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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

University of Michigan Promotes Next Gaza Flotilla

It is disconcerting that under the official auspices of the University of Michigan funds were being solicited for the next deliberate attempt to break the Israeli blockade of Hamas-governed Gaza and to jeopardize the security of Israelis.
The next Gaza-bound flotilla, originally scheduled for late May, will now be postponed until after the upcoming Turkish elections in June, according to international reports.  Talking Tachlis hopes the flotilla never sets sail, but was shocked to recently learn that the University of Michigan is apparently on board.
At a University of Michigan event this past February sponsored by three University departments, a flyer was distributed under the banner “HELP LAUNCH A U.S. BOAT TO GAZA”.
About 70 people – students, faculty and community members – heard former US Deputy Ambassador  and anti-Israel activist Ann Wright inveigh against Israel and make a pitch for the purchase of a U.S. boat to be named The Audacity of Hope (title of President Obama's autobiography) for the next flotilla. Wright’s speaking engagement February 23 at U-M was sponsored by the Barger Leadership Institute of the Department of Organizational Studies and co-sponsored by the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, the Program on Intergroup Relations (a partnership of the College of Literature, Science and the Arts and the Division of Student Affairs), the Residential College and the Arab Student Association. Wright has been speaking around the country to raise funds for the next  flotilla.

Wright's talks and writings  as a member of the "Gaza-flotilla alumni" are also promoted by such militant activist organizations as Code Pink, whose founder Jodie Evans worked with former Weather Underground leader William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn to organize the Free Gaza Movement, according to a report in Beltway Confidential.  William Ayers,  himself a U-M grad, was invited to speak at University of Michigan's Hatcher Graduate Library in 2009.

On its website, the Ford School promoted this event, noting that Wright was a participant in the last flotilla “that was attacked by the Israeli military and since then has been a leading organizer in raising funds to send additional boats to Gaza.” The release also notes that Wright was “an organizer for the Gaza Freedom March that brought together 1,350 people from 44 countries to Cairo in solidarity with the people of Gaza.”
Wright solicited at the event to help raise money to underwrite the next flotilla, as evidenced by the flyer posted above which was disseminated at the event.

Since the University of Michigan  sponsored this talk, the metro Detroit Jewish community and U-M’s alumni base/donors have a right to know if the university in fact supports the flotilla led by  IHH, an Islamist Turkish group connected to global terror networks, and the outrageous claims published in the flyer. Does the university support the statement of IHH leader Bulent Yildirim, who said last month, “We are not afraid to die as shaheeds [martyrs]” and foreshadowed the use of force and violence again?
A presser prepared by the Israel Project cites reports which demonstrate the links between IHH and global terrorism:

“IHH has provided financial support to Iran-backed Hamas and has ties to global jihadi networks and the Muslim Brotherhood – a global umbrella Islamic organization of which Hamas is a branch – as well as mujahideen groups in Afghanistan"
Both the university publicity and the flyer intimate that Israel provoked the attack. So much for academic integrity. The flyer proclaims that “Israeli commandos attacked the Free Gaza Flotilla, killing nine humanitarian aid workers and kidnapping more than 700 others.”
It is staggering that a talk sponsored by departments of such a prestigious academic institution would disseminate a flyer making such outrageously distorted claims. The record clearly shows that Israel did not instigate the attack. To the contrary, armed pro-Palestinian activists aboard the convoy who were prepared for violence in advance brutally attacked Israeli military personnel who intercepted the vessel. According to findings of the **Turkel Commission,  (conclusions highlighted at bottom of this post) about 40 passengers were IHH (Insani Yardim Vakfi) members, who used "firearms and violent tactics".

Each Israeli soldier was attacked as they entered the ship,” Turkel said. Three of the soldiers were dragged into the ship’s hold and were prevented from receiving “humanitarian” medical attention, according to the Israel Project. 

In the interceding months between the flotilla confrontation in June 2010 and Wright’s speaking engagement this February, much has come to light about the flotilla confrontation, clearly showing the incident was premeditated to provoke a response from Israel. 

If the university was genuinely interested in presenting diverse perspectives, fulfilling its mission to give voice to the broad marketplace of ideas,  it would have at least offered a platform for a credible source to set the record straight. It begs the question why would the university invite in an Israel-bashing propagandist raising money for a flotilla destined to support Gaza governed by Hamas, a US-designated terror organization.
The list of well-credentialed speakers who could provide an accurate account of what really happened during the flotilla is long indeed and includes such distinguished experts as former Israeli Ambassador Dore Gold, former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton, and Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz. Perhaps when Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor returns to the University of Michigan to address the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy (his appearance this winter was cancelled due to a winter storm), he can be asked to address this issue and why he is a leading champion of Israel in Congress. 

