Tag Archives: Freedom Flotilla

Father of Furkan Dogan, slain on flotilla, seeks justice

By Kristin Szremski, The Electronic Intifada, 24 February 2011 Dr. Ahmet Doğan discusses his disappointment with  the U.S. response to his son Furkan's death on Feb. 20 at a Chicago area hotel.

As Dr. Ahmet Doğan drove from his home town of Kayseri to the Istanbul airport on 3 June 2010 — three days after Israel attacked the Mavi Marmara and killed nine unarmed activists taking humanitarian aid to the occupied Gaza Strip — he was still firmly confident his son Furkan was returning home to him. When the recent high school graduate was not among the crowd who disembarked from three planes bringing back Turkish flotilla passengers who had been detained in Israel, Doğan still did not lose hope.

And when he’d heard reports that Israeli commandos threw overboard some passengers of the Mavi Marmara — the ship Furkan had been on — he sat down, buried his head in his hands and “felt that boiling water was poured over me,” he said. But even that momentary panic passed when the president of the human rights organization IHH, which sponsored some of the flotilla’s vessels, said three Turkish residents were still being detained at the airport in Israel. There was also the possibility Furkan had been injured and diverted to Ankara with others. Or because he carried American — but not Turkish — citizenship, perhaps he’d been sent to the United States.

Such were the racing thoughts of a loving father desperately trying to learn the whereabouts of his youngest child, three days after the Israeli navy commandeered the Freedom Flotilla’s six vessels in international waters, in contravention of international maritime law. After calling relatives in Ankara and Chicago to no avail, Doğan began to consider the unfathomable: perhaps Furkan was one of the three unidentified bodies lying in the morgue at the forensics department in Istanbul.

So he left the airport and went the short distance to the forensics building. He found his 19-year-old son lying among the unidentified victims, his young body riddled with bullets that, according to a UN report, were fired execution style at “point-blank” range. The report was published and submitted to the UN General Assembly on 27 September 2010.

The report, the result of an independent investigation conducted by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), found Israel responsible for “grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention,” and guilty of “willful killing, torture or inhumane treatment, and willfully causing great suffering or serious injury.” Furthermore, the killings of at least six of the passengers were in a manner “consistent with arbitrary and summary execution” (“Report of the international fact-finding mission …” [PDF]).

While recently recounting his story at a Chicago-area hotel, the mild-mannered but stoic accounting professor suddenly fell silent and looked off into the distance, his words spent. What had started out that June day as a confident journey portending reunion had turned unexpectedly into mindless tragedy.

And now this week, Doğan and his lawyers Ramazan Aritürk and Uğuur Sevgili, of the Istanbul-based Elmadag Law Office, are in Washington DC, “considering all their options,” which may include filing a civil case against Israeli authorities. The trio is holding meetings with officials from the US State Department, the Department of Justice and the Senate Appropriations Committee through Friday. They want to ask the United States to initiate its own investigation into Furkan’s death. Doğan also wants to know why American authorities have shown such little interest in the execution of his son.

Since the flotilla attack on 31 May 2010, Doğan has received scant information or help from US officials. Out of four letters requesting meetings sent to the US consulate in Istanbul and the US embassy in Ankara, Doğan received one response — a form letter stating his letter had been received, Sevgili said.

A letter sent last fall to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton remains unanswered.

“We’re disappointed with the approach of the US,” Doğan said in Turkish on Sunday. Sevgili acted as an interpreter during the interview for this article. “The fact is, the United States does not protect its citizens.”

On 31 May, US President Barack Obama issued a statement on the flotilla incident, saying the loss of life was “regrettable,” which was similar to the statement put out by the State Department. On 3 June, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confirmed Furkan was among the dead and said “We are in constant contact with the Israeli government, attempting to obtain more information about our citizens.”

A report published by the independent Congressional Research Service on 23 June 2010 indicated the US response to the attack was predicated upon politics rather than condemnation of Israel’s violations of international law.

“The United States is caught between two long-time allies — Israel and Turkey — and the Obama administration is interested in finding a path between them that will not antagonize either party. … The administration’s first reaction was circumspect, if not muted,” the report stated.

The reasons are not justifiable to Doğan or his lawyers. To them, US policies and actions are biased and discriminatory.

“According to US policy, all the action taken by Israel is legitimate and legal before the US. Such a double standard has never existed within the history of law,” Aritürk said.

