Adam Shapiro takes questions on the Washington Post website regarding the Gaza humanitarian flotilla that was attacked in international waters by IsraeliMessage 1 of 1 , Jun 2, 2010View SourceAdam Shapiro takes questions on the Washington Post website regarding the Gaza humanitarian flotilla that was attacked in international waters by Israeli commandos killing 9 aid workers.
Shapiro is an American documentary filmmaker and human rights activist. He is a board member of the Free Gaza initiative which organizes humanitarian relief caravans to Gaza.
Shapiro produced a number of documentaries such as Darfur Diaries: Message from Home (2006) About Baghdad (2004) and Chronicles of a Palestinian Refugee (2008).
Wiki: Adam Shapiro
ISRAEL DEPORTS GAZA-BOUND FLOTILLA ACTIVISTS
The Washington Post
Board member, Free Gaza Movement
Wednesday, June 2, 2010; 1:00 PM
Adam Shapiro, board member of the Free Gaza Movement, was online Wednesday, June 2, at 1 p.m. ET to discuss today's action and what effect Monday's incident will have on the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
In an e-mail interview with the Washington Post, Shapiro stated, "While some of the passengers of the Freedom Flotilla have been released, others remain in detention and incommunicado. Additionally, we still do not know the identities of all the victims, including those who were killed. The boats have been offloaded in Israel's port and no weapons were found, as per the position of Free Gaza and the inspections carried out in the ports of departure. Israel's baseless allegations are unraveling one by one. Furthermore, testimony by Israeli officials and operatives in Cabinet meetings indicate that sabotage was used against two of our ships that experienced mechanical difficulty and were unable to join the flotilla."
Los Angeles, Calif.: 1)What keeps the U.S. from even the mildest criticism of any actions by the government of Israel? I cannot recall this kind of relationship with any other nation.
2)Is this not weakening Israel in that they can do anything and count on the U.S. to veto any resolution and publicly support them regardless? Doesn't absolute power corrupt absolutely.
Adam Shapiro: Indeed the U..S does seem to have a double standard when it comes to Israel. That has not helped Israel, not the Palestinians, nor the .US. Some are finally challenging that logic, including David Petraeus. Now it is time for a new policy.
AU Park: Can you describe the restrictions on what material is allowed into Gaza? In addition, I understand that there are limitations on the activities of U.S. NGOs that operate in Gaza (no reconstruction, for example). Can you confirm this?
Adam Shapiro: The restrictions on what is allowed into Gaza are available from UNRWA or on the www.imeu.net website.
Only 75-80 items are permitted, from all possible items in the world.
That there is not a more significant crisis in Gaza is because Palestinians in Gaza are breaking the blockade through the tunnels by getting in much needed food and other items.
washingtonpost.com: Institute for Middle East Understanding
Silver Spring, Mad.: The BBC reported yesterday that the Israeli government admits that Hamas and others can get pretty much anything, including arms, they want into Gaza through a system of tunnels, but that the Israelis keep up the blocked to show the Israeli public that it's keeping up efforts to counter Hamas. How true is any of that?
Adam Shapiro: Indeed, there are hundreds of tunnels. I have no doubt that anything can be brought in. Our ships were inspected and do not carry any weapons. so where is the legitimacy in the blockade? Yes, it is largely for public perception, but also designed to drive the Palestinians further into despair.
Philadelphia, Pa.: I believe Israel has lost a lot of respect by halting and attacking humanitarian efforts. Was there any possible military uses for anything that was attempted to be brought into Gaza on the ship that was attacked?
Adam Shapiro: According to the Israeli logic, wheelchairs could be converted into weapons. We had wheelchairs on board. according to Israeli logic, paper can be used for weapons...we had paper on board. Our ships were inspected by EU inspectors and Turkish inspectors. This information was publicly available. Israel is now offloading the ships and all media showing the goods at the Israeli port are showing it all to be as we say - humanitarian supplies.
Arlington, Val.: It's now come out that many of those on board were connected to terrorist groups through charity fronts. Do you recognize Israel's right to deny entry to people it views as hostile to its existence?
Adam Shapiro: There is no evidence, only wild allegations that there was anyone with terrorist connections. Israel is releasing everyone...except for the Palestinian citizens of Israel. Would they release terrorists? Everyone who challenges Israel is labeled a terrorist or terrorist sympathizer.
Harrisburg, Pa.: How did you decide to become involved in the Free Gaza movement, and what are the actions and goals of the Free Gaza organization?
Adam Shapiro: I have been an activist for Palestinian rights for some time now. I joined Free Gaza after visiting Gaza following the Operation Cast Lead with a delegation from the National Lawyers Guild and seeing the devastation. the only way to help Palestinians in Gaza is to force the end of the blockade, and nothing else is being tried.
Miami, Flab.: "Relying on commando raids means that you are relying on people who are involved in aggressive tactics. They are not thinking of political fallout or diplomatic risk," said Anthony Co desman, a military analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies."
