people, however, continue to rally for freedom, democracy and civil rights. They wait for each Friday to descend upon city centers by the hundrds of thousands, conveying an extraordinarily clear message aimed at peace, stability and basic human rights.

“Hand in hand to achieve our goal,” chanted the very large crowd in Sana’a, all in one voice.

(end of excerpt)

Published on Thursday, July 7, 2011 by CommonDreams.org
by Ramzy Baroud

The Yemeni people are unrelenting in their demands for democracy. Millions continue to stage rallies across their country in a display of will that is proving the most robust out of all the Arab revolutions. The Yemenis face great challenges, however, including the political vacillation of their country’s opposition, and the US’ military and strategic interests in Yemen.

Al Jazeera described Abdul Hameed Abu Hatem as a mere ‘protester’. However, the man’s demands show a purity and genuineness that is consistent with the chants of millions of Yemenis from all over the country. “We are calling for freedom, justice, order and a civil government. We demand that the public income is used by the public and that people have equal job opportunities,” said Abu Hatem, during a pro-democracy rally in Sana’a attended by an estimated 250,000 Yemenis.

In order for such thoughtful demands to be met, a transparent political transition needs to take place. Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen’s president of 33 years is evidently unable to lead the country. He is currently suffering from physical injuries, and it seems that even if he were to recover, very few Yemenis currently trust in his ability to spearhead meaningful reforms.

Saleh’s leadership is now propped up by some tribal connections, his own security forces and the powerful Republican Guards commanded by his family members. Whole army units have already defected. Most notable among them are the troops of General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, which provide security to the protesting youth from attacks by regime forces. Many Yemenis have been killed and injured in such attacks.

In Saleh’s absence, the country’s affairs were entrusted to the vice president, Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi. However, all the signs point to the president’s son, Ahmad, as effectively being the one in command. The leader’s nephews, Tariq and Ammar, run President Saleh's private guard and state security service respectively.

While such figures represent a tiny segment of the country’s population, their iron fist methods and brutal crackdowns continue to stand between the Yemeni people and their coveted democracy.

Another major obstacle is the indecisiveness of the country’s opposition, which co-existed with the ruling party in Yemen for years, and which seems incapable of operating in any way other than government cooption.

The Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) coalition had shifted positions repeatedly since the early days of the Yemeni revolution. At times it has opted to act independently from popular demands, agreeing to power-sharing arrangements with Saleh’s party. This has only served to prolong the status-quo rejected by most Yemenis.

The JMP are now threatening to unilaterally prepare a transitional ruling council without the General People’s Congress and the acting president, according to Xinhua news agency (July 1). This position may shift yet again, in light of the overlapping interests of many parties from both inside and outside Yemen.

The JMP’s unilateral undertaking aimed at forming a transitional ruling council would include “representatives from the protesters, separatist Southern Movement and Houthi-led Shiite rebels,” according to a Yemeni official, speaking in Xinhua. Such a political combination could be dangerous to the interests of influential outside parties led by the United States.

Yemen is one of the most important countries for the US’ ongoing wars. Its strategic location in the Arabian Peninsula, geographic immediacy to major waterways, and close proximity to Somalia (which has been under US military radar for years) makes it impossible to ignore for US military planners. Even during the time of peaceful protests throughout Yemen, the US carried out repeated strikes at suspected al-Qaida positions in the country. This reality is what had undermined the authority of Saleh in the eyes of his people in the first place. Furthermore, Saleh used the geostrategic weight of his country to gain US-western political and military backing.

A recent Brown University Study of the human and financial costs of US wars cited Yemen as fourth on the US lists of wars, following Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, as reported by AFP on July 1. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, however, upgraded Yemen’s position into a country that is “rapidly becoming al-Qaida’s center of gravity,” according to a National Defense Magazine online report on June 30. Mullen was speaking at a press conference announcing this year’s so-called Failed States Index. Considering the corruption and oppression at home, and the determined foreign intervention, Yemen was ranked the 13th least stable country.

