Archive for June, 2009

Israel stops aid ship to Gaza

Posted in Uncategorized on 30/06/2009 by 3071km

Date published: 30th June 2009

Source: Al Jazeera English

_____

Israel stops aid ship to Gaza

Israel maintains a blockade of the
Gaza Strip [AFP]

The Israeli navy has intercepted an aid ship on its way to Gaza, pro-Palestinian activists say.

Members of the US-based Free Gaza Movement, who were on board the boat, said on Tuesday the Israeli navy threatened to open fire unless they turned the boat around.

The Israeli government denied any threats were made, or that any shots were fired, but said they warned the boat not to cross into Gazan waters.

The boat had set off from Cyprus on Monday, carrying humanitarian supplies for Gaza, which remains under an Israeli blockade.

Humanitarian crisis

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Caoimhe Butterly, a spokesperson for the Free Gaza movement, said: “This is the third humanitarian relief boat and solidarity mission that has been aggressively stopped by the Israeli army.

“The humanitarian situation is at crisis point. There has been a systematic and deliberate destruction of the humanitarian infrastructure of Gaza.

“We were taking medical supplies and medical equipment and limited amounts of building material … although $4 bn has been pledged to the Gaza Strip for reconstruction … no cement or building supplies are allowed in as a result of the siege.

“We need to up the ante and to mount more actions and convoys of this nature,” she said.

ISRAEL ATTACKS JUSTICE BOAT; KIDNAPS HUMAN RIGHTS WORKERS; CONFISCATES MEDICINE, TOYS AND OLIVE TREES

Posted in International community, Non-violent resistance, Operation Cast Lead, Palestine, Siege with tags , , , on 30/06/2009 by 3071km

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
30 June 2009

ISRAEL ATTACKS JUSTICE BOAT; KIDNAPS HUMAN RIGHTS WORKERS; CONFISCATES MEDICINE, TOYS AND OLIVE TREES

For more information contact:
Greta Berlin (English)
tel: +357 99 081 767 / friends@freegaza.org

Caoimhe Butterly (Arabic/English/Spanish):
tel: +357 99 077 820 / sahara78@hotmail.co.uk
www.FreeGaza.org

[23 miles off the coast of Gaza, 15:30pm] – Today Israeli Occupation Forces attacked and boarded the Free Gaza Movement boat, the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY, abducting 21 human rights workers from 11 countries, including Noble laureate Mairead Maguire and former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (see below for a complete list of passengers). The passengers and crew are being forcibly dragged toward Israel.

“This is an outrageous violation of international law against us. Our boat was not in Israeli waters, and we were on a human rights mission to the Gaza Strip,” said Cynthia McKinney, a former U.S. Congresswoman and presidential candidate. “President Obama just told Israel to let in humanitarian and reconstruction supplies, and that’s exactly what we tried to do. We’re asking the international community to demand our release so we can resume our journey.”

According to an International Committee of the Red Cross report released yesterday, the Palestinians living in Gaza are “trapped in despair.” Thousands of Gazans whose homes were destroyed earlier during Israel’s December/January massacre are still without shelter despite pledges of almost $4.5 billion in aid, because Israel refuses to allow cement and other building material into the Gaza Strip. The report also notes that hospitals are struggling to meet the needs of their patients due to Israel’s disruption of medical supplies.

“The aid we were carrying is a symbol of hope for the people of Gaza, hope that the sea route would open for them, and they would be able to transport their own materials to begin to reconstruct the schools, hospitals and thousands of homes destroyed during the onslaught of “Cast Lead”. Our mission is a gesture to the people of Gaza that we stand by them and that they are not alone” said fellow passenger Mairead Maguire, winner of a Noble Peace Prize for her work in Northern Ireland.

Just before being kidnapped by Israel, Huwaida Arraf, Free Gaza Movement chairperson and delegation co-coordinator on this voyage, stated that: “No one could possibly believe that our small boat constitutes any sort of threat to Israel. We carry  medical and reconstruction supplies, and children’s toys. Our passengers include a Nobel peace prize laureate and a former U.S. congressperson. Our boat was searched and received a security clearance by Cypriot Port Authorities before we departed, and at no time did we ever approach Israeli waters.”