It seems this operation was fated to fail from the beginning. Why does Israel seem to feel that their use of the iron fist will be forgiven regardless of the circumstances?
Adam Shapiro: The Israeli ambassador on the Diane Rehm show today: "The ship [the Turkish one] was too big to use nonviolent means to stop."
This clearly shows premeditation on the Israeli part to use violence to stop the ships.
In addition to previous statement by Israel's FM Avigdor Lieberman who said the Israelis would stop the ships "at any cost."
Rockville, Md.: Most credible foreign news agencies are saying 19 aid workers were killed, but the American MSM, taking their cue from the Israeli embassy, is telling us 'at least 9 people were killed'. 19 vs 9 makes a huge difference. Why can't the American MSM give us a definite number?
Adam Shapiro: Really, the number is not known. Israel refuses to identify the dead, let anyone identify the dead or provide any further information. Aside from the four confirmed Turkish citizens about whom confirmation was only given today.
Tampa, Fla.: I'm disappointed by what appears to be your group's PR response to the inevitable Israeli attack. Did you have numerous people on every ship filming every Israeli move with professional equipment used by people with professional training or experience? And did you have plans to hide the files from the inevitable Israeli attempt to confiscate them? Or to immediately upload them to an off-site server insulated from Israeli cyber attacks?
You had to know that Israel would present doctored or incomplete video footage to bolster its case. You had to know that getting your story to the media first, ahead of Israel, is half the battle. Israel certainly knows this, and has acted accordingly in this and other incidents. Perhaps you took steps such as those I suggest, but I didn't see them on the scale necessary to overcome Israeli obstruction.
Your work is too important to not make getting the truth out the highest priority.
Adam Shapiro: We did...we had live video feed via satellite.
Itis virtually impossible to hide footage...our ships get confiscated and the Israelis tear them apart looking for cameras, memory chips, etc. All our equipment is confiscated and gone through and erased. The live satellite feed corroborates our eyewitnesses and gives lie to Israeli propaganda.
Adam Shapiro: Just reading Netanyahu's comments... [from a live press conference] ...
Yes, our ships were attempting to break the blockade -- a blockade that is illegal. Israel is the occupying power of Gaza, recognized as such by all governments and the UN, including the U..S government. As occupying power it cannot declare war on that territory and cannot use blockade, as that constitutes collective punishment. Yes, just as those who challenged Jim Crow laws and apartheid laws, we are challenging this blockade.
San Francisco, Caliph.: How am I supposed to know which side to believe here?
Adam Shapiro: This is not a question of two opposing narratives....there are some basic realities to deal with:
1. Israel is occupying power of Gaza, recognized by entire world.
2. Occupying power not permitted to declare war on that territory (Geneva conventions)
3. Blockade not permitted on occupied territory by occupying power (Geneva conventions)
4. The blockade is illegal
5. Our ships in international waters
6. Attacks as this on ships in international waters contrary to international law
7. Consult any non-Israeli entity (ICRC, UN, WHO, etc.) about conditions in Gaza.
8. Occupation means Palestinians are not free
These issues are not up for debate and beyond dispute. If it is okay for Israel to act as it does despite all of above, then you can believe Israel.
Any government that abuses human rights will always deny it and offer various reasons for doing so, usually trying to taint those who are victims.
Richmond, Val.: What are the maritime rules regarding boarding and taking over a ship in international waters that has not committed any crime? Last I heard that was called piracy.
Adam Shapiro: Indeed. the attack on our ship in international waters is contrary to international law and the law of the seas.
Fairfax, Val.: What's the next step in all of this? Will future aid ships be stopped? What will the U.N. Security Council do about it? How will they determine who was in the wrong?
Adam Shapiro: We will continue to challenge the blockade, which is weaker today than it was last week, and we will hopefully send more and more ships. I do not expect much from the Security Council...there are already many UNSC resolutions that Israel is in violation of that remain unfulfilled.
Silver Spring, Mad.: Mr... Shapiro, thank you for taking all the softball questions. How about some hard ones. (1) Why do you not condemn and try to break Egypt's blockade of its border with Gaza? (2) What is your group's relationship to the Foundation for Human Rights, Liberties and Humanitarian Relief (IHH)? (3) Were not among the passengers on the flotilla three parliamentarians from Yemen's Islah Party?
Adam Shapiro: Egypt's blockade is Israel's blockade -- Egypt follows the protocols established by Israel. Israel is the occupying power of Gaza and as such responsible for the well being of the population it occupies. We condemn Egypt's participation and other efforts have challenged that as well -- viva Palestine, Gaza freedom march, etc.
IHH was a partner in the coalition that organized the mission. Free Gaza is an independent registered NGO.
Yes, there were parliamentarians from Yemen, Germany and other countries. I have read they were from Islam party, but I cannot confirm at this point.
These were also softball questions.