It is disappointing that the university failed to do its homework and exercise its vaunted intellectual rigor before blindly jumping onto the propaganda bandwagon to sponsor Wright and by extension, lending its imprimatur to support the flotilla. It is academically irresponsible that the university didn’t offer on the web pages promoting Wright’s politicized polemics the full context of the lead-up to the flotilla clash, what transpired during the confrontation, commentary on the flow of foodstuffs, medicines and other humanitarian aid Israel provides to Gaza, the history of arms-smuggling through to Gaza and background on Hamas.
Israeli officials have expressed concern that Islamist groups that endanger Israeli national security now have considerable influence within the Free Gaza movement, the group that organized the flotilla. In a bid to stop the flotilla whose “aim is to provoke and cause violence,”Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has appealed to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

It is indeed disconcerting that under the official auspices of the University of Michigan funds were being solicited for the next deliberate attempt to break the Israeli blockade of a terror organization and to jeopardize the security of Israelis.
Before the Ford School lip synced Wright’s claim that the flotilla was attacked by the Israeli military, it might have done its own homework. The Washington Post described the clash:
"Upon touching down, the Israeli commandos, who were equipped with paint guns and pistols, were assaulted with steel poles, knives and pepper spray. Video showed at least one commando being lifted up and dumped from the ship's upper deck to the lower deck. Some commandos later said they
jumped into the water to escape being beaten.”An account in Ha’aretz included footage released by Israel’s Foreign Ministry showing IHH leader Bulent Yildirim aboard the Mavi Marmara prior to the incident, calling for violence against Israeli soldiers. Said Yildirim, "If they board our ship, we will throw them into the sea,, Allah willing!"  The Israel Project reported that the night before the incident, Yildirim said in an interview with Turkish television, "We will definitely resist and we will not allow the Israelis to enter here....If Israel wants to board this ship, it will meet strong resistance."
A 2006 study conducted by the Danish Institute for International Studies showed that the IHH was involved in planning an al-Qaeda attack against Los Angeles International Airport in 1999. IHH reportedly acquired forged documents, enlisted operatives and delivered weapons to al-Qaeda in preparation for the attack, which was ultimately foiled.”
As to the wild allegation that Israel “kidnapped” more than 700 activists, the Washington Post piece accounts for the flotilla passengers, who were detained for questioning and released.
And since when do “humanitarian aid workers” wield knives, metal bars, clubs and other weaponry to viciously attack Israelis who boarded the ship after the Mavi Marmara failed to heed Israeli warnings not to break the blockade. All of the vessels in the flotilla defied Israeli Naval warnings to dock and unload in the nearby port city of Ashdod and not to violate Israeli law by landing in Gaza. Violence broke out only on the Mavi Marmara.
Israel has imposed the maritime blockade on Gaza because of security risks to its citizenry. Hamas continues to smuggle Iranian rockets and other weaponry since the Iran-backed terror organization overthrew the PA in a bloody 2007 coup. Just two months ago, Israel stopped the Victoria, carrying 50 tons of advanced shore-to-sea missiles and mortar shells to Hamas.
There are several other such examples of Gaza-bound ships concealing massive weapons caches, including the highly publicized case of the Karin A, intercepted by Israel in the Red Sea in 2002. The ship’s cargo comprised 50 tons of advanced weaponry including Katysha rockets, mines and anti-tank missiles bound for the Palestinian Authority.
“The appropriate way to meet needs in Gaza was through legitimate crossings,” said U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East,  Robert Serry in a  briefing to the Security Council in September 2010.
British Prime Minister David Cameron also defended Israel’s right to search vessels entering Gaza and defense of its citizens: "When rockets are being launched at Israeli citizens, and when children are in danger, Israel is within its rights to protect its people. When over 100 rockets are fired into Israel from Gaza in one year, Israel is within its rights to search vessels bringing cargo into Gaza," Cameron said.
Israel delivers more than a ton of aid per person to Gaza. About 50,000 tons of goods and humanitarian aid are transferred to Gaza biweekly. Currently, 250 trucks cross from Israel into Gaza daily and by the end of 2011 there will be capacity for 400 trucks.
In addition to accelerating the flow of construction materials to Gaza, Israel has received 1,500 applications from Gazans for health care in Israel since the start of 2011, representing a 63 percent increase from 2010. Also, 423 tons of medicine and medical supplies were shipped into Gaza, via 538 trucks, in 2010.
It is interesting to note that the “humanitarian” supplies brought into Gaza by the flotilla included expired medicines and such outdated, inferior “aid inventory” that it was rendered useless.
The Turkel Commission earlier this year released its findings confirming that Israel abided by international law in trying to prevent the flotilla from reaching Iran-backed Hamas and Gaza’s waters. Participating in the investigation were international observers Lord David Trimble, a Noble Peace Laureate and a Northern Ireland political leader, and Brigadier General Kenneth Watkin (Ret.), Judge Advocate General for the Canadian forces.

