Center-right MEPs come out against new Gaza flotilla

ByJONNY PAUL
May 12, 2011 03:45

15 vessels, 1,500 people hope to break blockade at end of month; European Parliament members call plan "an act of provocation."




Mavi Marmara

flotilla 311. (photo credit:Creative Commons)

LONDON – Plans for a new protest flotilla to Gaza are “an act of provocation” against the State of Israel and should be strongly condemned by the European Union, two prominent members of the European Parliament said on Wednesday.

MEPs Charles Tannock and Peter van Dalen from the European Conservatives and Reformists group in the Parliament both condemned the initiative, which is being planned for the end of May, to coincide with the anniversary of last year’s flotilla incident, but which may be delayed.

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Anti-Israel activists plan to join the Turkish Islamist IHH organization in another attempt to break the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip. It is believed that they plan to embark from a Mediterranean country other than Turkey, with up to 15 vessels and 1,500 people from an array of countries.

“This flotilla is deliberately intended to provoke Israel into a response,” Dr. Tannock, a British MEP and the European Conservatives and Reformists’ foreign affairs spokesman, said. “Given that Israel faces a daily threat from terrorist attacks by Hamas, it is well within its rights to take necessary action and impose a naval blockade to prevent weapons and other terrorist resources from entering the Gaza Strip.


“The international community was very swift to chastise Israel for its actions against the Mavi Marmara last year.

This flotilla is deliberately intending to again provoke a response from Israel, and this incredibly irresponsible and hostile action must be condemned by the EU and High Representative Baroness [Catherine] Ashton,” Tannock said.

Van Dalen, whose party in the Dutch parliament has called for the Dutch government to take action at EU level, said: “A peaceful settlement in the Middle East will not be assisted by deliberately provocative and incendiary acts from left-wing groups intent on making a political point.

“Israel has already eased the blockade on Gaza and there is evidence that it has taken steps to ensure the passage of humanitarian assistance to those who need it,” he said.

“If these groups attempt to run the blockade, then they should not be surprised by the response they will receive. Israel has a right to defend itself,” van Dalen said.

The proposed flotilla was also criticized by EU foreign policy chief Ashton. Speaking in Strasbourg on Wednesday, she said living conditions in Gaza are “awful” in part owing to the Israeli blockade, but added: “I don’t consider a flotilla to be the right response.”

Meanwhile, the Amsterdam- based group European Jews for a Just Peace has called for activists to take part in the proposed flotilla but warned there was a risk of violence.

Promotional material read: “You will have to set aside sufficient time for being at the port of departure, somewhere in the east Mediterranean, on board and then in Israel before (most likely) being deported.

“There is a risk of violence and the likelihood of being banned from entering Israel for 10 years, unless you’re an Israeli citizen. You will also have to cover your own costs,” the group said.

“At last Israel is beginning to feel the heat over condemnations of the blockade of Gaza and the refusal to negotiate a just Palestinian settlement,” said Glyn Secker, a a member of the British group Jews for Justice for Palestinians, in response to rumors surfacing that Israel may allow the new flotilla to reach the Strip.

“As JfJfP we are proud, and as captain of the Jewish Boat to Gaza last year, I’m very proud to have played a part in this. It’s great that EJJP will be part of the May flotilla,” Secker said.

On Tuesday, flotilla organizer Manuel Tapial told press at the EU Parliament in Strasbourg that Willy Meyer, a left-wing Spanish eurodeputy, and Paul Murphy, a left-wing Irish member, will be on two of the vessels.

In Ireland, anti-Israel activists have reportedly purchased a vessel to take part in the flotilla. Other activists set to sail include former Fianna Fáil MP Chris Andrews and his party colleague Sen. Mark Daly, Sinn Féin MP Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Left Alliance MP Richard Boyd Barrett, Sinn Féin councillor Gerry MacLochlainn and artist Felim Egan.

Most of the Irish activists support a blanket boycott of Israel.

During Operation Cast Lead, Ó Snodaigh claimed that Alan Shatter, a Jewish MP, and the Israeli ambassador had employed “propaganda, twisted logic and half truths” in speaking to the Irish Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs. He also said that Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda minister, would have been proud of such comments.

Andrews also referred to Israel as a terror state. He also called for an economic, diplomatic and political boycott of Israel and for its ambassador to be expelled.

Barrett said that Israel is “a state built on violence, oppression and apartheid,” and “has no right to exist” as long as it denies rights to Palestinians.

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