Wheaton Mad.: Mr.. Shapiro, I was stunned to read that you accuse Israel of a double standard --I s not Israel held to a hypocritical double standard by the entire world? For example, Turkey now says the "occupation" of Gaza should end -- will Turkey end its occupation of northern Cyprus?
Adam Shapiro: I wrote that the U..S treatment of Israel is a double standard.
No other country is blockading and collectively punishing 1.5 million people.
Furthermore, while free Gaza works on this issue, I personally work on many other human rights issues as well, around the world.
Indeed, I have worked with Cypriots to end the occupation of Cyprus, and with other groups around the world to end occupations.
We are not holding Israel to a double standard...We are holding Israel to the standards of the international community, international law and the standards it proclaims for itself.
Washington, D.C.: What is your interpretation of the video which shows the ship occupants attacking the Israeli soldiers?
Do you believe the ship occupants were right to attack them?
washingtonpost.com: VIDEO: Israeli navy video: Footage of flotilla clash
Adam Shapiro: Passengers on the ship picked up clubs against the soldiers after passengers were already shot and at least one killed by commandos coming aboard the ships. They did so as a means of self-defense. This was captured on the live video stream that was fed from our boat and which is available on YouTube IDF video shows no time stamp, offers no suggestion at what point in the video it occurred....
Brooklyn, N.Y.: Despite being Jewish and having a connection with Israel, I have to say they look like fascists with this act.
What they did was akin to me breaking into someone's house and then saying I shot the home owner in defense because he was attacking me for breaking in. So what they are saying is that if they board any ship in international waters, that ship and its crew are not entitled to defend themselves?
Adam Shapiro: Unfortunately, the U.S. seemingly supported this position with its statement in the UNSC....this is a dangerous precedent.
Anonymous: From your last name, I'm guessing your Jewish. Do you get criticism from family members that are pro Israeli?
I once told a cousin of mine that I didn't think it was right that, as formerly oppressed people, Jews should oppress any other group. He called me an Arabist, whatever that is.
Adam Shapiro: My family (the ones I am in touch with) support me and my work. And are also active in their own way for justice.
Indeed, I think that people should decouple their religious affiliations from their considerations for human rights.
SW D.C.: Adam, do you believe Israel has a right to exist without any preconditions?
Adam Shapiro: What does right to exist mean?
As a Jewish state, with lesser rights for Jewish citizens?
In what borders?
What other state has a right to exist?
What is the real threat to Israel's existence? there is none.
Washington, D.C.: Adam --
Has the American Jewish community's reaction to you abated at all since your breakfast with Arafat some years ago?
Adam Shapiro: I am not attacked personally much anymore...maybe that will change after my appearance on Fox this morning!
Silver Spring again: IHH is a recognized affiliate of al-Qaeda -- is that who your organization fraternizes with?
Adam Shapiro: Recognized by who?
IHH flew aid and personnel to Haiti after the earthquake into an airport controlled by the US military.
Nashville, Tenn..: Hi Adam. I consider you a hero.
Here's my questions. Shortly after Rachel Corrie was killed, it is my understanding that Israel made it much harder for Israelis and foreigners to gain access to Gaza, and Israel started making any foreigner who wanted to visit Gaza sign a waiver, basically saying they would not hold Israel responsible if they were to find themselves shot by an Israeli soldier. The result was many less foreigners visiting, and many eyes to report on Israeli human rights violations. Has the situation there in this regard changed? Are the Israeli's now letting foreign press in?
Also, do you know anything new regarding the status of Emily Henochowicz? Is she doing okay?
2. Are you still working with ISM? Any word on the status of Emily Henochowicz?
Adam Shapiro: Foreigners are still largely prevented from entering Gaza. We have got foreigners into Gaza on our previous boats. There is now ISM in Gaza.
I am not working with ISM ... Emily lost her left eye. she is recovering, but damaged.
New York: For SW D.C. -- Why should Israel have a right to exist without "preconditions" while the Palestinians have no such right?
Mr. Shapiro -- thank you for being so patient with these aggressive questioners.
Adam Shapiro: indeed...more double standards.
Alexandria, Va.: Why don't you help the downtrodden in this country? Why go half-way around the world when there are so many people here who could use your help, especially now in the Gulf states.
Adam Shapiro: The U..S government gives billions of U.S. taxpayer money to Israel. more than any other country. why not complain that this money does not go to help people in US?
Fairfax, Va.: How do you justify that Hamas has just turned away medical supplies and other humanitarian goods according to CNN:
If Gaza really needed the aid, they would accept it and not require it come across without being pre-screened.
Considering the U.N. and Israel provide 3 to 4 times more aid each week then was on your ships, its starting to sound like this was more about trying to make Israel look bad (which you succeeded at) then trying to help the people of Gaza.
Adam Shapiro: I cannot speak for Hamas, but this is probably in protest for the attacks against the ships.
Adam Shapiro: Thanks for your questions. For more info, please keep updated at www.freegaza.org and www.witnessgaza.com
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