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by Stephen Lendman
While high stakes nuclear roulette continues, the fate of Freedom Waves to Gaza activists hangs in the balance.
On November 2, Canada's Tahrir and Ireland's Soairse (Freedom) sailed from Fethiye, Turkey. Israel warplanes and naval vessels shadowed them in international waters.
Israeli warships interdicted them violently. Their boats were nearly sunk. Some on board were injured. Twenty-seven participants were arrested, roughed up, detained and imprisoned. All their possessions were stolen.
Some were released and deported. On November 9, a Tahrir press release headlined, "Canadians face two months of incarceration in Israel without trial," saying:
In court, activists tasted Israeli-style justice. They were told: sign voluntary deportation waivers admitting entering Israel lawlessly and agree not to try breaching Gaza's siege again, or face two months in prison uncharged without trial.
Participants, in fact, were kidnapped in international waters, then forcibly taken to Israel and imprisoned for trying to deliver vitally needed medicines to Gaza.
Most activists remain incarcerated. Canadian journalist Jihan Hafiz recounted what happened:
"There were three warships....four Zodiacs, four water cannon boats, as well as four regular gunboats. All of the commandos on all of these boats were heavily armed. It looked like they were taking on an army from a foreign country."
"Two water cannons started to pour lots of water into the Irish boat, which flooded it, blew their sockets, and cut off the electricity."
Irish participants told Israeli commandos, "We're taking on water. We're sinking. We're going to go down at sea if you continue with the water."
Hafiz explained how violently they were treated. Guns were pointed at their heads. Participants were roughed up, mistreated, strip-searched, and filmed naked. Personal possessions were stolen and not returned, including journalists' equipment.
Canadian Boat to Gaza organizer Wendy Goldsmith said:
"Our friends have been assaulted, tasered, beaten, kidnapped, robbed and imprisoned." Israel's threatening two months detention. Why aren't Canadian officials helping?
Canadian organizer Dylan Penner added:
"We are disappointed, but not surprised, by the inaction of (Foreign Minister) Baird and (Prime Minister) Harper. In its failure to speak out against Israel's blockade of Gaza, the Canadian government is condoning Israel's disregard for the human rights of the citizens of Gaza and giving it impunity for its refusal to comply with its international obligations."
On November 9, Ireland's Ship to Gaza said seven of its 14 participants were released and heading home Thursday, November 10. Others are expected back Friday, and are available for press interviews on arrival.
While 14 Irish nationals languished in prison for delivering aid to besieged Gazans, they, in turn, face daily anguish in the world's largest open-air prison, subjected to regular Israeli air, land and sea attacks besides depravation isolation causes.
Escalating Tensions on Iran
Heated rhetoric followed release of IAEA's new report, containing fabricated allegations about Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak stressed Israel's military readiness. His counterpart, General Ahmad Vahidi, said marshaled Iranian forces would deliver a "crushing response to those daring to attack."
Press TV reported Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi stressing Iran's peaceful nuclear program. It also cited Ron Paul saying no "credible evidence" suggests Iran plans hostilities against America.
Appearing on Fox News Sunday, he said:
"For them to be a threat to us and to anyone in the region, I think it's blown out of proportion." He warned against overreacting.
In response to intensifying sanctions, he added:
"When you put on strong sanctions, those are acts of war." He advocates friendly relations, not force or other hostile acts. Paul not only wants Washington's imperial wars ended, he wants assurances new ones won't be launched, including sanctions harsh enough to risk it.
Professor Flynt Leverett, New America Foundation Senior Research Fellow, and wife Hillary, CEO of Strategic Energy and Global Analysis, said IAEA's report in no way showed Iran's intention or capability to develop and produce nuclear weapons. Rather, it affirmed Iran's nuclear material "non-diversion."
Unsubstantiated intelligence only proved IAEA's proclivity to lie. It also showed which side it's on and against, no matter heightened tensions able to spin out of control dangerously.
America and Israel want tough sanctions stiffened enough to make Iran's economy scream. Haaretz said Russia won't back them. Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told Interfax news agency:
"Any additional sanctions against Iran will be seen in the international community as an instrument for regime change in Iran. That approach is unacceptable to us, and the Russian side does not intend to consider such proposals."
Calling for dialogue and cooperation, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei suggested China's opposition to sanctions. Holding that position separately or with Russia may prevent Security Council passage.
In contrast, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said "convening the UN Security Council is called for," adding:
"If Iran refuses to conform to the demands of the international community and refuses any serious cooperation, we stand ready to adopt, with other willing countries, sanctions on an unprecedented scale."
Deputy armed forces chief Massoud Jazayeri said if Israel attacks, Iran will target Dimona in response.
High stakes nuclear roulette is too risky to chance. Hopefully fake intelligence won't harm Iran like nonexistent WMDs destroyed Iraq.
China, Russia, and other nonbelligerent countries have plenty of say to prevent it.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.
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