Winter Trip 2010: Post #6

I’m in England now.  I’m a big fan of the United Kingdom everything looks so classy.  The cities we have visited (I am traveling with my friend Jack)  are beautiful and everything is done up for christmas so many places look like they could be in a card.

I’ve realized that I have tried to fit too much into one week.  I wanted to see as much of the country as possible, but in order to see all of the sights I should have really chosen a part of the country to stick with.  It’s okay, though because I am seeing different parts of the countryside, meeting Jack’s friends, exploring,  and still seeing some cool places.

Here is a brief outline of what we have been doing.  It’s more condensed since I have a tighter travel schedule.

Tuesday – Part 2

  • After several delays, I finally got on a plane to Berlin.
  • I basically ran through the airport to get my plane to England, which it turns out, was also delayed.
  • Wen I arrived in London, Jack and his friend picked me up.
  • We drove around the city for a while to see the sights at night.

Wednesday

  • We drove from London to Windsor.
  • We walked around Windsor, walked around the castle (didn’t go in), and visited the Build-A-Bear Workshop UK Headquarters.
  • We drove by the Ascot Raceway.
  • We visited Stonehenge.  It was quite interesting and in the middle of nowhere.
  • We drove through Bath on the way to Bristol.
  • We went to a few pubs in Bristol with Jack’s friends.

Thursday

  • We woke up a bit late as we were exhausted.
  • We drove into Wales to visit Cardiff, the capital.
  • We walked around the city and met Jack’s friend for lunch.
  • We visited Cardiff Castle, my first real castle.  The castle is from before 1100.  It was great.
  • We went to a fancy dress shop – i.e. a costume store to get costumes for the Christmas party at the Cub Scout meeting we were going to.
  • We went to Cheltenham, where Jack went to University, met Jack’s friend,  and went to a Cub Scout meeting.  They had a Christmas party and played games I’ve never seen in the U.S.  It was pretty exciting.
  • We went out after Cubs and I got my first authentic Fish & Chips.

Friday

  • We drove to Bunbury, where Jack is from.  I’ve now met his family.
  • I saw Jack’s family’s chickens 🙂
  • We ate lunh at Jack’s home.
  • We (me, Jack, Jack’s mom) went to Beeston Castle, near Jack’s home.  Some of it is still standing and other parts are in ruin.  It was quite large and interesting.  While there, we (well, Jack and his mom) got interviewed for a series on Britain’s best views in The Guardian to be posted online.  Quite exciting.
  • We went to the Ice Cream Farm.
  • We went to Chester, a nearby city, and walked along the Roman walls.  The walls are the most complete set of Roman/Medeval walls in Britian.  We explored some of the shopping in the city, etc.
  • We went to Jack’s best friend’s house and talked to Jack’s best friend’s mom and sister.  I had my first English tea.
  • We went back to Jack’s house and then went to a nice pub with the family for a great dinner.  I had a fish pie.  For desert, Jack and I shared a cheese board.
  • I’ve been talking with Jack’s parents.

We’ve been listening to BBC Radio 1 on the drive.  It’s much more entertaining than most stations I have listened to in the U.S.

Saturday night, we are going to a Liverpool game.  Sunday we had back to London and will be there until I leave on Tuesday.  It is quite a busy/fun trip.

Gaza Flotilla – Not About Freedom

Last night (U.S. Time), Israel attacked a flotilla that was bound for Gaza.  Israel has blockaded Gaza due to the rule of Hamas and terrorist activities.  While this blockade is well-known, some groups (mostly humanitarian but many with pro-Palestinian and/or pro-extremist ties) have tried to run the blockade and reach Gaza.  Israel and the UN allow humanitarian aid in and offered the flotilla the opportunity to pass the aid on, after a security check.  The offer was turned down.

After being warned to turn around/stop, Israeli soldiers boarded the flotilla ships.  They were attacked by the people on the ships.  According to one Israeli Navy commander, the people on board “came for war”.  The soldiers responded, believing their lives were in danger, and ended up killing several (10 – but number still uncertain) on board the ships and wounding others.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had been in Canada, canceled a trip to Washington to meet with Obama on Tuesday in order to return home and deal with the impending international crisis.  Obama called Netanyahu today and the two discussed the need to know the facts as soon as possible.  European leaders are already using the incident as a call to end the Gaza blockade and instead act against Israel.  Obama and Netanyahu plan to reschedule their meeting.