“I am disappointed, but let us see what we can get from legal actions in the US,” Doğan added.

According to Noura Erakat, an adjunct professor of international human rights law in the Middle East at Georgetown University, if Doğan does file suit, it will get thrown out before making it to trial because of the political question doctrine that stipulates the “judiciary should defer to the executive branch” in cases that could impact US foreign policy or the relationship with an ally, she said.

The political questions doctrine originated as a way to define the boundaries between the judicial and the executive and legislative branches of government, and is applied when court cases touch areas such as foreign policy or the ratification of constitutional amendments. However, the rule is vague and is open to broad interpretation. In cases in which Palestinians are plaintiffs against the State of Israel or Israeli authorities, its use is “so extreme as to demonstrate bias,” Erakat said. “It is not just the merits of the case” that determine whether it will proceed through the court system, but its impact on foreign policy or on the relationship between the US and an ally, she said.

“While US federal courts have, through the [Alien Tort Claims Act], become formally available for redressing violations of international human rights, Palestinians have found no judicial recourse in these courts almost without exception. As defendants, Palestinians have no defenses available to them; as claimants, their claims do not withstand judicial scrutiny,” Erakat wrote in an article titled “Litigating the Arab-Israeli Conflict: The Politicization of US Federal Courtrooms,” published in Vol. 2 of the 2009 Berkeley Journal of Middle Eastern and Islamic Law.

This time, however, if Doğan decides to file the lawsuit, the plaintiff would be the estate of an American citizen. But the fact the defendant would be Israeli authorities already precludes a successful outcome, Erakat said.

“The fact the United States does not accept the UN Fact Finding Mission but condemns it, and the fact the executive branch says everything [regarding Israel and the Palestinians] should be decided by direct negotiations leaves no room for the United Nations. It leaves no room for the courts to decide,” Erakat said. “You would need a really creative judge to find an outcome that doesn’t contradict US foreign policy and that’s impossible.”

So, in effect, legal cases involving Israel are politicized because of the judiciary’s deference to the executive branch, among other things.

Whether the Turkish trio decides to pursue legal action in the United States remains unclear and may not be decided until after they finish with all their meetings in Washington this week. Likewise, State Department spokesman John Sullivan deferred commenting on the issue until after the meetings take place, he said in an email.

Putting legal wrangling aside, Doğan boiled down the predicament to one thing: “What I understand from US policy is if Israel is the issue, they can ignore [Furkan’s] citizenship.” Doğan added, “Israel has priorities in its continuing relationship with the US.”

In October, Aritürk and Sevgili were among a delegation of lawyers representing approximately 300 victims of the flotilla raid who filed a complaint at the International Criminal Court at The Hague, Sevgili said. The claim, filed under Article 15 of the Rome Statute, charges Israel with committing war crimes and asks the ICC prosecutor to conduct his own investigation.

“Furkan was generous and helpful,” Doğan said. “You die as you live, and you’re resurrected as you die. Furkan is an example of this. He became a symbol for young people.”

Kristin Szremski is an independent journalist and currently the director of media and communications for the American Muslims for Palestine. Doğan recently was given the Al Quds Award by the American Muslims for Palestine at its annual dinner in February.


Leave a comment

Filed under Current events, News

Action Alert

Tell Rep. Roskam it’s time to ‘turn the page’ toward justice and human rights

(CHICAGO, 07/15/2010) – U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam, R-IL, said President Barack Obama should “Turn the page” on its stance on Israel’s May 31 fatal attack on the Freedom Flotilla, in which nine unarmed humanitarian activists were killed – including one American.

Roskam is the co-chairman of the House Republican Israel caucus. He made his remarks shortly after returning from a trip to Israel this week, according to Crain’s Chicago Business blogger Greg Hinz.

“Mr. Roskam said Mr. Netanyahu told him he had a ‘good’ meeting with Mr. Obama. ‘I think the White House should turn the page (on the ship attack), and I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that they have,’” Hinz wrote in the Crain’s article.

The House Republican Israel Caucus works in the House to support policies that support the state of Israeli and foster a stronger U.S. partnership, according to information supplied by caucus co-member, U.S. Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nevada.

