Archive for July 7th, 2011

Sabotage of M.V. Saoirse in Turkey ‘an act of international terrorism’

Irish Ship to Gaza

June 30, 2011

The Irish-owned ship, the MV Saoirse, that was meant to take part in Freedom Flotilla 2 has been sabotaged in a dangerous manner in the Turkish coastal town of Göcek, where it had been at berth for the past few weeks. Visual evidence of the undership sabotage, which was carried out by divers, will be presented today at a press conference in Dublin at 11am in Buswell’s Hotel. Photographs and video footage of the damage are available from the Irish Ship to Gaza campaign.

Concerns for the boat first emerged on Monday evening following a short trip near the Göcek marina and an inspection was carried out by divers and by skipper Shane Dillon on Tuesday morning. Evidence was found that the shaft of the starboard propeller has been interfered with and it was decided to take the boat out of the water for a further visual inspection. On Wednesday, the boat was put on land at a local shipyard and the extent of the sabotage was immediately visible.

The propeller shaft had been weakened by saboteurs who cut, gouged or filed a piece off the shaft. This had weakened the integrity of the shaft, causing it to bend badly when put in use. The damage was very similar to that caused to the Juliano, another flotilla ship, in Greece. The consequent damage would have happened gradually as the ship was sailing and would have culminated in a breach of the hull.

The Irish Ship to Gaza campaign believes that Israel has questions to answer and must be viewed as the chief suspect in this professional and very calculating act of sabotage.

Commenting on the attack from Göcek in Turkey, Dr Fintan Lane, national coordinator of Irish Ship to Gaza, who own the vessel, said, “This is an appalling attack and should be condemned by all right-thinking people. It is an act of violence against Irish citizens and could have caused death and injury. If we had not spotted the damage as a result of a short trip in the bay, we would have gone to sea with a dangerously damaged propeller shaft and the boat would have sunk if the hull had been breached. Imagine the scene if this had happened at nighttime.”

“Israel is the only party likely to have carried out this reckless action and it is important that the Irish government and the executive in Northern Ireland insist that those who ordered this act of international terrorism be brought to justice. This was carried out in a Turkish town and shows no respect for Turkish sovereignty and international law.”

He continued, “One of the most shocking aspects is the delayed nature of the sabotage. It wasn’t designed to stop the ship from leaving its berth, instead, it was intended that the fatal damage to the ship would occur while she was at sea and this could have resulted in the deaths of several of those on board. This was a potentially murderous act.”

Dr Lane, who was on board Challenger 1 in last year’s flotilla, said, “The Freedom Flotilla is a non-violent act of practical and humanitarian solidarity with the people of Gaza, yet Israel continues to use threats and violence to delay its sailing. They attacked us in international waters last year, now they are attacking us in Turkish and Greek ports. There is no line that Israel won’t cross.”

“We will not be intimidated by attacks like this – it simply highlights the aggression that the Palestinian people of Gaza have to put up with on a daily basis. It strengthens our determination to continue until this illegal and immoral blockade is lifted.”

Calling on the government and northern executive to demand safe passage for Freedom Flotilla 2, Dr Lane said, “The Irish government needs to publicly condemn this dangerous act of sabotage but it also should insist on the flotilla being allowed to make it to Gaza unhindered. Israel has no right to interdict the flotilla and even less right to carry out attacks against vessels in Greek and Turkish ports.”

“It is important that everybody make their voices heard in solidarity with the people of Gaza and in support of the flotilla. The Israeli embassy should become a focal point for street demonstrations. These saboteurs came very close to killing Irish citizens.”

Also speaking from Göcek, the skipper of the MV Saoirse, Shane Dillon, said, “The damage sighted and inspected on the starboard propeller shaft on the MV Saoirse had the potential to cause loss of life to a large number of those aboard. The nature of the attack and malicious damage was such that under normal circumstances the vessel would most likely have sunk at sea. If the ship was operating at high engine revs, the damage done by the saboteurs would have caused the shaft to shear and the most likely outcome would be the rupturing of the hull and the vessel foundering. If, as was intended, the vessel had proceeded to Gaza at reduced revs, the stern tube would have been forced off line and a large and rapid ingress of water would have resulted, sinking the vessel.”

