The “Freedom Flotilla” has embarked on what it calls a “humanitarian mission” to break Israel’s “siege” of about 1.5 million Palestinians who live in Gaza. Ships from Turkey, Britain, Greece, Algeria, Kuwait, Malaysia and Ireland are carrying between 700 and 800 pro-Palestinian activists and about 10,000 tons of medical equipment and medicine, construction materials and food worth an estimated €20 million.
It is less than clear, however, whether the flotilla organizers, who include the Free Gaza Movement and the Istanbul-based Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH), are genuinely seeking freedom. The main objective seems, instead, to be the delegitimization of Israel’s right to protect itself from “Hamastan,” the radical Muslim state created in Gaza since Israel evacuated 8,000 Jewish settlers and dismantled 17 communities as a gesture of peace in 2005, and Hamas violently seized full control two years later.
If these activists were truly concerned about the plight of the Palestinian people in Gaza, they would happily have accepted Israel’s offer to facilitate the transfer of their humanitarian cargo to Gaza, after it was inspected to ensure that it contained no arms. Their initial refusal to grant the Schalit family’s request to deliver packages to their son Gilad – who has been held in Hamas captivity for almost four years without access to the Red Cross, in stark violation of international law – was a further indication of these activists’ underwhelming championing of humanitarianism.
Israel’s sanctions, which restrict fuel and gas supplies and prevent the import of many construction materials, have hit the Gaza population hard. However, they are applied in accordance with international law and are carefully monitored by the Supreme Court. They are designed to prevent Hamas from importing materials that can be used to created weapons and fortifications, or using fuel and gas to operate arms production.
And though many are suffering, Israel is careful to ensure that basic necessities are supplied and that those in need of medical care outside Gaza receive it, even if in the past some have taken advantage of this humanitarian leniency to advance terrorism. Incidentally, there is evidence that at least some Gazans are enjoying a higher standard of living. Just last week, the As-Sadaka Club celebrated the opening of a new Olympic-size swimming pool, Gaza’s first, and a manager at the Roots Club in Gaza City proudly confirmed to journalist Tom Gross that business was booming and that many Palestinian and international guests were dining on a wide array of gourmet dishes. A spokesman for the Hamas Interior Ministry said his ministry had finalized a plan to provide security protection from al-Qaida-inspired terrorists at holiday sites such as restaurants and beaches this summer.
ISRAEL AND Egypt implemented sanctions after Hamas violently took over the Gaza Strip from Fatah in June 2007 amid bloody fighting that left 161 Palestinians dead, including seven children. They are aimed at forcing Hamas to give up its armed struggle against Israel and recognize Israel’s right to exist. This is part of a wider international strategy to isolate Hamas, which is considered a terrorist organization by the US, the EU, Japan, Britain, Australia and Canada.
Thanks to Iran’s support, Hamas has so far managed to brave sanctions.
But if pressure can be maintained, Hamas will face the choice of
abandoning terrorism and recognizing Israel, or risking a gradual
disintegration of support, as Gazans compare their conditions under the
benighted Islamists with the increasingly flourishing West Bank. In
this context, the “Freedom Flotilla” is further undermining the true
interests of Gaza’s Palestinians.
Hamas-controlled Gaza, furthermore, is a major obstacle to any future
peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Even if Israel
manages to progress in negotiations with the Fatah-led Palestinian
Authority, any peace agreement would be unimplementable so long as the
implacably rejectionist Hamas controls Gaza.
If the activists behind the Freedom Flotilla were sincerely interested
in advancing peace between Israel and the Palestinians, they would be
castigating Hamas for its unrelenting rejectionism and urging it to
relinquish power or shift toward positions that would enable a viable
two-state solution. Instead, those activists are attempting to shift
the focus from the nightmare reality Hamas has created for Gazans to a
misrepresentation of Israel’s attempt to protect itself from the terror
state on its southern doorstep.
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