Israel has the right to stop ships and check their contents for security reasons (as do all sovereign countries), nevertheless, extremists are using the opportunity to call for attacks against Israel.  To some extent, Turkey is even giving credence to these calls and encouraging some sort of protest against Israel.

"A television grab from Turkish station Cihan shows Navy troops storming the Mavi Marmara" - From Times Online

While it is clear that my views are pro-Israel (which does not mean that I am anti-Palestinian), I try to have a fairly balanced view of situations like this.  The mainstream media, including the BBC article linked to above, almost always represent Israel negatively.  This is biased and untruthful, yet continues to happen.  As such, below are some notes and quotes on the situation, from Stand With Us.  Stand With Us is obviously pro-Israel, but I think these notes are obviously true regardless of whether or not one agrees with the situation that is unfolding.  Clearly we need more information on what actually happened – and it is unlikely to come from unbiased sources.

• Activists carried out a pre-planned violence, armed with knives and metal bars, each sailor being attacked by a mob of a dozen extremists

• The provocateurs were organized by an Islamist organization that has links to fundamentalist jihadi groups.

• The extremists brought small children on board knowing that they intended to violate international maritime law.

• Israel offered to transfer the aid to Gaza again and again – they refused – and chose confrontation.

• Israeli Minister Danny Ayalon: “Weapons found on board; the organizers intent was violent, their method was violent and the result was, unfortunately violent”

• Israeli Minister Danny Ayalon: “We repeatedly called on the organizers to stop this provocation”

• Israeli Minister Danny Ayalon: “The maritime blockade in Gaza is because of the terrorism of Hamas”

• Israeli Minister Danny Ayalon: Allowing the illegal flotilla to reach Hamas would have opened a corridor of smuggling of weapons to Gaza and resulting in civilian deaths.

• Israel transfers about 15,000 tons of supplies and humanitarian aid every week to the people of Gaza.

• “We fully intend to go to Gaza regardless of any intimidation or threats of violence against us, they are going to have to forcefully stop us,” said one of the flotilla’s organizers

• Using the Arabic term ‘intifada,’ Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said “We call on all Arabs and Muslims to rise up in front of Zionist embassies across the whole world.

• Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said this week: “If the ships reach Gaza it is a victory; if they are intercepted, it will be a victory too”; Hamas is responsible for the suffering of both Palestinians and Israelis.

• Israel left Gaza in hopes of peace in 2005 and in return received more than 10,000 rockets and terrorist attacks.

• Israel has said that it will deliver any humanitarian aid to Gaza, as it does daily.

• No country would allow illegal entry of any vessel into their waters without a security check.

• Any police force in the world would respond to aggression; the provocation is the reason for this regrettable outcome.

• Wounded, including violent activists, are receiving medical treatment in Israeli hospitals.

Al-Jazeera TV Report from “Freedom Flotilla” Before Its Departure for Gaza: Activists on Board Chant Intifada Songs and Praise Martyrdom.
http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/2489.htm

Israeli Navy addresses a ship in the flotilla and offers it to dock in the Ashdod port:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKOmLP4yHb4

BBC report shows violent, masked activists on ship:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/10195838.stm

Read StandWithUs Statement:
http://www.standwithus.com/app/iNews/view_n.asp?ID=1444

Ironically, all of this is unfolding on the United States’ Memorial Day.  The flotilla claimed to be pro-freedom, but their preparation for violent attacks and resulting occurrences show that freedom may not have been the main or entire purpose of this group.

My friend offered the following thoughts on Facebook:

Dear Palestinian “Peace Activists,” You don’t approach an area under blockade and NOT expect to be stopped. THOUSANDS of heavy weapons have historically been smuggled into Gaza so don’t blame Israel for wanting to ensure its own security by searching your ship. Moreover, why not just submit to the search and be on your way… No, go ahead and attack Israeli commandos and see how that works out for ya. Morons. That said, its truly sad for so much loss of life…

Syria and Lebanon claim the attack could lead to war.  This is not surprising and could be a way to once again delay any sort of peace process.