Arraf continued, “Israel’s deliberate and premeditated attack on our unarmed boat is a clear violation of international law and we demand our immediate and unconditional release.”
###

WHAT YOU CAN DO!

CONTACT the Israeli Ministry of Justice
tel: +972 2646 6666 or +972 2646 6340
fax: +972 2646 6357

CONTACT the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs
tel: +972 2530 3111
fax: +972 2530 3367

CONTACT Mark Regev in the Prime Minister’s office at:
tel: +972 5 0620 3264 or +972 2670 5354
mark.regev@it.pmo.gov.il

CONTACT the International Committee of the Red Cross to ask for their assistance in establishing the wellbeing of the kidnapped human rights workers and help in securing their immediate release!

Red Cross Israel
tel: +972 3524 5286
fax: +972 3527 0370
tel_aviv.tel@icrc.org

Red Cross Switzerland:
tel: +41 22 730 3443
fax: +41 22 734 8280

Red Cross USA:
tel: +1 212 599 6021
fax: +1 212 599 6009
###

Kidnapped Passengers from the Spirit of Humanity include:

Khalad Abdelkader, Bahrain
Khalad is an engineer representing the Islamic Charitable Association of Bahrain.

Othman Abufalah, Jordan
Othman is a world-renowned journalist with al-Jazeera TV.

Khaled Al-Shenoo, Bahrain
Khaled is a lecturer with the University of Bahrain.

Mansour Al-Abi, Yemen
Mansour is a cameraman with Al-Jazeera TV.

Fatima Al-Attawi, Bahrain
Fatima is a relief worker and community activist from Bahrain.

Juhaina Alqaed, Bahrain
Juhaina is a journalist & human rights activist.

Huwaida Arraf, US
Huwaida is the Chair of the Free Gaza Movement and delegation co-coordinator for this voyage.

Ishmahil Blagrove, UK
Ishmahil is a Jamaican-born journalist, documentary film maker and founder of the Rice & Peas film production company. His documentaries focus on international struggles for social justice.

Kaltham Ghloom, Bahrain
Kaltham is a community activist.

Derek Graham, Ireland
Derek Graham is an electrician, Free Gaza organizer, and first mate aboard the Spirit of Humanity.

Alex Harrison, UK
Alex is a solidarity worker from Britain. She is traveling to Gaza to do long-term human rights monitoring.

Denis Healey, UK
Denis is Captain of the Spirit of Humanity. This will be his fifth voyage to Gaza.

Fathi Jaouadi, UK
Fathi is a British journalist, Free Gaza organizer, and delegation co-coordinator for this voyage.

Mairead Maguire, Ireland
Mairead is a Nobel laureate and renowned peace activist.

Lubna Masarwa, Palestine/Israel
Lubna is a Palestinian human rights activist and Free Gaza organizer.

Theresa McDermott, Scotland
Theresa is a solidarity worker from Scotland. She is traveling to Gaza to do long-term human rights monitoring.

Cynthia McKinney, US
Cynthia McKinney is an outspoken advocate for human rights and social justice issues, as well as a former U.S. congressperson and presidential candidate.

Adnan Mormesh, UK
Adnan is a solidarity worker from Britain. He is traveling to Gaza to do long-term human rights monitoring.

Adam Qvist, Denmark
Adam is a solidarity worker from Denmark. He is traveling to Gaza to do human rights monitoring.

Adam Shapiro, US
Adam is an American documentary film maker and human rights activist.

Kathy Sheetz, US
Kathy is a nurse and film maker, traveling to Gaza to do human rights monitoring.
###

“All We Want is to Reach Gaza. We do not Seek a Confrontation.”

Posted in Gaza, Non-violent resistance, Operation Cast Lead, Palestine, Siege with tags , , , on 30/06/2009 by 3071km

Updated news from the Spirit of Humanity.

Please help to make pressure on the Israeli authorities not to take action against it and the activists!!!

Thanks!!!

_____

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
30 JUNE 2009

“ALL WE WANT IS TO REACH GAZA. WE DO NOT SEEK A CONFRONTATION.”
Activists aboard Gaza justice boat demand they be allowed to visit their friends & family in besieged Gaza, and deliver their cargo of medical supplies, children’s toys, and reconstruction kits. They invite the world to join them.

(At Sea, 60km off the coast of the Gaza Strip) – Human Rights activists aboard the Free Gaza ship, the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY, today demanded that the Israeli Navy immediately stop threatening them.

