One of the biggerst stories during my absence has been the latest flotilla to Gaza, dubbed by Prime Minister Netanyahu the “provocation flotilla.”
I have a lot of catching up to do regarding this story, but for now, here’s some relevant news and information regarding it.
Flotillards claim Israel sabotaged their boats.
Irish anti-Israel activists, meanwhile, have accused “agents of Israel” of “sabotage” after a ship that was set to join the flotilla was allegedly damaged on purpose while docked in Turkey on Thursday.
“Terrible news has reached us in the early hours of Thursday – the Irish ship to Gaza, MV Saoirse, has been sabotaged, presumably by agents of Israel,” the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign said on its website.
“The damage is extensive, and indeed, if it had gone undetected, apparently may have been life-threatening if the ship had been at sea,” the group claimed.
“This wasn’t designed to stop the ship from leaving its berth. Instead it was intended that the fatal damage to the ship would occur while she was at sea and would have resulted in the deaths of several of those on board. This was a potentially murderous act,” the NGO maintained.
Calling it “an unacceptable act of aggression” against an Irish vessel in sovereign Irish territory, and “against the people of Palestine which this flotilla was intending to reach in an act of humanitarian solidarity,” the group called for an all-night demonstration outside the Israeli Embassy in Dublin on Thursday evening.
The activists urged people to bring sleeping bags to stage the overnight sit-in, hoping that they would shut down the embassy.
“We are calling on people to assemble at 6 p.m. at the Spire in O’Connell Street. From there we will march to the Israeli Embassy and stage an overnight sit-in outside (so bring sleeping bags etc).
We intend to shut down the Israeli Embassy! We need this demo to be as loud as possible, so if you have drums, bodrans, whistles, whatever, please bring them along.
“This act of sabotage against a peaceful humanitarian civil society mission (which has been paid for by 1000s of ordinary Irish people) must be protested in the strongest terms possible,” the group stated.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor, meanwhile, dismissed the charges, saying “they think they live in a James Bond movie. They should come out of the film world and start getting real.
“This is not Hollywood, and Israel is not the bad guy,” he said. “We are not surprised that the rule they live by is that if anything goes wrong, accuse Israel. This was an Israeli-bash fest since day one, and that it continues that way does not surprise anyone.”
Israel has been claiming for quite some time that the desire to break through the blockade on the Gaza Strip is devoid of any basis since it is possible to transfer essential goods to Gaza through the monitored crossings. This claim received unexpected reinforcement on Thursday from none other than the Gazans themselves.
In a conversation with Ynet Palestinian businessmen expressed veiled criticism saying that the flotilla organizers were missing their target since the main problem wasn’t getting goods into Gaza – but exporting them outside of the strip.
“The flotilla isn’t bringing things that reach the man on the street,” says Salah Ayash a textile manufactory owner in the strip who, until the beginning of the month worked with Israeli fashion labels who would produce their goods at his factory.
“I think they might be bringing medication, but I’m not sure what they are bringing if anything. The only important thing from our perspective is not importing equipment but exporting goods,” said Ayash adding that there is no shortage of stock – but they can’t get it out.
The Gisha movement has criticized both the flotilla organizers and Israel over their remarks and claim that they are misleading. “Gaza doesn’t need anymore humanitarian aid. There is only one way to allow Gaza residents long term economic development while maintaining Israel’s legitimate security needs and that is a removal of the sweeping limitations on transfer of goods subject to individual security checks,” said Sari Bashi the Director of Gisha.
An ISM activist has admitted the flotilla’s priority is not humanitarian aid.
The Freedom Flotilla is indeed “a political provocation.” Why shouldn’t it be? And when has it pretended to be anything else?
Mark Regev, International Media Adviser to the Prime Minister of Israel, raises some good points.
Yet more proof that the flotilla is more a floterror.