“While (al-Qaida) leadership still resides on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan … the federate group that is in Yemen is an incredibly dangerous group that has taken full advantage of the chaos,” he said. By ‘chaos’, he must’ve meant the pro-democracy revolution, and the government’s remorseless crackdown on protesters. This chaos has also forced many tribes to provide their own security, as they clash with government forces and random militants. It is difficult to estimate the nature of al-Qaida’s power in Yemen, especially as the lines between al-Qaida militants, al-Qaida-inspired militants, and any militant at all (operating outside the central government’s command) is becoming so blurred.

Mullen suggested the maintenance of “military-to-military relations with such countries (as) key to creating stability,” according to the National Defense Magazine. However, the Yemeni military is divided, and the president’s security forces are still committed to fighting anti-US militants. They are also resolutely on the opposite side of the pro-democracy revolution. It is no wonder that the US is still backing the old order in Yemen.

The already impoverished country is now facing a possible economic meltdown - with continuous electricity disruptions for up to 20 hours a day in the capital, according to AP, (as cited in the Washington Post online on June 27.)

The Yemeni people, however, continue to rally for freedom, democracy and civil rights. They wait for each Friday to descend upon city centers by the hundrds of thousands, conveying an extraordinarily clear message aimed at peace, stability and basic human rights.

“Hand in hand to achieve our goal,” chanted the very large crowd in Sana’a, all in one voice.
Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an author and editor of PalestineChronicle.com who's work has been published in many newspapers, journals and anthologies around the world. His latest book is The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People's Struggle (Pluto Press, London).

French Boat to Gaza Blocked in Crete

Greek coast guard intercepts French Gaza-bound boat
Jul 7, 2011, 12:37 GMT


Athens - The Greek coast guard on Thursday intercepted a French boat carrying pro-Palestinian activists on the southern island of Crete, the third aid ship in the last week to be prevented from sailing to Gaza, currently being blockaded by Israel.

Coast guard officials located the Dignite Al-Kanama as it was refuelling in a tiny uncontrolled port on Crete and was towed to the island's larger port of Sitia for checks, activist Manolis Pleonis told the German Press Agency dpa.

The boat, with about a dozen activists on board, had sailed from Corsica in late June.

'The crew of the French boat is waiting for clearance from the Greek coast guard to leave - logically since they were given clearance from the French government to head to Gaza there is not much that the Greek authorities can do,' he said.

Greek authorities have also banned a 10-vessel flotilla, loaded with aid and carrying several hundred pro-Palestinian activists from 22 countries - including Greece, Canada, France, Spain and the United States - from sailing towards Gaza.

Greece's coast guard has already intercepted two ships from the flotilla and is closely monitoring the others which are moored in ports across Greece.

The flotilla includes two cargo vessels - carrying almost 3,000 tons of aid, medicine, a fully equipped ambulance and cement to Gaza.

The Greek government, citing security concerns after a raid by Israeli forces on a similar flotilla last year left nine activists dead, has offered to deliver the humanitarian aid itself.

Israel imposed its blockade on the Strip in 2006, after Palestinian militants launched a cross-border raid in which an Israeli soldier was snatched. The blockade was tightened a year later after the Islamist Hamas movement seized full control of the salient.

Although Israel has eased the blockade, the naval embargo remains in force. Exports from the enclave are still banned.

Activists taking part in the international flotilla say they will still try to leave Greek ports despite repeated delays which activists blame on Israeli sabotage.

The activists have rejected Israeli claims that they are carrying dangerous materials or that they plan to use violence against Israeli soldiers trying to stop them at sea.

Indian Aid Convoy Set to Leave for Gaza

Asia's first humanitarian aid convoy has begun its ground journey to the Gaza Strip, trying to break Israel's four-year-long blockade on the coastal enclave.

A group of pro-Palestine activists is set to leave India on Thursday to deliver medical supplies to the besieged region.

The India Lifeline To Gaza, a constituent of the Asian People's Solidarity for Palestine (APSP), will move from Rajghat in Delhi.

The convoy will then travel through Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, entering Gaza through the Rafah Crossing.

"More than 50 Indians are part of the journey. We will travel by road through Asia and hopefully get to Gaza by December 28," founder of APSP Feroze Mithiborwala was quoted as saying by the Indian Express.

The convoy will carry medical aid and donate two ambulances to the authorities in Palestine.

Veteran journalist Kuldip Nayyar and former cabinet secretary Zafar Saifullah are among the Indian activists.

