No effort being spared by Israel to sink the flotilla

“Dear IDF: If you end up shooting any Americans on the new Gaza flotilla — well, most Americans are cool with that. Including me” — a provocative tweet from Joshua Treviño, co-founder of the popular conservative blog RedState.

“How do you feel about the IDF shooting journalists on board the flotilla?” asks Joseph Dana (@ibnezra) who is reporting for The Nation.

“As you’ve fairly clearly aligned yourself with the flotilla’s goals, @ibnezra, I don’t care what happens to you,” comes the response.

There’s little doubt Treviño wants to bait supporters of the flotilla. The question is: are most Americans cool with the prospect of Israeli soldiers shooting unarmed American protesters?

That’s a loaded question, Treviño would no doubt retort: “the aim of the Flotilla is not humanitarian, but political: to open up supply lines to Hamas, so it can wreak further violence,” he claims.

The Obama administration could be perceived as sharing his view.

“We underscore that delivering or attempting or conspiring to deliver material support or other resources to or for the benefit of a designated foreign terrorist organization, such as Hamas, could violate U.S. civil and criminal statutes and could lead to fines and incarceration,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland warned on Friday.

What the State Department and others have failed to note is that the goal of The Audacity of Hope and the Americans on board, is to break the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza simply by reaching the Palestinian enclave. The ship is not carrying any humanitarian aid.

The idea that the goal of the flotilla is to open up supply lines for Hamas is absurd for two reasons.

Firstly, throughout the duration of the blockade of Gaza, Hamas’ supply lines have never been severed. Thousands of tunnels have operated running under Gaza’s southern border throughout the siege.

Secondly, the borders that need opening are those controlled by Israel. Does anyone imagine that when this happens, the Israelis will be opening up new supply lines for Hamas?

Having flattened much of Gaza during Operation Cast Lead in late December 2008 and early January 2009, Israel has long argued that it cannot allow the free flow of construction materials into Gaza because they could be used by Hamas to construct bunkers and bombs.

But since the fall of Mubarak, such materials have been streaming into Gaza unimpeded by Egyptian authorities — a steady flow of 3,000 tons a day.

The New York Times reports on how these materials are being used:

Streets are being paved and buildings constructed.

“Mubarak was crushing us before,” said Mahmoud Mohammad, a subcontractor whose 10-man crew in Gaza City was unloading steel bars that were carried through the tunnels and were destined for a new restaurant. “Last year we were sitting at home. The contractor I work for has three major projects going.”

Nearby, Amer Selmi was supervising the building of a three-story, $2 million wedding hall. Most of his materials come from the tunnels.

Karim Gharbawi is an architect and building designer with 10 projects under way, all of them eight- and nine-story residential properties. He said there were some 130 engineering and design firms in Gaza. Two years ago, none were working. Today, he said, all of them are.

As Israel prepares for a showdown on the high seas and the potentially embarrassing prospect of detaining a shipload of mostly middle-aged American Jews, its latest threat has been directed at the press.

Israel’s Government Press Office issued a letter Sunday to foreign journalists, warning them that participating in the upcoming flotilla sailing to Gaza is illegal under Israeli law, and could result in anyone who joins the convoy being barred from Israel for up to 10 years.

The letter, signed by GPO director Oren Helman, states that the flotilla “is a dangerous provocation that is being organized by western and Islamic extremist elements to aid Hamas.”

Helman asks editors to inform journalists that the Israel Defense Forces have been ordered to stop the convoy of ships from reaching Gaza, given that “The flotilla intends to knowingly violate the blockade that has been declared legally and is in accordance with all treaties and international law.”

Furthermore, the letter says, “participation in the flotilla is an intentional violation of Israeli law and is liable to lead to participants being denied entry into the State of Israel for ten years, to the impoundment of their equipment and to additional sanctions.”

The Foreign Press Association today urged the Israeli government to reverse its threat to punish journalists covering the Gaza flotilla, saying that the move “sends a chilling message to the international media and raises serious questions about Israel’s commitment to freedom of the press.”