“This aid is desperately needed by the people of Gaza,” said Mairead Maguire, winner of the Noble Peace Prize and Pacem in Terris Award for her work in Northern Ireland. “President Obama has called upon the Palestinians to abandon violence but Israel is denying them the right to non-violently resist the siege of Gaza.”

The unarmed justice ship departed Larnaca Port in Cyprus at 7:30am Monday with its crew of 21 human rights activists, humanitarian workers and journalists from 11 different countries, including Nobel laureate Mairead Maguire and former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. The boat, a converted ferry, hopes to arrive in Gaza Tuesday afternoon, following a grueling 30 hour sea voyage.

At 1:30am, Israeli warships surrounded the small civilian boat and threatened to open fire if they did not turn around. When the activists refused to be intimidated, Israeli Occupation Forces began jamming their instrumentation, blocking their GPS, radar, and navigation systems. This jamming was in direct violation of international maritime law, threatening the welfare and safety of the civilian ship.

Responding to this intimidation, Congresswoman McKinney declared, “I am extremely angry. We demand that the Israeli government call off their attack dogs. We are unarmed civilians aboard an unarmed boat delivering medical and reconstruction aid to other human beings in Gaza. Why in God’s name would Israel want to attack us?”

Huwaida Arraf, Chairperson of the Free Gaza movement and delegation co-coordinator for this voyage, said, “All we want is to reach Gaza. We want to visit our friends and deliver our cargo of medical supplies, children’s toys, and reconstruction materials. Our ship was searched and received security clearance from the Port Authorities in Cyprus before we departed.”

Arraf continued, “We do not seek a confrontation. We have traveled from Cypriot waters to international waters and will enter Gazan waters. We’ve never gone anywhere near Israel. Israel’s closure of Gaza is an act of collective punishment and a blatant violation of international law. We call upon our governments to take action to uphold their obligations under the Fourth Geneva Conventions. If they won’t or until they do, we will act. We will come to Gaza again and again until this brutal siege is broken. We invite the good people of the world to join us.”

Free Gaza boats are the first international ships in 41 years to sail to the Gaza Strip. Since August 2008, the Free Gaza Movement has organized 8 sea missions, successfully arriving to Gaza on 5 separate occasions. One two earlier occasions, Israeli Occupation Forces used violence to stop the ships, physically ramming and almost sinking the DIGNITY boat in December 2008, and threatening to fire on and kill unarmed passengers in January 2008. The fate of this, the eighth mission to Gaza, is still uncertain.
###

For more information, please contact:
Greta Berlin (English/French) or Caoimhe Butterly (English/Arabic/Spanish) at 00357 99 081 767 / friends@freegaza.org
www.FreeGaza.org

WHAT YOU CAN DO!

CALL or FAX Major Liebovitz from the Israeli Navy at:
Tel + 972 5 781 86248 or +972 3737 7777 or +972 3737 6242
Fax +972 3737 6123 or +972 3737 7175

CALL Mark Regev in the Prime Minister’s office at:
Tel +972 2670 5354 or +972 5 0620 3264
mark.regev@it.pmo.gov.il

CALL Shlomo Dror in the Ministry of Defence at:
Tel +972 3697 5339 or +972 50629 8148
mediasar@mod.gov.il

Free Gaza Movement
357 99 081 767
www.freegaza.org
www.flickr.com/photos/29205195@N02/

FGM update on the “The Spirit of Humanity” on its way to Gaza

Posted in Gaza, International community, Non-violent resistance, Palestine, Siege with tags , , , , on 29/06/2009 by 3071km
After several days waiting in Cyprus’ port of Larnaca, the Free Gaza Movement team has sailed this morning one of its boats, “The Spirit of Humanity”, to the Gaza Strip.

Here’s an update of their current position. We’ll keep updating the details as soon as we get news from them.

We wish them all a peaceful and successful trip!!!

_____

E-mail received

29 / June / 2009 20:38 (GMT+1)

[GazaFriends] UPDATE on the Spirit’s voyage to Gaza

gazafriends.lists.riseup.net

Fes el seguiment del missatge

Dear Friends,

We’ve just heard from everyone on board the Spirit of Humanity. They are almost halfway to Gaza, a little over 100 kilometers off the coast of the Lebanon/Israel border. They’re a bit tired, but everyone is in good spirits and determined to reach Gaza. So far they have not seen any Israeli warships or had any radio contact with the IDF. You can see their latest position by clicking on the link below.

