Archive for category Disaster Relief

Update: Petition against Israeli attack on aid ships


While Israel maintains that it has disengaged from the Gaza Strip in 2005, its attack on defenseless civilians in international water attests to Israel’s continued occupation of Gaza.

Further, Israel has exposed its commitment, or lack thereof, of peace and a viable solution for the Palestinian people. Too long have we placed faith in this elusive peace process which promises justice for the Palestinians.

It is time that our elected officials condemn this Gaza flotilla massacre, but withhold all military financing of Israel until Israel actually shows a commitment to non-violence and peace.

Take action and make your voices heard:

1. Sign the Petition:

2. Tell your family and friends to Sign the Petition

3. Contact President Barack Obama directly
Call: 202-456-1111

4. Your local elected representatives

*** has published a piece dispelling the disinformation that the Israeli PR machine is busy pumping out. See it here:

Gaza Freedom Flotilla Killings: FACT CHECK (Dispelling Myths as Israeli PR Moves into Full Swing)

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Criminal attack on Gaza aid fleet; and a bit of good news from China

Freedom Flotilla aid ship

Freedom Flotilla aid ship before Israeli attack

The attack by the Israelis on a flotilla of ships bringing humanitarian aid to Gaza is outrageous. The six Freedom Flotilla ships were in international waters, had cleared customs in four different nations, and were on a peaceful mission to bring desperately needed food and medical aid to the Gaza Palestinians, who have suffered under an Israeli blockade for three years now.

The casualty count is at least 20 civilian deaths and 50 injuries. Furthermore, the Israelis have arrested and incarcerated an unknown number of aid activists, taking them to a jail in the southern Israeli desert.

Reports indicate that the Israeli commandos came on board and opened fire. The aid activists attempted to defend themselves with wooden sticks. Reports by the Israelis that some of the aid activists had knives or rods, or even guns, have been flatly contradicted by observers on board the ships, and by the Israeli commando videos themselves.

International Responses:

Various international leaders have condemned the violence.

The Turkish Prime Minister described it as an act of state terror.

U.N. General Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says he was “shocked” and demanded a full investigation.

German government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm said, “The German government is shocked by events in the international waters by Gaza…”.

Greek deputy foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas said, “There is no excuse. The level of violence cannot be excused … we condemn it and this is exactly the message I conveyed this morning to the Israeli ambassador.

Uri Avnery, an Israeli journalist, wrote: “This night a crime was perpetrated in the middle of the sea, by order of the government of Israel and the IDF Command A warlike attack against aid ships and deadly shooting at peace and humanitarian aid activists It is a crazy thing that only a government that crossed all red lines can do.” (Gush Shalom)

And Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg made the most important point of all: “This underlines that the blockade of Gaza should be ended as soon as possible,” Stoltenberg told reporters. “This type of military action is unacceptable. The shootings must be investigated and documented. It is clear that this is a use of force against civilians.”

Even if the Israelis had not intended to allow the Freedom Flotilla to dock, they could have found other ways of stopping it. They could have entangled the propellers (as has been previously done in similar operations), or surrounded and blockaded the fleet. These would still have been criminal actions, but that has never stopped Israel in the past, and at least there would have been no loss of life.

This action by Israel is a crime, plain and simple. Those who sanctioned it and those who perpetrated it have committed murder on the high seas.


Inmates in a Chinese jail

Inmates in a Chinese jail

China Declares that Evidence Obtained by Torture is Inadmissible

Now, for a bit of good news. The Chinese government has declared that confessions obtained by means of torture can no longer be used in Chinese courts to prove guilt. This came about as a result of the case of Zhao Zuohai, who spent 11 years in jail for a murder that never happened. He says he was beaten by police until he confessed. Eleven years later, his “victim” was found to be still living. The Chinese government freed Zhao and paid him $96,000 in compensation. Two of the policemen who beat him have been arrested.

In fact laws banning torture are already in place in China, but are widely disregarded by the authorities. Convictions in Chinese courts depend heavily on confessions rather than the investigation and evidence-based systems found in the West, so Chinese police feel pressure to beat suspects into confessing.

I’m not naive enough to think that this will end torture in China, or will instantly end the routine beating of suspects. Nor does it ameliorate China’s abominable human rights record, with its oppression of human rights activists, use of secret prisons, and suppression of ethnic minorities.

But simply acknowledging the existence of one serious problem and declaring it to be unacceptable is a significant step in the right direction.

“Big Progress”

The Chinese government issued two new sets of procedures in the use of evidence – the first covers cases subject to the death penalty, and the second rules on evidence obtained under duress in all criminal cases.

For people appealing against the death penalty, testimony given under duress and evidence from unnamed sources is now to be excluded.

Death-penalty defendants have also been given the right to ask for an investigation into whether their testimony was obtained illegally.

Legal expert Zhao Bingzhi told the state-run China Daily that it was the first time a “systematic and clear regulation” had been given on the issue.

“Previously we could only infer from abstract laws that illegal evidence is not allowed. But in reality, in many cases, such evidence was considered valid,” he said. “This is big progress, both for the legal system and for better protection of human rights. It will help reduce the number of executions.”

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Training for Disaster Relief

An injured child at a Hotel in Port-au-Prince, Haiti Photograph: Ivanoh Demers/AP

An injured child at a Hotel in Port-au-Prince, Haiti Photograph: Ivanoh Demers/AP

Although this website was founded to work to end torture, another of my concerns is disaster relief. Every time a terrible natural disaster strikes, such as the tsunami in Indonesia several years ago, the flood in New Orleans, or the current earthquake crisis in Haiti, I find my heart breaking as I view images of the terrible suffering in these places.

I can’t just stand by. I have to do something to help these poor people. I put up links on some of my high-traffic websites to donate funds for emergency relief in Haiti; but in addition to funding, there is a need for help on the ground.

I visited several websites today trying to find out if anyone in my area was putting together relief teams to go to Haiti. What I found is that disaster relief agencies don’t want untrained people walking in off the street. They need people with medical training; people experienced in fields such as construction, electrical engineering and civil engineering; and individuals with training in disaster relief skills such as search and rescue.

So, I have decided to pursue such training. I do not know where to find it. I will inquire with the local universities, and with international aid agencies.

The next time a terrible event like this occurs, I don’t want to be on the sidelines, wishing there was more I could do. I realize that helping directly in such situations might be traumatic. If enough people were already involved, I would not feel the need to participate directly. But the need is never met in these situations. Hundreds of thousands are sleeping in the street in Haiti. Days on, most have received no food or water. Bodies are everywhere – guaranteeing the spread of disease – and people are still trapped in the rubble. The need is not being met.

Who will meet the need, if not you and me?

Lastly, I urge Muslims and all compassionate people to respond and contribute to the humanitarian aid appeal by Islamic Relief, an Islamic relief organization. The vast majority of funds donated go directly to assistance, not for administrative costs.

Please donate generously in alleviating the suffering of people in Haiti.

You can donate through Islamic Relief USA’s website here:

Haiti Earthquake Emergency Donations

Checks can be mailed to:

Islamic Relief USA, P.O. Box 5640, Buena Park, CA 90622.

In the UK donate here:

Islamic Relief UK Haiti Donations

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