Friday, June 4, 2010

When hands across the sea are tied

The argument that outsiders should not be allowed to criticise countries is being used more and more to thwart human rights campaigns

By Johann Hari
The Independent

".....Everyone now knows the Israeli navy committed a machine-gun massacre on a ship in international waters that was carrying humanitarian aid for the blockaded people of Gaza, who Israeli officials joke they have "put on a diet". The boat was armed with Holocaust survivors, Nobel Peace Laureates, food, medicine, cement to rebuild bombed-out homes, and a couple of metal bars that were grabbed at when armed gunmen illegally boarded the boat. Several of the photos released by the IDF "proving" there were other weapons there have already been exposed as old images that have been on the web for years. Some even still had tags on them identifying them as having been taken in 2003.

But how many people know that the Israeli government is slowly obstructing and silencing the organisations within Israel that are trying to get the country on to a saner and safer path? Israel has some of the most admirable peace campaigners in the world – people who remember the lessons of Jewish history and so document every abuse against human rights their government commits. But they are now facing – as Daniel Sokatch, the director of the pro-peace New Israel Fund, puts it – "a co-ordinated effort to stifle dissent and shut down the human rights community in Israel".

It began a year ago.....

So who are we to talk about Israel or Ethiopia or Honduras? We are humans, like them. Just as people there can – and should – oppose our Government's crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, we should oppose their governments' crimes against innocent people. It's called solidarity. It's one of the few things that can help the people of Gaza, or the women of Ethiopia, or the dissidents of Honduras now. Instead of sealing ourselves away behind cultural borders, we need more ships carrying hope to suffering strangers."

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