From aboard the Spirit, Free Gaza organizer Lubna Masarwa stated that, “We’re intent and unworried – we’re sailing on. We will go to Gaza, in solidarity with the people. We want to break the Israeli siege in a practical way, and not just with words. Our message to Gaza – from all the Palestinians in ’48 and in the West Bank, and from all the good people in the world is – You are not alone!”

SPOT Check OK.
ESN:0-7490415
Latitude:33.3474
Longitude:33.8294
Nearest Location:not known
Distance:not known
Time:06/29/2009 21:21:47 (Europe/Nicosia)
http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=33.3474,33.8294&ll=33.3474,33.8294&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

Coverage of Public Hearings in Gaza City

Posted in Gaza war crimes investigation, Operation Cast Lead, Siege, War crimes with tags , , , on 28/06/2009 by 3071km

Written by: Free Gaza Team

Date published: 26th June 2009 (updated 27th June 2009)

Source: Free Gaza Movement

_____

UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict – Updated Media Advisory on Coverage of Public Hearings in Gaza City

26 June 2009 – As part of its investigations into the December 2008 -January 2009 Gaza conflict, the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict will hold public hearings, on Sunday 28 and Monday 29 June in Gaza City and on Monday 6 and Tuesday 7 July in Geneva.

Because of security arrangements in Gaza, all media and the public will be able to view the proceedings at a separate location from the actual hearing room.

Members of the Fact Finding Mission will interview victims, witnesses and experts at UNWRA Headquarters in Gaza. Two television crews contracted by the UN will tape the hearings, which will be screened live for the public
and the media at the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, Tal Alhawwa, next to the Al Quds Hospital.

The times of the public hearings in Gaza local time are as follows:

Sunday 28 June
08:30 – 13:00 and 14:30 – 16:30 (05:30 – 10:00 and 11:30 – 13:30 GMT)

Monday 29 June
08:30 – 13:00 and 14:30 – 17:00 (05:30 – 10:00 and 11:30 – 14:00 GMT)

The audio from the speakers at the public screening will be in Arabic only.

Television Coverage

Television crews may attend the screening at the same location as the public. The live coverage from the hearing room will be available on W2A, which can be downlinked by European and Middle Eastern earth stations for global onpass. Both Arabic and English audio will be available. Parameters for transmissions are as follows:

Satellite: W2A @ 10°E
Transponder: F5
Channel: CH3
Uplink Freq: 14230.83
POL: Vertical
Downlink Freq: 12730.83
POL: Horizontal
Symbol Rate: 5.632
FEC Rate: 3/4

Radio Coverage

Audio outputs (XLR connections and a limited number of audio jacks) will be available at the screening room for radio journalists. These will be available in both Arabic and English.

Photographs

Still photographs taken by a photographer contracted by the UN will be uploaded onto an FTP server during the lunchtime break and at the end of the hearings. They can be downloaded by accessing the FTP server at:
ftp://ftp.ohchr.org

Username: FFMG2009
Password: P433FF

N/B both username and password are case sensitive.

For further information in English, please contact Doune Porter on +41 (0)79 477 2576, or +972 (0) 597 444 159, email dporter@ohchr.org

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it // <![CDATA[// <![CDATA[
document.write( ” );
// ]]>

For further information in Arabic, please contact Adnan Abu-Hasna on +972 (0)59 942 8061, email a.abu-hasna@unrwa.org

Gaza ‘war crimes’ hearing under way

Posted in Gaza, Gaza war crimes investigation, Hamas, Israel, Operation Cast Lead, Siege, War crimes, West Bank with tags , , , , , , on 28/06/2009 by 3071km
Date published: 28th June 2009

Source: Al-Jazeera English

_____

The UN fact-finding mission will hold public hearings in Gaza and Geneva on the 22-day Israeli offensive

A public hearing organised by a UN team investigating alleged war crimes by Israel and Hamas during the Gaza war is under way.

As part of its investigations into the December 2008 – January 2009 Gaza conflict, the UN fact-finding mission will listen to testimony from victims of the conflict for two days in Gaza City and hold a second round of public hearings on July 6 and July 7 in Geneva.

