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28 Sep, 2010 07:50

Israel labels charity “terrorists”

Ten Israeli warships have forced a British aid boat carrying Jewish activists attempting to reach blockaded Gaza to divert to the port of Ashdod in Israel.

Richard Cooper, an organizer with the British group “Jews for Justice for Palestinians”, said the campaigners wanted to show that not all Jews support their government's policy towards Palestinians.

This boat is a symbol of hope and the sign that the peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian governments are possible, thinks Eyal Raviv, a founder of nongovernmental organization mepeace.org.

“The military can confiscate the toys, take away the music [from the ship], but they cannot take away the hope – this is where the power of this ship is, where the power of people’s courageous initiatives is,” he told RT.

“We need a real leadership now. If the leaders of the Palestinians and the Israelis can show the same courage of the people on this boat and others around the world, I think we have a chance to break an impasse and continue with these talks for peace,” Raviv added.

The attempt to deliver humanitarian aid comes almost four months after an Israeli raid on another flotilla ended in nine activists being killed.

The UN Human Rights Council will investigate the May attack, while a recent UN report concluded that Israel's military broke international laws during the raid.

It also described the attack as brutal and disproportionate.

Israel still claims the incident was “self-defense” and considers the Turkish charity group which led the flotilla to be terrorists linked to Hamas.

As a result of the attack a relatively little known NGO was brought on the world stage.

“In the world in which we live today, where Islamic sympathizers are also been called terrorists, it is no wonder that IHH (the Humanitarian Relief Foundation from Turkey, which led the flotilla) is being accused in this way,” revealed Ghada Kami, Research Fellow at Institute Of Arab and Islamic Studies.

The Turkish charity first popped up on the CIA radar four years ago. It has been banned in Israel and Germany, which say it is strongly linked with Hamas in Gaza.

Ismail Yilmaz says the last thing he would do is call himself a terrorist. He is a father of three and says he boarded the ship for Gaza for his three daughters.

“Gazan children should have a right to live freely; we want this so I joined that organization. If another event of this kind is organized – I would go again,” IHH volunteer Ismail Yilmaz says.

Set up in the early 1990s to help Bosnian Muslims, the IHH, or Humanitarian Relief Foundation, has offices in 120 countries

“If the people are in need – we will go and we will show our solidarity for these people,” informed Huseyin Oruc, Vice President of Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH).

And it showed solidarity in Pakistan, Ethiopia, Lebanon, Indonesia, Iraq, China as well as Palestinians.

“We have built hospitals, we have built schools, infrastructure, we have built houses for the people,” Huseyin Oruc says.

Palestinian writer Ghada Kami says Israel is trying to portray the group as a terrorist one in order to try to justify the deadly flotilla raid.

“In the immediate aftermath, condemnation of what Israel had done, Israelis mounted a defense which was, in a way, quite clever, but not based on any facts,” noted Ghada Kami.

It is now for the investigators to decide. Turkey, Israel and the UN, each with its own inquiry.

Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, told RT that the results of the recent UN report on the flotilla incident were pre-determined.

“This report was determined in advance, the Human Rights Council held an emergency session only a day or two after the flotilla incident happened,” Neuer said. “They declared Israel guilty of ‘an outrageous attack’, so the outcome was entirely pre-determined, and this is not something that’s exceptional.”

“In fact, Mary Robinson, who was the UN rights chief, said the Human Rights Council has a pattern of acting politically and not for human rights,” Hillel Neuer added. “Let’s remember who the membership is – Saudi Arabia, China, Colonel Gaddafi of Libya is now a member of the Human Rights Council. This is not a body that cares about human rights. This is a body that is political, that is engaged in a constant campaign to de-legitimize Israel, and human rights is the last thing on the minds of members like Saudi Arabia, Cuba and Libya.”

Adnan Abu Hasna from United Nations relief and works agency believes that the UN’s goal is to end the harsh blockade of Gaza.

“What UN is aiming for – they have to prevent such incidents [like that with the flotilla] in the future, I think that the only guarantee is not to ease, but to end the blockade on the Gaza strip…”

“I don’t think easing of the blockade had a great influence on the humanitarian situation or the circumstances of people,” he added. “What’s going on is that Israel is allowing more trucks to get into Gaza, but no one is asking the question what these trucks have? We need jobs here in Gaza, […] we need building materials to get into Gaza, because we have tens of thousands of homeless people in the Gaza Strip. We have more than 4,000 factories that have been destroyed during the war […], 80 per cent of the population still depending on UN humanitarian aid organization – it is unbearable!”

In the meantime Washington has said it is disappointed Israel refused to extend a ban on settlement construction in the West Bank. The US special envoy will try to salvage renewed peace talks now threatened by the resumption of building works. It comes as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told Israel that West Bank settlements are illegal under international law.