Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Gaza aid flotilla to set sail for confrontation with Israel.

A flotilla of eight boats carrying thousands of tonnes of construction materials, medical equipment and other aid is heading for Gaza.

The problem is that the Israelis are likely to try to stop this aid from reaching the people it is holding under a strict blockade.

Three cargo ships and five passenger vessels plan to meet up in international waters between Cyprus and Gaza Strip before heading towards Gaza City. The Israeli military is expected to stop the flotilla and divert it to the Israeli port of Ashdod.

One of the organisers of the flotilla, which includes three vessels from Turkey, is IHH, a humanitarian aid group supported by Ankara. Diplomatic relations between Turkey and Israel have deteriorated since the Israelis launched a three-week war on Gaza in 2008-09. An attempt to block the flotilla is likely to increase tensions between the two countries. The Turkish prime minister, Racep Tayyip Erdogan, has called on Israel to avoid this be allowing the boats through.

"This could make relations between Israel and Turkey more complicated," said Yigal Palmor, an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman.

On board the ships are 10,000 tonnes of cargo and about 700-800 activists and politicians from more than 40 countries. The cargo includes building materials, medical supplies and paper for schools. One boat is carrying a complete dental surgery including drills. Crayons and chocolate are also on board for Gazan children. The cargo has been paid for by donations.

"We're trying to break the blockade of the Gaza Strip and tell the world that Israel has no right to starve 1.5 million Palestinians," said Greta Berlin, of the Free Gaza Movement, another organiser of the flotilla. "We are bringing in vitally needed supplies so the people of Gaza can rebuild their infrastructure."

The Israeli blockade is disgraceful. Israel decided many months ago to try to starve the Palestinians into submission.

The only real surprise is that it has taken so long for other nations to attempt to stop this barbarity.

The people of Palestine are being punished for making what Israel - and certain countries in the west - regard as the wrong choice in an election. That we can be doing this whilst telling the world that we promote democracy is simply a sick joke.

But Israel, when she imposed this blockade, was not in the isolated position she now finds herself in. Now, Israel finds herself at odds with the US, which means she will find herself under a new kind of pressure should she attempt to turn these boats away.

John Ging, head of the main UN agency in Gaza, urged more ships carrying aid to be sent: "We believe that Israel would not stop these vessels because the sea is open, and many human rights organisations have been successful in previous similar steps, and proved that breaking the siege on Gaza is possible."

Earlier this week, a UN report said that three-quarters of the damage caused to Gaza's infrastructure during the three-week military conflict has not been repaired because of the blockade.

Mark Regev, the Israeli prime minister's spokesman, said: "It is strange that human rights activists are acting as apologists for a regime that is brutally repressing human rights. Hamas oppresses women, gays and Christians, has crushed independent media and destroyed all political opposition." He added that 15,000 tonnes of aid was allowed into Gaza every week.

So, Mark Regev is going to start lecturing the rest of us on what represents human rights, whilst defending the blockade of the Palestinians for daring to vote the wrong way in an election. That man has never understood the meaning of irony.

The Israeli blockade of Gaza is simply wrong. This flotilla sets out to challenge that wrong. We are about to find out just how obstinate the Israelis want to be.

Click here for full article.


Steel Phoenix said...

My prediction on this is that they will keep it out unless then political heat gets too high, at which point they will let it through. When it looks like a solid amount of infrastructure has been rebuilt, Israel will just flatten it again.

Kel said...

It's too depressing for words, Dave. I just want Obama to make them stop this barbarism.