During the Gaza hearing, which began on Sunday and is being screened live for the public and the media, the mission will hear from victims of alleged violations and from experts on the context and impact of the Israeli siege and military operations.

The public hearings, which are a part of the information-gathering work of the fact-finding mission, will enable victims, witnesses and experts from all sides in the conflict to speak directly to the international community.

In Geneva, the mission will hear from victims of alleged violations in Israel and the West Bank, as well as from experts on a variety of military and legal issues.

Geneva has been chosen as the venue of the second round of hearings since the fact-finding mission has so far not received permission to enter Israel to hold the sessions in southern Israel and the West Bank.

‘Hearings limited’

The public hearings were called for by Richard Goldstone, head of the 15-member team and previously a member of the South African constitutional court.He has also investigated war crimes in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

“The purpose of the public hearings in Gaza and Geneva is to show the faces and broadcast the voices of victims – all of the victims,” Goldstone said on Thursday, at the end of a four-day fact-finding trip to Gaza.
Goldstone also added that the public hearings in both Gaza and Geneva will augment the ongoing investigations of the fact-finding mission.

“The hearings are limited in time and scope”, he said.

“The fact that not all important incidents and events are the subject of the public hearings should in no way be interpreted as meaning that the other incidents are of lesser importance or of less concern to the mission”.

The hearings are only one aspect of the mission’s investigative work.

Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros, reporting from Gaza, said: “The aim of this mission, according to Goldstone, is to broadcast the voices and to show the faces of the victims.”This is not about compensation or legal recourse. What the victims want is an opportunity to tell the world what happened in the hope that people will remember their story and the killings of their loves ones will not go unnoticed,” she said.

The mission is due to complete a report with its findings in August.

Israeli offensive

Israel launched its 22-day offensive against Gaza’s Hamas rulers and the Gazan people on 27 December.

The operation killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, including more than 900 civilians, among them scores of children, according to Palestinian officials and human rights groups.

It also destroyed thousands of homes and heavily damaged Gaza’s infrastructure.

Gaza’s reconstruction is being hampered by Israel’s blockade of Gaza [EPA]

Israel claims the death toll was lower and most of the dead were Hamas fighters.Thirteen Israelis were also killed during the fighting.

Gaza’s reconstruction is being hampered by Israel’s blockade of Gaza which dates back to June 2007 when Hamas took control of the territory.

Since then, Israel and Egypt, which control Gaza’s only border crossing that bypasses Israel, have kept the territory of 1.5 million aid-dependent people sealed to all but essential humanitarian supplies.

Israel has insisted that the blockade is necessary to prevent Hamas from arming itself, but human rights groups say it is a collective punishment.

The fact-finding mission is mandated by the UN to investigate all violations of international human rights and humanitarian laws that might have been committed at any time in the context of the military operations conducted in Gaza.

During the public hearings, witnesses and experts will speak about incidents and experiences regarding loss of life, attacks on physical integrity, destruction of industry and livelihood, and the effects of prolonged conflict on mental health, among others.

Egypt re-opens Rafah crossing

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Gaza, Hamas, Palestine, Siege with tags , on 27/06/2009 by 3071km

Date published: 27th June 2009
Source: Al-Jazeera English
_____
Egypt re-opens Rafah crossing

The crossing was to remain open for three days [AFP]

Egypt has re-opened the Rafah crossing with Gaza for three days to allow Gazan patients, students and visa-holders to leave the besieged Hamas-ruled Strip, an Egyptian official at the crossing has said.

Israel has sealed Gaza off from all but vital humanitarian aid and has strictly limited movement into and out of the territory since Hamas movement seized power in June 2007.

Egypt has occasionally opened the Rafah crossing – the only Gaza crossing that bypasses Israel – to allow aid in and students and medical cases out.

In a surprise visit to the crossing, Ismail Haniya, the Hamas leader, said he hoped to see its “complete” re-opening.

“We are prepared and ready [to operate the crossing] according to arrangements undertaken with our Egyptian brothers, the Europeans, the presidential guard [of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president] and the [Hamas-run] government.”

Egypt has consistently rejected pressure to open its border with the Gaza Strip permanently, insisting it can only do so when the Abbas’ authority has been restored.