Some 40 percent of the 1.5 million impoverished people of Gaza are jobless as Israel imposed the siege on the sliver since June 2007.

Earlier this week, the United Nations expressed concern that more than 80 percent of people of Gaza depend on relief supplies for their survival.

The embargo persists while Gaza is far from recovering from the December 2008-January 2009 Israeli war that killed over 1,400 Palestinians, inflicting a damage of above $1.6 billion on the enclave's economy.

(Press TV)

Thursday 07th of December 2010 01:32:28 PM

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Small French Boat with Nine Activists Heads for Gaza



Palestinians wave flags and hold banners during a rally in Gaza City in support of the international Freedom Flotilla hoping to breach Israel's sea blockade on the Gaza Strip, on July 6, 2011.

A small French boat with nine activists on board heads for Gaza after sneaking out of a Greek port in spite of a ban, in a bid to break an Israeli naval blockade on the Palestinian territory. Photograph by: Mahmud Hams, AFP/Getty Images JERUSALEM

==========

A lone French yacht was on Wednesday headed for Gaza after sneaking out of Greek waters in defiance of a ban on the departure of aid ships aiming to run Israel's blockade on the coastal strip.

The MV Dignite/Al Karama, which left Greek waters early on Tuesday, is heading slowly towards Gaza, a spokesman for the French Boat to Gaza campaign told AFP, saying they had not yet given up hope they would be joined by others from the ill-fated Freedom Flotilla which had been due to set sail last week.

Pro-Palestinian campaigners on board a second ship, the MV Juliano, were expected to try leaving a Greek port later on Wednesday despite being turned back a day earlier, said a Swedish MP who will be joining the vessel.

Most of the 10 ships which had been due to join the naval convoy are stuck at ports in Greece after Athens imposed a blanket ban on the departure of any vessels destined for Gaza.

Another ship, the Irish-owned MV Saoirse, is currently undergoing repairs at a Turkish port after its propeller was damaged in what activists claimed was "sabotage" by Israel.

So far, only the MV Dignite, which has 12 people on board, has managed to set sail, a spokesman for the French boat said.

"They're getting on very well," Thomas Sommer-Houdeville told AFP by phone from Athens, saying the vessel had begun to move slowly towards Gaza on Tuesday afternoon after waiting for several hours in international waters to see if the the Greek, Norwegian and Swedish activists on board the MV Juliano would to also manage to set sail.

"Yesterday afternoon, our Greek colleagues (on board the MV Juliano) were not able to leave, so they decided to start sailing slowly" towards Gaza, he said after speaking by phone to activists on board the Dignite.

"They are now heading for Gaza slowly so if any of the boats manage to get out, they will be able to meet up with them.

"For the time being, our desire is to go to Gaza," Sommer-Houdeville said, admitting the activists on board would later decide based on what was possible "logistically and technically."

"At the moment, we have one boat which has managed to break the Greek blockade and we are hopeful that there will be others," he said.

The Juliano activists hope to set sail from a port near Athens later on Wednesday, with the ship awaiting clearance from the Greek authorities, Maria Norden, a Social Democrat MP from Sweden, told AFP by phone.

"All our on-board papers are in order, we are going to try to leave today," said Norden who is one of six passengers on the vessel.

Greek officials turned back the boat on Tuesday afternoon, she said.

Both the U.S. Audacity of Hope and the Canadian vessel, the MV Tahrir, each of which have some 50 passengers and crew aboard, have tried to set sail since Athens imposed the ban on Friday, but were turned back.

And two of the vessels have also sustained damage, in what organizers claim was sabotage by Israeli agents.

Officials in Athens say they imposed the ban for the "safety" of the activists on board in the wake of last year's bloody showdown, when Israeli commandos raided a six-ship flotilla heading for Gaza, in a confrontation which left nine Turkish activists dead and dozens of people injured.

More than 300 activists from 22 countries had signed up to participate in this year's flotilla, among them dozens of middle-aged and elderly Americans and Europeans.

Israel has made no secret of its determination to prevent the Freedom Flotilla II from reaching Gaza, which has been under a blockade since 2006 after militants there snatched an Israeli soldier who is still being held at a secret location.

© Copyright (c) AFP

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