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Israel and the Flotilla Intifada

January 27, 2014 at 2:46 am

By Omar Radwan

Yesterday, an Israeli military inquiry committee published a report about Israel’s raid on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. While criticising “mistakes” made by the Israeli navy, such as its failure to coordinate with the Mossad before the raid and to properly plan the raid, the report is essentially a whitewash. Aside from these criticisms, it commends the raid. It does not hold the Israeli commandos involved culpable in any way for the deaths of nine people on board the Mavi Marmara, instead praising them for showing courage in their confrontation with unarmed activists, which it portrays as terrorists. This report suggests that Israel has learned no lessons from its murderous raid. Its image across the world has taken a battering and if it thought that it could deter any further aid convoys it was sorely mistaken.

Following the raid on the flotilla, new aid convoys are being planned. The European Campaign to End the Siege of Gaza is now organising a “Freedom Flotilla 2”, which will set sail for Gaza in August. It will consist of more ships than the first one and carry 4,000 activists. An aid ship from Lebanon is on its way to Gaza via Cyprus. A Libyan aid ship, the Amalthea, organised by the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation and carrying one of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s sons is due to reach Gaza today but is been surrounded and forcibly diverted by the Israeli navy toward Egypt. In addition to the ships, there have been overland convoys. An Algerian aid convoy and a convoy organised by Egyptian opposition MPs entered Gaza through the Rafah border crossing last month, but they were forced by the Egyptian authorities to leave their aid behind. A Jordanian overland convoy also began its journey to Gaza yesterday 14 July.

These aid missions have a very low chance of success. Those attempting to reach Gaza by sea are exposing themselves to great danger, as the Israeli government has shown that it is not averse to killing unarmed activists. Overland convoys trying to reach Gaza through the Rafah crossing almost invariably have their aid confiscated by the Egyptian authorities. The convoys to Gaza appear to be on a perilous and futile mission. Why then, do the activists of the European Campaign to End the Siege of Gaza, the Free Gaza Movement, and the Turkish humanitarian group IHH, which has been so much maligned in the media, persist in their efforts to send aid to Gaza? The reason is that this is the only way to end the siege of Gaza. The European Union, the United States and the Arab countries, are all collaborating with the Israelis in the siege of Gaza, and while they are prepared to make occasional statements criticising it, they are not prepared to exert even the smallest amount of pressure on Israel to end the siege. When global public opinion turned against Israel after its raid on the flotilla, the U.N. Security Council refused to condemn the raid under U.S. pressure and the U.S. vice president, Joe Biden, defended Israel’s actions. In order to placate world opinion, Israel announced that it would “ease” the blockade on Gaza. However this “easing” will have little effect on the lives of ordinary people in Gaza. Exports remain prohibited, crippling Gaza’s economy. The import of building materials is still banned, ensuring that the damage done by Israel’s war against Gaza – which destroyed 39% of Gaza’s houses – goes unrepaired and that thousands of people remain homeless.

Israel’s three year siege of Gaza has devastated that territory. 52% of children suffer from malnutrition. The water supply system has collapsed. 80% of the population live in poverty. However, the international community has shown that it is willing to tolerate this and with Israel’s announcement of the “easing” of the blockade, international pressure on Israel has also eased. The United States and the European Union are willing to allow Israel to get away with meaningless gestures which will do nothing to alleviate the plight of the people of Gaza. However, the aid convoys will continue to keep the siege of Gaza in the global spotlight and keep up the pressure on Israel and the international community to lift the siege. Israel’s image across the world is now in tatters thanks to the raid on the flotilla. The Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions campaign is gaining momentum, particularly on the cultural level with actors and musicians cancelling concerts and appearances in Israel. With their perseverance and determination, the convoys will be able to make Israel’s siege of Gaza unsustainable.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.