An international agreement signed by Israel and Abbas’ Palestinian Authority in 2005 provided for EU monitoring of all traffic across the border and the installation of Israeli security cameras.

But Hamas has rejected any Israeli presence at the crossing.

25/06: Free Gaza Movement first departure for the Gaza Strip

Posted in Gaza, Non-violent resistance, Siege with tags , on 24/06/2009 by 3071km

Written by the FGM team

Date published: 24th June 2009

Source: Free Gaza Movement

_____

The FGM is sending the first 2009 ships to the Gaza Strip tomorrow and we’re sending all of them our best wishes in this new adventure!!!

PRESS ADVISORY
24 June 2009

The Free Gaza Movement will depart Larnaca Port for the Gaza Strip at 10am on Thursday 25 June. We are sending two ships, the Free Gaza and the Spirit of Humanity, with 3 tons of medical supplies, 15 tons of cement, and human rights workers and journalists from 14 countries, including Nobel laureate Mairead Maguire and former U.S. Congresswoman and presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney. This will be our first attempt to challenge Israel’s naval blockade on Gaza by sea since the Israeli Navy brutally rammed our boat, DIGNITY in December, and nearly sank the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY with all on board in January.

We will be holding a press conference at Larnaca Port between 9am and 10am, prior to our departure.

For more information, please contact Greta Berlin or Ramzi Kysia at +357 99 081 767, friends@freegaza.org

Aid agencies slam Gaza blockade

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Gaza, Gaza reconstruction, International community, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Siege with tags , , on 24/06/2009 by 3071km

Written by Mel Frykberg

Date Published: 22nd June 2009

Original source: Inter Press Service [The Electronic Intifada, 22/06/09]

_____

Media coverage on worldwide protests

Posted in Gaza, Hamas, International community, Israel, Israel's separation wall, Israeli politics, Non-violent resistance, Palestine, Siege, USA foreign policy, West Bank with tags , , , , , , , on 23/06/2009 by 3071km

Written by Matthew Cassel

Date published: 23rd June 2009

Source: The Electronic Intifada

_____

This is an interesting editorial on media coverage of worldwide protests. Certainly there are strong reasons for deciding whether protests are news or can be just ignored, even if most of the times the reasons behind are not clearly specified. Cassel explains why nowadays protests in Iran are receiving more attention than protests in other places of the world.


The Western media and Iran

Protestors, anywhere in the world, are extremely brave individuals whose reasons for demonstrating openly should be listened to and respected. Protest is democracy at work. However, too often, US and other Western-based media pick and choose which protests to cover and which to ignore completely.

The US media often celebrate themselves as the “freest and fairest” in the world, completely independent of a state unlike, for example, the media in Iran. Yet, an astute observer will notice that the US media generally choose stories and cover them in a way that play directly into the US’s global agenda.

Who decides whether or not a particular issue is “newsworthy?” One would think that this is the role of the media, to cover issues like conflict or rights abuses as they happen around the world. Although, it seems this isn’t the case. Most Western media appear to follow their government’s lead when focusing on different issues and then cover them in a way fitting with the government’s position, hence the complete domination of events in Iran in nearly every single Western media outlet and the overwhelmingly positive portrayal of the protestors and the opposition as just. The current case of Iran makes it clear that it is governments who are directing the media’s coverage, instead of the actual news organizations themselves.

There was also a noticeable shift in the US media’s coverage of foreign affairs after the attacks of 11 September 2001. Soon after, then President George Bush’s rule of “with us or against us” was applied to all, and media outlets and individuals critical of American foreign policy were immediately demonized and labeled “unpatriotic” or “anti-American.” To counter such charges, it became common for American television journalists to prove their patriotism and loyalty by wearing American-flag lapel pins.

These reasons explain why over recent weeks while the Iran elections were happening there has been virtually no coverage in most media of demonstrations numbering in the tens of thousands in Georgia or Peru. It has even been reported in Peru that dozens of persons have been killed during the protests, or “clashes” as they’ve also been labeled (since more than a dozen police have also been killed), more than the reported number killed in Iran.

Why are protests in Iran receiving more attention than those in other places? One logical explanation is that the Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili is a key ally of the US and NATO. Thus, the West and its media have remained largely silent about the opposition protests to not give them attention that would likely inspire the demonstrations to continue and grow, undoubtedly weakening the Saakashvili government.

