Gaza flotilla blind to Hamas

Gaza flotilla blind to Hamas

Arsen Ostrovsky

The Australian – June 24, 2011

NEXT week a flotilla carrying so-called activists from various countries under the guise of “humanitarian concern” will set sail for the Gaza Strip, determined to break what they call “the siege of Gaza”. Four Australians, including former Greens MLC Sylvia Hale, will be aboard.

This latest anti-Israel provocation comes on the anniversary of last year’s ostensibly “humanitarian” flotilla which, likewise, sought to breach Israel’s legal naval blockade of Gaza.

During that incident, nine Turkish passengers on board the Mavi Marmara died following a premeditated and vicious attack on Israeli soldiers by a group of shipboard activists.

Last year’s flotilla was organised by the Turkish group IHH, which has extensive links to Islamist terror groups, including Hamas. Although IHH has now pulled out of the upcoming flotilla, citing “technical reasons”, it has nonetheless been extensively involved in its preparations.

In a press release a few weeks ago, the Australian contingent said their goal was to “break the Israeli blockade of Gaza”.

They believe that “Gaza will not be free so long as the Israeli siege destroys the territory’s economy”.

No, Gaza will not be free so long as Hamas continues to control the Gaza Strip. But then again, there was not a single mention of Hamas in their press release. Why?

If they need a reminder as to Hamas’s raison d’etre, then look no further than Hamas’s charter, which mixes genocidal anti-Semitism against Jews with calls for the destruction of Israel and the creation of an Islamic state in its place. Hamas has repeatedly and unequivocally said it will never recognise, negotiate with, or permanently live side-by-side with the Jewish state. It also condemned the death of Osama bin Laden, calling him an “Arab Holy Warrior”.

The Australian contingent has also said they are “committed to peace and non-violence”, but how do they square that with Hamas’s record of violence, including the firing of some 13,000 rockets and mortars into Israel since 2001? Since the end of the Gaza War in January 2009, there has been on average no less than a rocket a day fired by Hamas from Gaza.

Where were Sylvia Hale and co when Hamas deliberately fired an anti-tank missile at an Israeli school bus recently, killing a 16-year-old boy?

They have also been conspicuously silent while Hamas has regularly tortured fellow Palestinians who have sought to exercise their freedom of speech to speak out against Hamas’s crimes, while at the same time brutally suppressing the rights of women, gays and Christians.

Of course there is no mention about the plight of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier who tomorrow will mark five years held hostage by Hamas without so much as a visit from the Red Cross and in breach of every imaginable Geneva convention.

At the time of the flotilla incident last June, the so-called “peace activists” rejected a request by Shalit’s father to bring his son a letter and small care package. Apparently this did not coincide with their “mission”.

Will the Australian contingent perhaps call on Hamas to release Gilad? Or do his rights not matter either?

It is noteworthy that in March this year, Israel intercepted the cargo vessel Victoria, transporting 50 tonnes of advanced Iranian weapons bound for Gaza. If Hale and the Greens had their way and the naval blockade was lifted, these weapons, and many more, would end up in the hands of Hamas and be used for acts of terror against Israeli civilians.

Were it not for the incessant rocket and mortar attacks by Hamas against Israel and the need to prevent weapons being smuggled to the terror group, there would of course never have been a blockade in the first instance.

Every responsible world leader has warned their citizens against participating in the upcoming flotilla, including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, urging those who may wish to provide goods into Gaza to do so through the approved channels.

One such channel, in addition to the already established channels through the Ashdod port in Israel and the UN, is the recently opened Rafah crossing in Egypt, which borders Gaza.

Even Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu says the flotilla organisers should reconsider their plans in light of the opening of the Rafah crossing.

Other than seeking to provoke Israel into another potentially deadly confrontation, there is no humanitarian or legal rationale for a flotilla, given the ample avenues available for goods and supplies to be delivered into Gaza.

Despite the oft-stated myth by Palestinian activists, the reality is “there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza”.

These are not my words but those of Mathilde Redmant, deputy director for the International Committee of the Red Cross, speaking in April.

Israel has never blocked the transfer of humanitarian goods into Gaza and today permits almost all goods to be imported into the strip, except only items that may be used for military or terrorist purposes.

Only a few days ago, Israel approved the transfer of $100 million worth of construction materials for the building of 1200 new houses and 18 schools in Hamas-controlled Gaza.

One place where there is a pressing humanitarian crisis is for example Syria, where the Assad regime has now killed in excess of 1400 pro-democracy protesters since uprisings began in March this year, including the brutal torture and murder of a 13-year-old boy earlier this month. One would be forgiven for asking, where is the flotilla to Syria?

Or what about the wave of violence currently being unleashed against Coptic Christian communities across the Arab Middle East? Or in Saudi Arabia, where the regime has just arrested a woman for daring to defy the government’s ban on women driving? And how about Iran, which continues to repress and persecute its local Baha’i minority?

It is a sad reflection on the moral turpitude of those participating in this provocative mission that the only flotilla they deem worthy of joining is one which is destined for Gaza, where they will serve the publicly declared goals of its Hamas rulers: violence, Israel’s destruction and the suppression of the human rights of Palestinians.

Arsen Ostrovsky is a policy analyst at the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council.