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Why Didn’t Zakaria Ask Ayalon Why Israel Shoots at Women Harvesting Wheat?

Two weeks ago tonight at least nine activists were killed by Israeli commandos as they attempted to deliver critical humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza. Two weeks of spin and hasbara deception parroted over and over in the US media topped off today by the appearance of Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon on Fareed Zakaria’s show. Ayalon not only revived the claim – already disavowed by the Israeli government but so popular with the American press – that the activists were associated with Al Qaeda, he also solemnly talked about how the Israeli government has no desire to block Gazan access to food and excused the 3 year long refusal to allow even such basic food stuffs as coriander as just a mistake, being solved now, after all:

“We are correcting it,” Ayalon said in an interview aired today on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS” program. “There is no reason not to have a full array of food to the Gazans and we are making sure this will be the case,” Ayalon said according to a transcript.

Ayalon did not mention that the Israeli government – while claiming to support open credible investigations – a claim backed by the Obama administration – is now blocking access by journalists to the area.  Here’s what’s happened to two journalists from the Irish Sunday Tribune:

The Sunday Tribune was refused entry to the Gaza strip last week by the Israeli authorities despite having the correct press accreditation and letter from the Israeli embassy in Dublin recommending this newspaper be granted admission.

This newspaper travelled to the Middle East on the invitation of Irish charity Trócaire last week to write a series of reports about the work Trócaire supports in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza…

Trócaire was informed by the Israeli Embassy of Ireland that the Sunday Tribune would be granted admission to Gaza on the basis of a letter of recommendation from the embassy.

However, the Israeli authorities decided to refuse to grant our entry into the Gaza strip. Through unofficial channels, we learned that the Israeli foreign office took the view that Trócaire was a “political group” and they did not want a journalist and photographer journeying with them into Gaza.

Trocaire a “political group?” Really?

Trócaire is the official overseas development agency of the Catholic Church in Ireland. It was set up by the Irish Catholic Bishops in 1973 to express the concern of the Irish Church for the suffering of the world’s poorest and most oppressed people.

Perhaps the Israelis did not want the Sunday Tribune journalists to see events like this week’s live fire attack on women who were attempting to harvest wheat from their fields in the portion of Gaza the Israelis have claimed as a “buffer zone.” You see, Israel has not only blockaded the Gazans into a tiny strip of land, it has also declared a portion of the land inside Gaza’s borders a “buffer zone” — a buffer zone that happens to take up 30% of Gaza’s arable farmland.

On Tuesday, a group of women and human rights activists attempted to harvest the wheat growing in one of the fields in this zone – here’s what happened:

Tuesday, the first day of harvest, did not take place inside the 300m “buffer zone”. However, snipers approached the harvest in Israeli military Jeeps on two occasions, shooting live ammunition around five women who were crouching to hand-collect the wheat with four International Solidarity Movement (ISM) activists…

A more severe attack was levied Wednesday, as the harvest continued within 300 meters of the fence. 5 ISM activists and 2 journalists were present as Israeli military Jeeps approached at 7 a.m. and fired several rounds, similar to the previous day. At 8:30, the Jeeps parked on a small hill near the fence. Snipers stood atop the Jeep closest to the workers, with a clear view of the obviously non-threatening hand- harvest. Israeli snipers then rained over 50 rounds on the women, activists and journalists, causing the women to crawl along the ground and shriek with fear. Rounds of live bullets hit within a meter of people’s heads, meaning any deviation would almost certainly hit someone. The harvest finished at 10 a.m.

Thursday, the final day of harvest, was cut short by two gunfire attacks at 8:00 and 8:30 a.m. Roughly 20 rounds were fired very close to the farmers and 3 ISM activists present.

There have been 116 such attacks since January 2010  with 50 injuries and 14 killed in this “buffer zone” according to the Palesintian Centre for Human Rights.

In contrast to the Ayalon love fest on CNN, David Samel reminds us at Mondoweis precisely what this blockade is really all about:

Israel’s efforts to control the narrative of the flotilla raid that left at least nine dead and dozens wounded have come under increasing scrutiny, with more and more contradictory evidence coming to light. Less attention has been focused on Israel’s equally ambitious campaign to recast the nature of the blockade itself.

Anyone paying even slight attention over the past few years knows that Israel implemented the policy to deprive a million and a half civilians of adequate supplies of the necessities of life, such as food, water, medicine, cooking fuel, clothing, even children’s toys. The Israelis have been allowing in enough goods that they calculate are necessary to keep people from dying of starvation. The Israelis consider anything in excess to be “luxuries” that must be kept from the Gazans until they overthrow Hamas, recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State, free Gilad Shalit, or whatever is the cause du jour. Since the object of the siege was to compel a change of leadership, it had to be rigorous enough to cause severe pain to a large majority of the civilian population; mere inconvenience or annoyance would not do. Gazans had to experience real hardship and struggle for the Israeli policy to have even a remote chance of success. (It recalls Ariel Sharon’s phrase “moderate physical pressure” used to describe garden-variety torture, as if “moderate” suffering could persuade unwilling victims to reveal secrets.)

For years, Israel made no secret of its motives. Dov Weissglas, top aide to then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, famously said: “It’s like an appointment with a dietician. The Palestinians will get a lot thinner, but won’t die.”

The video above is the full hour long raw footage shot by Iara Lee, a Brazilian filmmaker who smuggled the file out during her seizure by the Israelis on the Mavi Mamara. Hosted by Cultures of Resistance, a 15 minute version is also available.  Cultures of Resistance also points to some good ways you can help the people of Gaza including a program to get clean drinking water for Gaza’s children.

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Siun is a proud Old Town resident who shares her home with two cats and a Great Pyrenees. She’s worked in media relations and on the net since before the www, led the development of a corporate responsibility news service, and knows what a mult box is thanks to Nico. When not swimming in the Lake, she leads a team working on sustainability tools.

Email: media dot firedoglake at gmail dot com