Meanwhile, the situation in Latin America is particularly sensitive. Coverage of protests by indigenous groups and their supporters in Peru might further embolden these efforts and expose the unjust policies of recent Free Trade Agreements with the US and perhaps lead that country down a path like the increasingly popular governments of Venezuela or Bolivia. Of course, both nations are seen as “anti-American” for their critical positions regarding US intervention in Latin America.

However, Iran is different than both Georgia and Peru. Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad has probably overtaken Osama Bin Laden as the most hated individual in the US. Over the past several years, many officials in Washington have called for more aggressive actions to be taken against Iran. More recently, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave US President Barack Obama an ultimatum that the US president better take care of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program, or else Israel would. It’s no coincidence then that the protests in Iran are receiving around-the-clock media coverage and are also one of the only examples in recent years where US government officials have showed support for demonstrators like Obama did when he called on Iran to “stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people.” They are certainly not the only protests that have been met with violent government repression.

For years, Palestinians have organized weekly nonviolent demonstrations against Israel’s wall in the West Bank. Each week protestors face the heavily-armed Israeli military and are beaten and shot at with rubber-coated steel bullets and tear-gas canisters, sometimes fatally. Yet, during his recent speech in Cairo to the Muslim world, Obama made no reference to these protests and instead called on Palestinians to “abandon violence” and adopt nonviolent means. Days after the speech a Palestinian was killed and a teenager wounded during the weekly protest, yet there has been no call by the US administration for Israel to “stop all violent and unjust actions” against the Palestinian people. And the media has followed and remained silent, even though covering the demonstrations would be as easy as a 30-minute drive from most Jerusalem-based news bureaus on any given Friday.

Furthermore, at the height of the Bush Administration’s call for “democracy” in the Middle East, an indigenous democratic movement arose in Egypt to challenge the corruption and failed economic policies of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Comprised of workers who organized unprecedented strikes for four years that grew in number with each successive rally, the demonstrations received little coverage in the US. An odd occurrence, considering the duration of the strikes and the size of the protests, which a number of observers believe had the potential to lead to something much bigger in Egypt, perhaps even a “revolution.” The lack of media coverage of these events can only be explained by the relationship between the US and Egypt. Mubarak, who has governed Egypt for nearly three decades, is often referred to as a dictator for his repression of opposition political figures and journalists critical of his government. Yet, he remains one of the most important US allies in the Middle East, so “violent and unjust actions” against Egyptians are tolerated by the West.

Similarly, during Israel’s three-week assault on Gaza this past winter, there were massive and unprecedented demonstrations across the Middle East in support of Palestinians in the besieged territory. Again, these received minor if any mention, likely because it challenged the media and Washington’s narrative that Israel was “fighting Hamas.”

Also in accordance with that narrative, there was scant footage broadcast in the Western media from inside Gaza. Similar to what Iran is doing now, Israel banned journalists from entering Gaza during the attacks. Despite this, there were large Arabic-language satellite stations like Al-Jazeera reporting from the ground with footage of nearly everything that was happening there.

When images were shown by CNN or its competitors, it was generally not true to the real horror faced by Palestinians in Gaza. I can’t recall seeing one video of one of the hundreds of children killed in Gaza shown in the US media. In contrast, two days ago CNN broadcasted footage of a woman who was shot and bleeding to death on a Tehran street. Most of these viral videos are taken on citizens’ mobile phones, and they even have a special logo that CNN has created for the “unverified material.”

But there is plenty of “verified material” showing violent images from the Middle East and many other places around the world in recent days, weeks, years that has never been shown. Videos and testimonials are readily available on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, waiting, indeed begging, for the US media to take notice. But coverage of certain places might contradict US foreign policy there, something much of the media are proving unwilling to do.

If the elections and demonstrations in Iran have revealed anything, it is that there are undeniably huge divisions that will greatly affect the future of the country. It’s the individual’s decision to choose which side he or she supports, if any. And it’s the responsibility of the media to be independent of the authorities and to present accurate information in context so that news consumers’ judgments will be informed and not made based off the foreign policy of Western governments.

A free and independent media is an essential part of any democracy, and something that the West is proving more and more that it lacks.

Matthew Cassel is Assistant Editor of The Electronic Intifada.