Mr Dillon continued, “The shaft was filmed and photographed when the vessel was lifted from the water on Wednesday afternoon in a shipyard in the Turkish coastal village of Göcek. A local marine engineer inspected the shaft and his opinion was that the interference was the work of professional saboteurs intent on disabling the Saoirse. However, the most shocking aspect of the attack was that its intention was to cause failure of the shaft when the vessel was offshore and this shows a total disregard for human life.”

He ended, “It is also worth noting that the damage inflicted on the Saoirse was identical to that that caused to the Greek/Swedish ship, the Juliano, which was sabotaged in the Greek port of Piraeus a few days ago.”

Pat Fitzgerald, a Sinn Fein member of Waterford County Council and chief engineer on the Saoirse, commented, “We were very lucky to discover this act of sabotage when we did. We felt vibrations from the shaft as we were returning to the berth on Monday evening following a short trip in the bay for refueling purposes. Close inspection by divers on Tuesday and then on land on Wednesday revealed a large man-made gouge on one side of the propeller shaft. The integrity of the shaft had been compromised and a very serious bend had developed. This could have caused fatalities had we set to sea and almost certainly would have sunk the boat when the engine revs were increased. It was an act of sheer lunacy and endangered the lives of all on board.”

The sabotage has been reported to the harbor master in Göcek and Irish Ship to Gaza are asking for a full investigation by the Turkish police.

The repairs have yet to be fully costed but could be more than E15,000 and they will take some time, meaning that the Saoirse cannot participate in Freedom Flotilla 2.

However, six of the 20 crew and passengers aboard the Saoirse will transfer to another ship in the flotilla. The six Irish who will join the Italian/Dutch ship are Fintan Lane, national coordinator of Irish Ship to Gaza and a member of the Free Gaza Movement, Trevor Hogan, former Ireland and Leinster rugby player, Paul Murphy, Socialist Party MEP for Dublin, Zoe Lawlor of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Hussein Hamed, a Libyan-born Irish citizen, and Gerry MacLochlainn, a Sinn Fein member of Derry City Council.

The MV Saoirse will be repaired and used in future flotillas to Gaza if they are needed.

Source: Uruknet.
Link: http://www.uruknet.de/?s1=1&p=79111&s2=01.

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Jordan’s old guard thwart reform drive

30/06/2011

By Suleiman al-Khalidi

(Reuters) – Under a Bedouin tent in the dusty desert city of Maan, Western-educated King Abdullah pledges $20 million (12.5 million pounds) to build a hospital nearby to cheers from tribal chiefs who form the ruling Hashemite family’s power base.

Shouts of “Long live his Majesty,” ring out at the ceremony, one of an increasing number of royal visits to tribal areas where demands for state jobs and services have been piled on a king, torn between the desires of traditional Jordanians and addressing calls for reform inspired by the Arab uprisings sweeping North Africa and the Middle East.

Abdullah, who has ruled since 1999, has opted for timid steps towards democracy in response to regional turmoil, constrained by a tribal power base which sees reforms as a threat to political privileges and economic benefits.

Palace insiders say that more than ever during his reign, the monarch has been frustrated by the efforts of an old guard — entrenched in the state bureaucracy and intelligence apparatus — to block reforms.

They say the old guard have stepped up demands for favors and patronage since the protests began this year, threatening the finances of Abdullah’s resource-poor kingdom.

“Every time the king expresses pro-reform leanings they raise the ante and ask for unreasonable demands that only add to the already strained budget and aggravate the political scene. They put spikes in the wheel,” said Jawad Anani, a former royal court chief and prominent economist.

Jordan witnessed weeks of protests earlier this year calling for an end to corruption and wider political freedoms. In recent weeks hundreds of youths have also taken to the streets in the country’s tribal south demanding jobs and decrying what they term as inequality in favor of a more prosperous capital.

Critics dismiss the argument that the monarch is a reformist shackled by conservatives around him, seeing it as an excuse for a lack of progress towards greater democracy since Abdullah succeeded his late father, King Hussein, in 1999.

“Democracy has retreated to a degree that the regime, from the monarchy to the government to the security apparatus, treats Jordan as if it was a farm or a corporation they own to ensure the regime’s longevity,” said Musa al-Hadeed, a retired general in the Jordanian army and a leading advocate of a reduction in the executive powers of the monarchy.

OPPORTUNITY OF “ARAB SPRING”

Abdullah’s supporters insist an old guard who effectively run the country through the security forces stand in the way of deeper reform, seeing sweeping changes in the Arab world and Jordan’s moves towards a merit-driven economy as a threat to their decades-old grip on power.

