On June 17, Haaretz writer Barak Ravid and Reuters headlined, “Israel to ease Gaza land blockade,” saying:
“Israel’s security cabinet voted Thursday to ease its land blockade of the Gaza Strip, following its deadly raid on a humanitarian aid flotilla bound for the (mischaracterized) Hamas-ruled territory,” in fact, its legitimate government.
An official statement said:
“The Security Cabinet conducted an extensive discussion over the last two days regarding adjustments in Israel’s Gaza policy.
It was agreed to:
– Liberalize the system by which civilian goods enter Gaza.
– Expand the inflow of materials for civilian projects that are under international supervision.
– Continue existing security procedures to prevent the inflow of weapons and war materiel.
– the Cabinet will decide in the coming days on additional steps to implement this policy.
– Israel expects the international community to work toward the immediate release of Gilad Shalit, the captured Israeli soldier on June 25, 2006 near the Kerem Shalom crossing, southeast of Rafah — one soldier compared to thousands of Palestinian civilians, held illegally in Israeli prisons under horrific conditions, including torture and other forms of abuse.
According to Raed Fattouh, Palestinian supplies coordinator for the Territory, the approved list will include all food items, toys, stationery, kitchen utensils, mattresses and towels, excluding most of what Gaza needs, including construction materials to rebuild.
For example, cement will still be banned, Israel saying Hamas could use it to build military infrastructure. Also, Israel’s official statement was vague, saying implementation procedures will follow, emphasizing that “existing security procedures” will continue, showing the announcement was a sham PR gesture to diffuse worldwide anger and satisfy world leaders, short of fully opening Gaza’s land and sea borders for free in and out movement of people and goods. Nothing less can be accepted.
Yet Israel’s ruse may have worked.
AFP quoted EU diplomat, Catherine Ashton, welcoming the decision, saying:
“We’re looking with great interest to what the Israeli cabinet has said this morning,” adding that she hopes “many more goods” will follow and stands ready to support Israel with a mission on the ground.
Middle East envoy, Tony Blair, called it an “important step….Israel has the clear right to defend itself and protect its security. The best way to do this is to ensure that weapons cannot reach Gaza whilst allowing into Gaza the items of ordinary daily life.”
French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner (he, Blair and other EU officials reliably staunch Israeli allies) said: “It is the first major progress since the crisis began. But it is not enough.”
The White House called it a “step in the right direction,” and State Department spokesman, Mark Toner, said the Obama administration supports an “expansion of the scope and types of goods into Gaza… while addressing, obviously, Israel’s legitimate security needs” — showing Washington only backs Israel’s bogus gesture, and continues, like Tel Aviv, calling Hamas a terrorist organization, when, in fact, it’s Palestine’s legitimately elected government.
Palestinian Response to the Sham
Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, told Reuters: “What is needed is a complete lifting of the blockade. Goods and people must be free to enter and leave. Gaza especially needs construction material(s), which must be allowed to come in without restrictions. ‘
Senior Hamas leaders rejected the plan, Ismail Radwan, calling it a thinly veiled attempt to “relieve the pressure. We in Hamas reject the Zionist decision, which is an attempt to obscure the international decision to completely lift the siege.”
Fatah chief negotiator, Saeb Erakat, called it a “public relations ploy,” saying Mahmoud Abbas “demands the complete lifting of the siege…. He believes there are no partial solutions.” He also wants it on his terms under his authority as chief Israeli enforcer. Otherwise, he opposes lifting, following orders from Tel Aviv and Washington.
Sari Bashi, director of the Gisha Legal Center for Freedom of Movement said:
The restrictions on goods into and out of Gaza are instituted not for security reasons, but rather as part of a declared policy to restrict the movement of people and goods as a means of applying pressure on the Hamas regime. The express purpose… is to block all economic activity in Gaza. So the real question is whether Israel will abandon this policy — immediately or in the near future — or whether it will continue to aspire to block economic activity, but simply let in a few more consumer goods.
