From International Brigade to Freedom Flotilla: Remembering the ancestors of our struggle By William Bowles

30 May, 2010

international-brigadeIn the light of the Freedom Flotilla on its way to Gaza and the opposition it’s facing, not only from Israel, but the news blackout by the corporate/state media of the seven hundred brave people making the trip, it’s worth recalling that back in the 1930s the International Brigade was formed to defend Spain’s democratic Revolution against Fascism.

Thousands of mostly working class people from around the world joined the call, many of whom died defending Republican Spain. From the United States, England, Canada, France and beyond, they answered the call from their comrades.

Outgunned and betrayed by their governments under the guise of ‘neutrality’, they died defending the idea that all men and women are brothers and sisters.

The Freedom Flotilla continues in the same spirit of internationalism and in spite of the seventy-five years that has passed since the Spanish Civil War, faces the same opposition from the ruling elites and their accomplices in the media.

“After calls to newsrooms across the UK it is clear to me that the first ever sea bound fleet of international aid to Palestine is not of itself a big enough story for our media – until it fails. On Israel’s terms. The BBC has been taking some 200 calls in an hour from viewers wanting news of the mission – to no avail.” — ‘A battle for the high seas. And the high ground’ By Lauren Booth

Well, this is not exactly true, but nevertheless true to form, the BBC has just one story on its Website today, 30 June, that attempts to cast doubts on the Freedom Flotilla’s intentions and essentially gives the story over to Israeli propagandist, Mark Regev. Toward the beginning of the piece the BBC informs us

“The Palestinian territory has been under an Israeli and Egyptian economic blockade for almost three years, with only limited humanitarian aid allowed.

“The activists, from the Free Gaza Movement, want to break the blockade.

“Israel imposed the measures after the Islamist movement Hamas took power in Gaza.”

Took power? Hamas was democratically elected by the people of Gaza. And to make sure we know who is really at fault here for the blockade, the BBC regurgitates the mantra of Hamas rockets,

“Hamas has fired thousands of rockets into Israel over the past decade.”

Unmentioned by the BBC is Israel’s illegal collective punishment of 1.5 million people and of course no mention of the thousands killed and maimed during Operation Cast Lead. Indeed the obscenity that Israel inflicted on the Gaza strip is not mentioned at all. The piece continues,

“For days, human rights activists aboard the flotilla of ships have been saying they are due in Gaza soon, but they are now running days late. Organisers confirmed that they had left Cyprus on Sunday afternoon, after confusion over their exact plans.” — Gaza aid flotilla ‘leaves Cyprus’, BBC News, 30 May, 2010

Confusion? Greta Berlin, one of the organizers of the Flotilla told the BBC “A lot of that confusion is done on purpose because why should we telegraph to the Israeli navy… exactly when it is that we are going to come?” The real reason for any delay was the refusal by the Greek Cypriot government to allow the flotilla to assemble in Cyprus,

“The decision by the Greek Cypriot government not only not to allow the flotilla to harbour there, but also to object to, and twice prevent, the departure of a parliamentary delegation directly by sea to join the convoy is creating something of a scandal in Greece and beyond.” — Kevin Ovenden, crew member

But not at the BBC obviously. Instead, it gives over the piece to Mark Regev

“Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said the activists were “masquerading as human rights activists” while trying to make a political point.

/../

““It appears they’re putting their radical politics above the well-being of the people of Gaza,” he said.

“The BBC’s Jon Donnison in Gaza City says there is much political spin being put on the story by both sides.”” —

The BBC thus preserves its appearance of being ‘impartial’ and ‘objective’ in its coverage of the Freedom Flotilla. But far from wanting to actually cover the Freedom Flotilla’s journey, the BBC, apparently through some process of divination, is sending its crew to cover, not the Flotilla but its presumed aftermath in Ashdod,

“I speak to Greta Berlin, in Cyprus, an organiser of the Freegaza Movement about the BBC’s attitude that ‘nothing is happening.’ She tells me ‘I just got off the phone with the BBC in Jerusalem. They want to send a camera crew to Ashdod. It was all I could do to tell them they will be in the wrong place!!’

“Ashdod. Yes you guessed it; the port in ‘Israel’ where, its military have previously towed Freegaza boats and where now makeshift detention centres are supposedly waiting for the activists of the Freedom Fleet.” — Lauren Booth (ibid)

Even the belated admission, right at the end of piece,  that the amount of ‘aid’ being allowed into Gaza by Israel is totally inadequate, is set in the following highly politicized context,

“Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya says any Israeli action to stop the ships will be an act of “piracy”.

By quoting only a Hamas spokesman, the BBC gives the reader the impression that it’s only Hamas who object to Israel’s public position that the Freedom Flotilla will be stopped from entering Gaza’s territorial and allegedly sovereign waters (another fact ignored by the BBC).

“Israeli government press officers have been briefing journalists that the aid flotilla is not necessary. Israel says it allows 15,000 tons of aid into Gaza every week.”

The final para in the BBC piece finally informs us that,

“…the United Nations, which calls the blockade a “Medieval siege”, says this is only a fraction of what is needed and less than a quarter of what was coming into Gaza before the blockade was enforced.”

To remind us of what we have fought for across the decades, see this 1985 interview with John ‘Bosco’ Jones, International Brigader and Anti-Fascist Activist in East London during the 1930’s.

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