The American Muslims for Palestine strongly believe that Rep. Roskam and all our elected officials must first and foremost support policies that support Americans and our interests abroad. U.S. support of Israel – especially the more than $5 billion a year Congress awards it in unconditional U.S. military and other aid – undermines America’s stance in the Arab and Muslim world. It also weakens this country’s credibility as an honest broker in the Middle East and threatens our national security here at home.

TAKE ACTION

Tell Rep. Roskam it is time for him and his colleagues in Congress to ‘turn the page’ toward supporting human rights and justice. It is time to hold Israel accountable for its ongoing flagrant violation of international law – from its illegal demolition of Palestinian homes to the murderous attack on the Freedom Flotilla in international waters.

It is time for the U.S. to DEMAND Israel ends its illegal occupation of Palestine and to end its crippling and inhumane siege on Gaza.

TALKING POINTS

  • Israel occupies and deprives the rights of Palestinians living in the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza as well as those of the Palestinian citizens of Israel
  • Israel has imposed an apartheid state on Palestinians by building the Apartheid Wall; by maintaining a segregated school system for Jews and non-Jews; by hundreds of checkpoints and closures and by imposing the siege on Gaza
  • Supporting Israel with military and other aid undermines U.S. national security and our stance in the Arab and Muslim world
  • Demand that Israel must end the occupation and lift the siege on Gaza
  • Demand that Roskam work for Americans by supporting liberty, justice and human rights

CONTACT

Call Rep. Roskam at (202) 225-4561 or fax your message to him at (202) 225-1166.
For those in the Illinois Congressional District 6 and would prefer to email, click here.

The American Muslims for Palestine is a national, grassroots organization whose mission is to educate the American public on issues relating to Palestine and its rich, cultural heritage. For more information, contact Kristin Szremski, director of media and communications, at 708.598.4267, ext 22 or at media@ampalestine.org . To learn more, go to http://www.ampalestine.org.

Leave a comment

Filed under Activism, Current events

Resolutions condemning Israel’s Flotilla attack sent back to committee

Caving to pro-Israeli pressure, legislators from San Francisco and Richmond, Calif., sent two resolutions condemning Israel for its deadly attack on the Freedom Flotilla back to committee, where critics hope the measures will die.

After four hours of public testimony that lasted almost until midnight, San Francisco supervisors declined to vote on the resolution, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

“That the resolution came before the Board of Supervisors is an important step for human rights and shows there is a fundamental shift occurring within the American dialogue about Palestine,” said Dr. Hatem Bazian, chairman of American Muslims for Palestine and professor of near eastern and ethnic studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

Supervisor John Avalos, one of the measure’s sponsors, still backs the resolution, despite the pro-Zionist opposition.

“I’ve been told that this resolution is divisive,” the Chronicle quoted Avalos as saying. “But really it acknowledges the disproportionate power the state of Israel has to create a blockade and enforce it on the high seas, even to the extent of attacking civilians in the dead of night.”

City Council members in nearby Richmond also sent their resolution back to committee as well. After a contentious meeting, in which some council members questioned Mayor Gayle McLaughlin for bringing forward the resolution, it was sent back to the Human Rights Council. Mayor McLaughlin, who previously issued a statement condemning Israel’s May 31 attack that killed nine unarmed civilians, chairs the human rights committee, according to the Bay Citizen.

“This is something we have no control over,” said Councilman Nat Bates said in the Citizen. “Israel and Palestine don’t give a damn what Richmond thinks.”

Dr. Bazian, however, doesn’t agree with that assessment.

“What happens in San Francisco and Richmond is being watched closely by Israeli officials and people in Palestine,” Dr. Bazian said. California often sets the tone for the entire United States. “In Israel, these resolutions punched one more hole in the polished public relations apparatus Israel – through lobby groups in this country – has flooded Americans with. The more Americans voice their dissatisfaction with Israel’s illegal, inhumane and unjust policies, the weaker Israel’s hold on the occupation becomes.”

Dr. Bazian added: And actions such as the two resolutions bring hope to Palestinians around the world – those living under occupation and those living in Diaspora around the world.”

Watch AMP for further updates and pending action alerts on these issues.

~ Kristin Szremski 6/17/2010

Leave a comment

Filed under Current events, News

San Francisco, Richmond set to vote on resolutions condemning Israeli raid on Freedom Flotilla, Gaza siege

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors and the Richmond, Calif., City Council are poised to vote on separate resolutions Tuesday condemning Israel’s deadly May 31 raid on the Freedom Flotilla and its ongoing siege of Gaza.