There are now suggestions that Israel’s hysterical fear of the flotilla has reached such heights that for the sake of avoiding another public relations debacle, Israel is willing to threaten the future of Greece.

A press release from US Boat to Gaza issued today says:

Passengers on the U.S. Boat to Gaza, The Audacity of Hope, are asking Greek government officials to clarify whether the boat they are leasing is being blocked from leaving Greece because of an anonymous request of a private citizen concerning the seaworthiness of the ship or whether a political decision has been made by the Greek government in response to U.S. and Israeli government pressure. They specifically want to know if the U.S. is using its leverage at the International Monetary Fund over the implementation of an ongoing bailout of European banks with massive Greek debts to compel the Greek government to block the U.S. Boat to Gaza from leaving Greece.

On the morning of June 23, the American passengers learned that a “private complaint” had been filed against the U.S. Boat to Gaza, which is part of an international flotilla scheduled to sail to Gaza in the next few days. This complaint, its origin still unknown to the Americans, claimed that the boat is “not seaworthy” and therefore requires a detailed inspection. On June 25 a police order declared that until the complaint is resolved the boat will not be permitted to leave.

The passengers are wondering if Israel, which has extensive economic trade and investments in Greece, is using its clout to pressure the Greek government. “Israel has said openly that it is pressuring governments to try to stop the flotilla, and clearly Greece is a key government since several of the boats plan to leave from Greece,” says passenger Medea Benajmin. “It is unconscionable that Israel would take advantage of the economic hardship the Greek people are experiencing to try to stop our boat or the flotilla.”

The Greek government is already fighting for its life in the face of widespread opposition to imposed austerity measures. It can hardly afford to be seen to be bowing to Israeli pressure.

Evangelos Pissias, one of the Greek members of the Flotilla II steering committee, says:

From our side, we are not aggressive. But we are a proud people. We have self-respect. We think that dignity is beyond everything. And the Israeli government hurts our dignity… We are sure that the Greek people will not accept any action that will put obstacles in the way of our project, because they supported our project. Our project is among the most grass-rooted of campaigns, regarding all the partners that worked together to build the Flotilla II. The Greek people will not accept any kind of interference, and they will not accept any subordination from our government.

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4 thoughts on “No effort being spared by Israel to sink the flotilla

  1. Christopher Hoare

    The more the Israelis and American administration use economic and strong-arm pressure against Gaza II the more notice people of the world will take and the more disgust they will feel at the fascist tactics. Defeat here will never lose the war. This is, of course, the whole purpose of the convoy—are the Israelis too stupid to see this? The gods are certainly making them mad enough to destroy themselves. (The US administration may not be fooled, but the Congressional clowns that make most noise likely are.)

    The military actions against the convoy will be illegal because the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestine is illegal.

  2. BillVZ

    Certainly Israel did not enjoy the publicity the results of the previous flotilla earned them. They will attempt to eliminate a repeat of that occurrence by doing whatever it takes from their vast armory of propaganda-threats, smears, false interpretation of international law, political and economic manipulation- all of which are based on supportfrom the UN, and the United States. Of course keeping this fiasco in the media now is just what they want. World opinion of outrage and disapproval means little to them when they, with the US,IMF can threaten and manipulate counties like Greece and Turkey with economic threats.
    I read somewhere that a blockade of 200 nautical miles plus which is totally illegal under international law and classed as an act of War – not that might mean anything though to either the US or them.
    Thanks Paul for your posting. Here is a thought for the day;

    ‘Israel is the only country in the history of the world where the oppressors have attempted to perceive themselves as being the victims.’Israeli writer Gideon Levy

  3. Ellen Cantarow

    A postscript: both comments I’ve read are really articulate and to the point. Trouble is, Israel is crazy, paranoid, and almost incomparably dangerous. It’s a very scary wait-and-see moment. It’s possible the flotilla will get some good publicity from all of this, but the trouble is, I’ve seen nothing of any substance in the US mainstream media. Maybe Guardian/Independent/Le Monde/Il Manifesto/Repubblica have. But next to the US media they don’t count.

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