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FLOTILLA II – An end to the Humanitarian Pretence?

Jun 28, 2011 | Sharyn Mittelman

FLOTILLA II - An end to the Humanitarian Pretence?
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Haaretz
is reporting that senior Israeli officials have received information that organisers of the Gaza flotilla may be bringing chemical substances on the ships to use against Israeli soldiers to prevent them from boarding the ships.

Barak Ravid reported that the senior officials also said that Israel had been notified that several extremists among the Gaza flotilla participants had recently claimed that they intend on “shedding the blood of IDF soldiers.”

Ravid also reports that despite earlier reports, it seems that activists from the Turkish extremist organisation IHH, which was involved in the deadly IDF raid on the Mavi Marmara in last year’s Gaza flotilla and ostensibly cancelled sending their own ship under Turkish government pressure, will be joining several of the ships sailing for Gaza as part of the flotilla.

This latest reports only strengthens the case that the Freedom Flotilla organised by the Free Gaza Movement is an unnecessary and potentially dangerous provocation, with no humanitarian purpose.

The Flotilla is unnecessary because any humanitarian aid it is bringing to Gaza could easily be transferred via land crossings instead. For example, as the Jerusalem Post recently reported, a ship from Europe proved just this when it arrived at the El- Arish Port in Egypt, unloaded some 30 tons of medicine, wheelchairs, baby food and 12 ambulances, which then made their way overland to the Rafah crossing, where the consignment was allowed into the Gaza Strip.

The ship set sail from Italy earlier this month as part of a humanitarian aid project called “Miles of Smiles” which brought together different European NGOs. Israeli defense officials said the “Miles of Smiles” program was proof that the flotilla is nothing more than a “provocation.” The transfer of the supplies to the Gaza Strip was jointly coordinated by Egyptian officials and the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip. It was the third such convoy to enter Gaza since 2008; another is expected in the coming months.

But the organisers of the flotilla seem uninterested in actually making a difference to the humanitarian situation in Gaza. Indeed, one of the groups organising the flotilla recently admitted that, on their ship at least, “We will carry no goods of any kind for delivery in Gaza,

Meanwhile, a backgrounder summarising all the latest developments on the Flotilla and its implications has been put together by The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre, an Israeli thinktank – see here.

Finally, readers may also be interested in Booker Award-winning British novelist Howard Jacobson’s critique of the flotilla and its backers, as published by CNN online.

Framed as a response to the decision of American writer Alice Walker to participate in the flotilla, Jacobson criticises Walker’s statement that regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, “One child must never be set above another child.” Jacobson writes: “if the aim of the flotilla is to ensure that one child will not be set above another it is hard to see how challenging the blockade will achieve it. All an Israeli parent will see is a highly charged emotionalism disguising an action that, by its very partiality, chooses the Palestinian child over the Israeli.”

He concludes by stating:

Alice Walker might be feeling good about herself, but by giving the Palestinians the same old false comfort we’ve been doling out for more than half a century, and by allowing the Israelis to dismiss it as yet another act of misguided and uncomprehending adventurism — further evidence that its fears go unheeded – her political gesture only worsens the situation. The parties to this conflict need to be brought together not divided: but those who speak disingenuously of love will engender only further hatred.

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