To express your indignation as a Michigan taxpayer funding this state university or as an alumni or parent of a U-M student, please contact U-M President Mary Sue Coleman or the Board of Regents.
Here is the contact information for President Coleman:
President, University of Michigan
2074 Fleming Building
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1340
(734) 764-6270
To reach the Regents, consult this link:
Talking Tachlis readers, NY alum and parents of NY students attending U-M may also want to contact Dave Barger, CEO of JetBlue, who funded the Barger Institute within the Department of Organizational Studies, which sponsored the program. Email him at david.barger@jetblue.com
Inexcusable as this is on its face, this is part of a larger, troubling pattern of anti-Israel bias on campus and in the classroom. Talking Tachlis will highlight some of the more disturbing examples in upcoming posts.

**Main Conclusions of the Turkel Commission which led independent inquiry into Flotilla incident
• The conflict between Israel and the Gaza Strip is an international armed conflict.
• Israel’s ‘effective control’ of the Gaza Strip ended when the disengagement was completed.
• The purpose of the naval blockade imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip was primarily a military-security one.
• The naval blockade was imposed on the Gaza Strip lawfully, with Israel complying with the conditions for imposing it.
• Israel is complying with the humanitarian obligations imposed on the blockading party, including the prohibition of starving the civilian population or preventing the supply of objects essential for the survival of the civilian population and medical supplies, and the requirement that the damage to the civilian population is not excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated from the blockade.
• The imposition and enforcement of the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip does not constitute ‘collective punishment’ of the population of the Gaza Strip.
• International law does not give individuals or groups the freedom to ignore the imposition of a naval blockade that satisfies the conditions for imposing it and that is enforced accordingly, especially where a blockade satisfies obligations to neutral parties, merely because in the opinion of those individuals or groups it violates the duties of the party imposing the blockade vis-√†-vis the entity subject to the blockade.
• A vessel that attempts to breach a blockade is subject to international law governing the conduct of hostilities: international humanitarian law, including the rules governing use of force.
• The Israeli armed forces' interception and capture of the Gaza Flotilla vessels in international waters - seaward of the blockaded area - was in conformity with customary international humanitarian law.
• The tactics chosen to intercept and capture the Flotilla vessels -including having Shayetet 13 naval commandoes board from Morena speedboats and fast-rope from helicopter onto the roof of the vessels - was consistent with established international naval practice.
• The participants in the Flotilla were predominantly an international group of civilians whose main goal was to bring publicity to the humanitarian situation in Gaza by attempting to breach the blockade imposed by Israel.
• On board the Mavi Marmara and the other flotilla vessels was a group of IHH and affiliated activists (the “IHH activists”) that violently opposed the Israeli boarding. The IHH activists who participated in that violence were civilians taking a direct part in hostilities.
• The force used against civilians on board the flotilla was governed by the principles of "necessity" and use of "proportionate force" associated with human rights based law enforcement norms. However, the IHH activists lost the protection of their civilian status for such time as they directly participated in the hostilities. The use of force against these direct participants in hostilities is governed by the applicable rules of international humanitarian law.
• The Rules of Engagement for the operation provided an authority to use force that reflected the nature of a law enforcement operation.
• The IHH activists carried out the violence on board the Mavi Marmara by arming themselves with a wide array of weapons, including iron bars, axes, clubs, slingshots, knives, and metal objects. These were weapons capable of causing death or serious injury. Further, the hostilities were conducted in an organized manner with IHH activists, inter alia, operating in groups when violently assaulting the IDF soldiers.
• The IHH activists used firearms against the IDF soldiers during the hostilities.
• The Commission has examined 133 incidents in which force was used. The majority of the uses of force involved warning or deterring fire and less-lethal weapons.
• Overall, the IDF personnel acted professionally in the face of extensive and unanticipated violence. This included continuing to switch back and forth between less-lethal and lethal weapons in order to address the nature of the violence directed at them.
• The Commission has concluded that in 127 cases, the use of force appeared to be in conformity with international law.
• In six cases, the Commission has concluded that it has insufficient information to be able to make a determination.
• Three out of those six cases involved the use of live fire and three cases involved physical force; two incidents of kicking and one strike with the butt of a gun.
• In five out of the 127 incidents that appeared to be in conformity with international law, there was insufficient evidence to conclude that the use of force was also in accordance with law enforcement norms. However, in these cases, force appeared to be used against persons taking a direct part in hostilities and, as a consequence, was in conformity with international law.
• The planning and organization of the IDF mission to enforce the blockade did not include anticipation that there would be a violent opposition to the boarding, which had a direct impact on the operational tactics, Rules of Engagement, and training before the operation. However, the focus of the planning and organization of the operation on a lower level of resistance did not lead to a breach of international law.

--posted by AK45 and CC (campus correspondent)

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