Ships of fools

Preventing a repeat of the 'Mavi Marmara' debacle would be the most fitting way for the flotilla activists to commemorate that recent one-year anniversary.

Flotilla press conference 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Flotilla press conference 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Although the Israel Navy is preparing for the worst case scenario, there is still a chance that a clash on the open seas can be avoided. The US, Canada, France, Australia, Greece and other countries have issued strong warnings to their nationals not to participate in the latest flotilla that aims to try and break Israel’s sea blockade on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Cyprus has banned flotilla members from using its port – one of the closest to Gaza – as a point of rendezvous. These steps underline Israel’s legal right to maintain a naval blockade aimed at thwarting arms smuggling, in order to protect its citizens from a terrorist organization which has fired thousands of rockets and mortar shells into Israel and killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings and other attacks.
Meanwhile, Israel and Egypt have announced they will allow ships taking part in the flotilla to unload what they say is their cargo of humanitarian goods at the Egyptian port of El-Arish, to be transferred on land to Gaza, after being thoroughly inspected. Israel has made it clear that while it is resolved to enforce the blockade, it will also facilitate the transfer of any humanitarian cargo destined for Gaza that arrives at Ashdod port.
An impressive amount of cooperation and responsible behavior both locally and internationally might yet prevent a potentially disastrous scenario from playing itself out.
Unfortunately, some organizers of the flotilla seem to be foolishly throwing caution to the wind, and appear bent on pushing ahead with plans for a confrontation on the open seas with the Israel Navy. Organizers of the flotilla claim their goal is to end Gaza’s “humanitarian crisis.” Yet, while they are more than willing to challenge Israel’s right to defend itself against the importation of murderous weaponry by means of a carefully monitored blockade, activists have precious little criticism for Hamas, an anti-Semitic terrorist organization that vows to destroy the Jewish state, regularly violates basic human rights and the religious freedom of non-Muslims, and receives funding and backing from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Iran.
Click for full Jpost coverageClick for full Jpost coverage
Gazans are undoubtedly suffering the consequences of their decision in the 2006 Palestinian elections to vote for Hamas, an Islamist movement officially ostracized by the US, the EU and other countries due to its terrorist activities.
Until recently, Egypt has been no less stringent than Israel in its land blockade of Gaza, out of a refusal to recognize Hamas’s violent seizure of power in 2007. Gazans’ suffering under Hamas leadership explains the terrorist organization’s waning popularity. A Pew Research Center poll conducted in March and published in May found that just 34 percent of Gazans gave the organization a positive rating; in 2007, six in 10 Palestinians had a positive view of the organization.
But while the situation is tough – unemployment is about 25%, according to a Hamas minister quoted by the New York Times, and three-quarters of the population relies on food aid – there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Literacy is nearly universal and infant mortality is relatively low. Health conditions remain better than across much of the developing world.
Since June of last year Israel has allowed most everything into Gaza, except cement, steel and other construction material (other than for internationally supervised projects), out of concern that such supplies can be used by Hamas for bunkers and bombs. But in recent months, tunnels under the southern border with Egypt have facilitated the smuggling of building materials, sparking a new construction boom in Gaza. And since the ouster of president Hosni Mubarak, Egyptian security authorities are no longer arresting the smugglers.
IF SO, what is the real motivation of those “activists” intent on challenging Israel’s blockade, these activists targeting an Israel that seeks to protect its civilians from terrorist attacks, these activists choosing to pour their passion into this cause while ignoring genuine humanitarian disasters and outrages elsewhere in this same region, notably including Bashar Assad’s brutal repression of his own Syrian people? Could it be their stubborn preoccupation with Israel’s purported abuses and “collective punishment” of Gazans, while conveniently ignoring the injustices of an increasingly unpopular Hamas regime, are the result of a certain ingrown prejudice against the Jewish state? Hopefully, reason and international pressure will win out, and the Gaza flotilla will not sail insistently into confrontation.
Preventing a repeat of the Mavi Marmara debacle, by pulling back from a misguidedly motivated and thoroughly unnecessary confrontation with Israeli forces, would be the most fitting way for the flotilla activists to commemorate that recent one-year anniversary.