Now it suddenly becomes clear that the infamous Dutch Hamas chief Amin Abou Rashed has also been attending the crew’s training sessions over the past few days in Greece. El Maroudi: “Amin was attending the day on which the Dutch delegation studied a part of the non-violence course. Wilfred van de Poll, journalist for Trouw, talked a bit with Amin about his presence and his role within the organization. “The master-mind behind the fleet” took care of the acquisition of the boat. He also took care of the lion’s share of the financing.”
This has prompted a “human rights activist” to leave it.
Why I am not sailing aboard the Dutch ship after all
I have been to the Greek island of Corfu over the past few days. I got to know the activists and journalists intending to sail to Gaza and received training on non-violent resistance from Anne de Jong, a passenger in the previous flotilla.
Although I had intended to report on the sail for Uitgesproken Vara and Joop, I was going first and foremost as an activist. I want Israel to lift the illegal blockade on Gaza and give the people that which they are entitled to have: Self-rule.
And that is also the issue for me: The population there. The Palestinian youths who published a document last year in which they expressed their longing for leading a normal life. I didn’t go for any political movement or for those in power.
When I decided to subject myself to the sail and the long list of preparatory engagements and training sessions it entailed, I presented the organizers with one single crucial demand: I wanted to know exactly who would sail with me on the Italian-Dutch ship and requested to have the opportunity to meet them all in advance before embarking on the trip.
I did not want to be surprised by the presence of figures or organizations with which I did not want to become involved. I was told that my demand was self-evident: There would be team-building and “we are going to have it in Greece.”
Despite assurances to the contrary, the Italian activists who were supposed to sail with us were nowhere to be seen upon our arrival in Corfu. More crucially, the Dutch delegation was isolated on the island. The rest of the flotilla was in Athens.
I repeatedly I asked to receive a tentative list of all the passengers. Realizing that many difficulties had been put in the organizers’ path, I did not expect to receive a complete list of participants. I would have been satisfied with the available information. None such information was given. Despite my insistence on receiving the list in advance, it was given to me when I decided to return to Holland. Too late.
But there was more going on. The ship’s funding remained unclear. Also regarding this point I repeatedly asked for information but as answers I was told of a loose web of associations under different umbrella and daughter organizations. The Nederland Gaza Association [the organizers of the Dutch boat ride] claims to be fully transparent. To me, this means publication of subsidies.
If this complicates fundraising and scares off donors, so be it. It’s the only way to show an already-suspicious Netherlands that you have nothing to hide.
The presence of Amin Abou Rashed suggests there is something to hide. He, too, sailed last year to Gaza with the flotilla, and he was arrested by Israel. According to various media, he is Hamas’ top figure in the Netherlands. He is also affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. How much of this is true, I do not know. How much of this is not true, I know even less. That is the problem, and it creates an atmosphere of suspicion.
Over dinner Anne de Jong insisted that it was all lies and that Amin is a terribly nice man with an unbelievable amount of love for the Palestinians. However much I wished I could believe her and those blue eyes of hers, I could not do it. Simply because his involvement with the flotilla was kept secret until the arrival to Greece. And not only vis-à-vis the rest of the world, but also when it came to the flotilla participants. I find this to be detrimental.
Amin was there the day the Dutch delegation received a non-violence training but hung in the background. Wilfred van de Poll, a journalist for Trouw, spoke briefly with Amin about his presence and role within the organization. “The brain behind the flotilla” as the man elected to be described, arranged the purchase of the boat. He also provided for the lion’s share of funding, according to Anne de Jong. If he played such a vital role, then why was it kept secret and why couldn’t I know who or what he was?
Our activists were told that the goods [aboard the ship] will be distributed by UNHCR, but it later turned out that this was not 100 percent sure. Few organizations beside UNCHR are capable of performing this task in Gaza. In fact, only one other such entity remains. Hamas. And I wanted to have nothing do with them.
The moment I expressed reservations about the information which was given out, Anne de Jong’s reacted accusatory and snappy. “Would you rather we told you nothing at all?” she demanded, as though I should applaud her right away for getting to hear anything at all. And as though I had failed to understand the magnitude of the task of setting out against a great power such as Israel.
Good sites on the flotilla