In a June 17 press release, Gisha headlined, “We don’t need more lists, we need to end ‘economic warfare,’ ” saying:
“The time has come for Israel to ask serious questions about how three years of closure (have) affect(ed)… 1.5 million people whose right to travel and to engage in productive work have been denied. We don’t need cosmetic changes.”
What’s needed is unconditional free in and out movement, and world community censure of Israeli policy, economic warfare, and its ploy about fearing weapons imports and other security concerns. Under international law, Israel, as an occupying power, is responsible for the population’s welfare, including the free passage of food, medical supplies, clothing, and other essential items.
Even after rejecting Gaza’s occupation status, Israel’s High Court ruled that its government bears responsibility for the welfare of its people because of continuing conflict, its military control of border crossings, and the Strip’s dependence on Israeli goods and services like fuel and electricity. No longer are half measures acceptable or Israel’s bogus justifications.
In addition, an independent investigation of Israel’s premeditated Freedom Flotilla attack is essential. No longer can its international law violations be tolerated, including repeated crimes against peace, the most serious of all.
Israel must be held accountable, the view Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) President, Mevlut Cavusoglu, expressed in a June 13 Today’s Zaman interview, explaining that Israel had violated core human rights principles embraced by the organization, saying they’d be consequences at the end of June summer session, adding:
The Council of Europe and its Parliamentary Assembly value the rule of law, human rights and democracy. Israel was committed to these values (as seen) by signing up to be an observing member. But, with this raid in open waters, it violated a number of values espoused by this body.
This crisis with Israel will hamper our efforts in our Partnership for Democracy project and curtail efforts at dialogue in the Subcommittee on the Middle East. (The) attack came as a shock to us. We had to respond. Both the term president, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and I issued statements condemning this attack in international waters.
In its June 21-25 session, PACE will address the attack, its Political Affairs Committee already planning an emergency summer meeting, a report to follow, Cavusoglu adding that:
This is not a problem between Israel and Turkey. There were citizens in the aid flotilla from over 30 countries and ships flying the flags of many countries. It also happened in open waters, and civilians got killed. This was an act of piracy and violated international law.
Update on New Flotillas
On June 17, the International Middle East Media Center (IMEMC) headlined, “Aid Ship Sets Sail From Iran Bound for Gaza,” saying:
An International Red Crescent Society organized Iranian Flotilla, funded by private donors, “departed from Iran bound for Gaza, with another ship planning to join it by the weekend.”
Last year during Cast Lead, another Iranian ship tried to enter Gaza, “but was turned back (not attacked) by the Israeli military while still in international waters.” The IDF, however, “threatened to engage (this) ship” while still in international waters, yet an attack seems unlikely given the world outrage over the May 31 one.
Washington’s response was unsurprising, State Department spokesman, PJ Crowley, saying America is very concerned about Iranian ships as Israel earlier “intercepted (some) that were carrying, you know, weapons and armaments that have been used to threaten the Israeli people,” even though no evidence supports the accusation.
The “Israeli government has (never) presented a case in which it captured ships with weapons bound for Gaza,” these accusations, like others, exposed as lies.
On June 8, Law Professor Jonathan Turley revealed fake Israeli video showing a cache of heavy weapons on the Mavi Marmara as justifiable evidence for the attack. Supposedly found were mortars, artillery shells, bazookas, and a million euros intended for Hamas. It was bogus, Israeli propaganda, but was “widely distributed as (proof) of why the IDF Naval commandos were dispatched to intercept the six vessels including the M/S Mavi Marmara.”
The Flotilla carried no weapons, not even light arms, the entire cargo comprised of food, medicines, toys, educational materials, and other essential items. Turley referred to “a conscious misinformation campaign,” those circulating the video knowing it was fake.
Like past aid vessels, the Iranian ones are carrying humanitarian aid, no weapons of any kind, verified by inspections before departure. “Passengers and crew say that any attempts by the Israeli government to claim (otherwise) would be a complete fabrication.”