In it’s June 8 meeting, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors referred for adoption Resolution 100767, which condemns the raid on the fleet of humanitarian aid vessels that resulted in the deaths of nine unarmed civilians and the wounding of dozens more.

According to the meeting agenda, Resolution 100767 states: “[This is a] Resolution joining the global community, including international human rights organizations, The Elders, over 50 nations, and thousands of Bay Area residents in condemning the Israeli Defense Forces’ military attack on the Freedom Flotilla on May 31, 2010, that resulted in the death of at least nine people, including a United States citizen; and urging President Barack Obama and Congress to continue their work addressing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, actively seek an end to the blockade, and work towards genuine peace and security for all peoples in the region.”

The resolution was sponsored by Supervisors John Avalos and Sophie Maxwell.

The Board meets at 2 p.m. Pacific Time at the Legislative Chamber, Room 250, City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, San Francisco.

Meanwhile, Richmond, Calif., city officials also will vote on a similar resolution at the City Council meeting Tuesday night. Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin already issued a condemnation of the Israeli raid, which took place in international waters. But on Tuesday, the City Council will vote to “adopt a resolution supporting the United Nations Security Council condemnation of the recent Israeli attack on the Gaza-bound humanitarian aid flotilla, including two Richmond residents, and calling for the safe and humane treatment of all individuals delivering international aid.”

“The people of Gaza have suffered collective punishment from the three-year Israeli blockade that has turned the region into a virtual prison, and their suffering was compounded by the relentless military attack of December 2008-January 2009, in which 1,400 civilians in Gaza were killed. I condemn the Israeli assault on the humanitarian Freedom Flotilla and join others in calling for an end to U.S. military aid to Israel as long as the illegal occupation of Palestinian territories, including the blockade of Gaza, continues,” Mayor McLaughlin stated previously.

Two Richmond residents – Paul Larudee and Kathy Sheetz  – were  on the Flotilla. The Richmond City Council meeting will take place at the Community Services Building, 440 Civic Center Plaza. Call 510-620-6861 for meeting time.

~ Kristin Szremski 6/14/2010

Leave a comment

Filed under Activism, Current events, News

Raw, unedited video smuggled off the Mavi Marmara by flimmaker Iana Lee

Leave a comment

Filed under Current events, News, Video

EXCLUSIVE: New Video Smuggled Out from Mavi Marmara of Israel’s Deadly Assault on Gaza Aid Flotilla

EXCLUSIVE: New Video Smuggled Out from Mavi Marmara of Israel’s Deadly Assault on Gaza Aid Flotilla.

Leave a comment

Filed under Activism, Current events

God Bless Helen Thomas

Ari Fleischer: Quit your whining!

You gotta love Helen Thomas, the 89-year-old newsroom maven, who’s covered every president since Dwight Eisenhower. She has the guts to ask the questions real reporters should be asking if they weren’t too scared of getting shut out of the elite glam social functions in Washington.

From Fox News:

Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said that Hearst reporter Helen Thomas should be fired for saying that Israelis should “get the hell out of Palestine.”

“She should lose her job over this,” Fleischer, President George W. Bush’s secretary, said in an e-mail to the Huffington Post that he posted on his Twitter account. “As someone who is Jewish, and as someone who worked with her and used to like her, I find this appalling.”

Fleischer suggested a double standard for Thomas, the 89-year-old White House Press Corps dean who has covered every president since Dwight Eisenhower.

“She is advocating religious cleansing. How can Hearst stand by her? If a journalist, or a columnist, said the same thing about blacks or Hispanics, they would already have lost their jobs.”

At a Jewish Heritage Month celebration at the White House last week Thomas, who is of Lebanese descent, said the Palestinian people “are occupied and it’s their land” and that Israelis should “go home” to Poland, Germany, America “and everywhere else.”

Helen is right. The majority of the Jews in Israel, particularly the Zionists in leadership, are descendants of Europeans whose ancestors converted to Judaism centuries ago. The ruling class in Israel and most of its Jewish residents are not descendants of the Biblical Hebrews, despite what AIPAC, the ADL and other Zionists groups would have you believe.

Helen Thomas just has the balls to say so.

Yay Helen! You go girl!

~ Kristin Szremski 6/6/2010

Leave a comment

Filed under Opinion/analysis