Thursday, June 30, 2011

  • Exclusive Tour of Gaza-Bound U.S. Ship, Audacity of Hope; Saboteurs Damage Other Ships in Flotilla

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    Organizers of the humanitarian flotilla to the Gaza Strip say another one of their ships has been sabotaged. The engine of an Irish ship docked in Turkey was reportedly so badly damaged it would have sunk in the middle of the ocean, threatening the lives of the passengers on board. It’s at least the second flotilla vessel to be targeted this week following damage to a Greek-Swedish ship docked in a port near Athens. Activists have accused Israel of orchestrating the sabotage, but say they have no direct proof. The Israeli government is trying to stop the ships from leaving port and has vowed to intercept them should they set sail. An Israeli official quoted in the Jerusalem Post said, the more "[they] have to run in place in Athens, the better it is for Israel." One of the ships in the 10-vessel flotilla is the U.S.-based "The Audacity of Hope," named after President Obama’s bestselling book. At least three dozen U.S. citizens are on board, carrying letters from Americans to the people of Gaza. Democracy Now! producer Aaron Maté and videographer Hany Massoud are in Greece to cover The Audacity of Hope’s journey. On Wednesday, Yonatan Shapira, a former Israeli Air Force pilot turned peace activist who is now a crew member on the U.S. boat, gave Democracy Now! a rare look inside the ship and talked about the threat of sabotage. “I see it as an obligation of me as an Israeli and a Jew to help steer the wheel of this boat into Gaza in order to challenge these war criminals and to send this message to the Palestinian people, to the Palestinian children in Gaza and the rest of the world, that they are not alone and we support them, and one day they will be free,” Shapira said. [includes rush transcript]

  • Debunking the Israeli-U.S. Effort to Thwart Gaza Freedom Flotilla: “We Are Committed to Nonviolence”

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    In addition to fears of ship sabotage and threats from the Israeli military, the U.S. citizens trying to sail to Gaza aboard U.S.-flagged ship “The Audacity of Hope” in the humanitarian flotilla are dealing with another challenge: their own government. The U.S. Department of State has warned U.S. passengers they could face "fines and incarceration" for taking part in the flotilla, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appears to have given Israel the green light to use force. Last week, Clinton said the flotilla would be "[provoking] actions by entering into Israeli waters and creating a situation in which the Israelis have the right to defend themselves." The threat of violence comes just one year after Israeli forces killed nine passengers in the first flotilla to Gaza after storming their ship. The passengers aboard the U.S. ship this year are a diverse group — parents, grandparents, young people, lawyers, doctors, nurses, social workers and peace activists. They include a Jewish survivor of the Nazi Holocaust, 87-year old Hedy Epstein; and the acclaimed writer, poet and activist Alice Walker, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "The Color Purple." As The Audacity of Hope prepares to depart from Greece, Democracy Now! producers Aaron Maté and Hany Massoud spoke to crew member and former Israeli air force pilot, Yonatan Shapira, about the Israeli-U.S. effort to thwart the ship’s journey. [includes rush transcript]

  • Live Update from Jewish Holocaust Survivor on U.S. Ship in Gaza Flotilla

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    Democracy Now! producer Aaron Maté and 86-year-old Jewish Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein are on the U.S. ship, “The Audacity of Hope,” as it sits moored in an Athens port, draped in American flags, waiting to set sail for Gaza, joining nine other ships in a humanitarian flotilla to challenge the Israeli naval blockade of Palestine. Asked why she is attempting to go to Gaza, Epstein says, “If I can go anywhere in the world, why not to Gaza? Because the Israelis don’t want me to go there? That’s not a good reason for me not to go.” [includes rush transcript]

  • Climate Chaos: Christian Parenti’s New Book Exposes How Global Warming Could Lead to Global Warfare

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    Extreme weather from Texas to Somalia may indicate that a new era of climate war is upon us. Just this month, massive floods have shut down two nuclear power facilities in Nebraska. In New Mexico, the nation’s top nuclear weapons lab in Los Alamos is being threatened by an uncontrolled wildfire. Meanwhile, the United Nations warns the Horn of Africa is facing its worst drought in 60 years, affecting more than 10 million in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda. We speak with award-winning journalist Christian Parenti, who argues in his new book that global warming is leading to social and environmental catastrophe. "The weather associated with climate change, extreme weather such as the drought, punctuated by flooding in East Africa, is adding to this. Climate change very often doesn’t just look bad weather, it looks like ethnic violence or religious violence or banditry or civil war,” says Parenti. [includes rush transcript]