On June 17, Sifynews.com headlined, “More international flotillas headed for Gaza Strip,” saying:
“Ships from several countries, including Iran and Lebanon, have reportedly left or are planning to leave (for) Gaza in defiance of an Israeli maritime blockade on that territory” — a land one as well not mentioned.
Sifynews reported several Iranian ships are involved and two Lebanese ones:
– the Naj Al Ali, sponsored by Journalists without Borders and Free Palestine “with at least 50 journalists and 25 European volunteers on board, including European parliament members;” and
– “an all-women’s ship, the Mariam.”
In addition, many others are planned from a number of countries, including more from the Turkish based Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Aid (IHH), bogusly called an extremist Islamic terrorist organization, when, in fact, it provides humanitarian aid “to spread justice and good… fight(s) violation(s) of anyone’s basic liberties and human rights (and) perpetuat(es) good anytime and anywhere.”
According to the IrishTimes.com on June 16, IHH “told members of the European Parliament it had assembled (another) six ships for the next flotilla and put out an appeal for others to join.” It plans to sail the second half of July, and invited the international media to inspect all goods to “demonstrate their commitment to total transparency.”
Richard Howlitt, a British European Parliament MP, organized the group’s Strasbourg press conference, saying the EU is obligated to ensure safe passage and respect for humanitarian law next time, then adding:
“If this terrible tragedy tips the balance so that the international community finally insists on full and unhindered humanitarian access to Gaza, then some good can still come of it,” he said, referring to the Mavi Marmara massacre.
These and other flotillas will maintain pressure until the siege is entirely lifted, partial measures no longer will be tolerated, nor should they ever be.
A Final Comment
On June 17, Ma’an News Agency headlined “Fatah: Israel plans to separate West Bank from Gaza,” saying:
“Fatah said Israel aims at cutting off the Gaza Strip from the West Bank and ‘end the Palestinian national project,” according to party spokesman Ahmad Assaf. Whether or not Abbas goes along is unclear. What is clear is that he’s no friend of beleaguered Palestinians.
Neither is Congress, several prominent members (including Charles Rangel, Anthony Weiner, Carolyn Maloney, Jerry Nadler, Eliot Engel, and Janis Shorenstein), asking the State Department to prohibit all Flotilla members from entering America, wanting them investigated for terrorist ties.
Media Matters‘ senior foreign policy fellow, MJ Rosenberg, cites Washington officials wanting Turkey kicked out of NATO, saying:
“The government, the (Israeli) lobby, the neocons, and their acolytes in the media, have decided that Turkey needs to be punished for its opposition to the Gaza blockade and its role in the flotilla ‘fiasco.’ ”
“The word is going out. Turkey is no friend of Israel, no friend of Jews, and has become, yes, a Muslim state that cares about its fellow Muslims in Gaza,” — again saying “Rep. Anthony Weiner takes the prize” for displaying extreme hostility, then adding:
“Anyone who questions just how far the lobby will go in defense of the Netanyahu government’s policies has their answer.”
Nor is there any doubt how closely aligned the Obama administration is with Israel, public statements about a rift misguided and out-of-touch, and the same holds for Canada, the point Eves Yngler makes in his book, Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid.
Since Israel’s 1948 creation, Canada, like America, has been a loyal ally, not an “honest broker” on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, then or now, and the reason outspoken professors like University of Ottawa’s Denis Rancourt got fired, despite his stature, tenure, and heroic commitment human rights and democratic values, ones neither Canada or America champion, uphold or defend.
No wonder that Prime Minister Stephen Harper called on New Democratic Party (NDP) MP Libby Davies to resign as her party’s deputy leader for saying Israel’s occupation is the longest in the world, then adding: “People are suffering. I’ve been to the West Bank and Gaza twice so I’ve seen for myself what’s going on.”
In response, Harper said:
“Mr. Speaker, this is a fundamental denial of Israel’s right to exist.” That and more from others in parliament, the way US politicians defend the most outrageous Israeli crimes, denouncing their victims as terrorists.
It’s why champions of human rights can’t rest, nor should they ever compromise on right v. wrong issues, especially when it comes to Israel or its Washington paymaster/partner.