Abdullah, in contrast to autocratic rulers elsewhere in the Arab world, has long complained about his frustration over the pace of reform and saw the Arab uprisings across the region as a chance to finally surmount resistance, palace insiders say.

“The Arab spring gave me, in a way, the opportunity that I’ve been looking for the past 11 years,” he said in an interview with the Washington Post on June 16.

Earlier this month Abdullah said that he was committed to pushing ahead with democratic reforms, but a vague promise he would devolve some of his executive powers to parliament failed to address wider political demands from Islamists — the country’s largest political force — and other groups.

In a country where the monarchy is a guarantor of stability among feuding tribes who seek his protection and acts as a balance between the country’s majority Palestinian and East Bank native Jordanians, no one wants to topple the king.
Jordan has largely avoided much of the turmoil that has swept through the Arab world this year and saw nothing on the scale of protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen or neighboring Syria. The demands of street demonstrators were limited to calls for an end to absolutism and corruption.

Politicians say Abdullah’s room for maneuver is limited and that the powerful mukhabarat (intelligence service) have even disregarded his calls to curb their involvement in politics.

They say security officials meddle in university appointments, harass and expel student activists, and play a role in revoking citizenship for Jordanians of Palestinian origin despite reprimands from the king.

QUEEN TARGETED

Even the monarch’s immediate family has not been spared the attacks of some ex-military members of the old guard who have criticized his high profile Palestinian wife Queen Rania. Irked by her high international profile, advocacy of women’s rights and image among westerners as the savvy face of Arab feminism, they say she is too vocal and interferes in politics.

“He is handcuffed and they have raised the ceiling of extortion to get more from him,” said one former official.

More significantly, the old guard continue to play on the long-standing fears of their East Bank and tribal allies that rapid political change would allow the country’s Palestinian majority to dominate Jordan’s national identity.

They have been accused of being behind the counter-mobilization of loyalist demonstrations across the kingdom to overshadow small opposition rallies.

This has not only helped fragment popular pressure for reform in recent months and undermined the monarch’s efforts to move faster, but also helped divert the reform discourse towards ethnic polarization, analysts and politicians say.

“Some agencies within the state have accentuated the fears of East Bankers and linked their demands for political reforms with losing their political gains,” said Mohammad Abu Ruman, a researcher at Jordan’s University Center for Strategic Studies.

But old guard figures argue the regime’s stability depends on thwarting any calls to empower Palestinians in Jordan under the guise of a democratic agenda.

“There are suspicious demands for reforms coming from some people that will not serve the interests of the Jordanian people and we oppose it,” said Nayef al-Qadi, a prominent conservative politician, tribal leader and former minister.

“Any reform that leads to the permanent settlement (of Palestinians) in Jordan would be a coup d’etat attempt that we will never allow,” Qadi added. “Anything that allows Jordan to become a victim of resolving the Palestinian problem at Jordan’s expense we would not accept.”

The kingdom’s powerful traditional political elite representing East Bank tribal groups have forced the monarch to lean more and more to their side.

Their biggest victory was to frustrate efforts for a more representative electoral law that was publicly backed by Abdullah as a key democratic reform
The law would have had to address the long-standing grievances of Jordanians of Palestinian origin, including their under-representation and discrimination by the state.

A proposed new electoral law charted by a government-appointed panel will ensure the East Bank power structure and status quo remains unchallenged.

The state already extracts more taxes from Jordanians of Palestinian origin, who remain pillars of the business community but feel increasingly abandoned by the state.

In contrast native Jordanians who depend on state jobs and are the backbone of the security forces and state bureaucracy have become the focus of government’s largesse.

A cabinet headed by conservative ex-security chief Marouf al-Bahkhit has raised civil servant salaries and created more jobs in an already bloated civil service that eats into the country’s $8.98 billion budget, threatening to sink Jordan into greater debt.

Some analysts say this will further polarize the country, as a government that is seen as serving East Bankers further alienates the country’s large population of Palestinian origin.

So far pliant and shunning politics, their continued exclusion from any future discourse on Jordan’s future bodes ill for the country’s long term stability, they say.

Source: Jordan Property.
Link: http://www.jo-property.com/aDetails.aspx?aid=1099&iid=31.

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