Israel uses sabotage and slander to continue blockade

Friday July 29, 2011 | Muslim News | By Saliha Shariff

Israel has been accused of using sabotage and slander to block the entrance of the Freedom Flotilla II, a fleet of boats whose aims were to break the Israeli siege on Gaza and to bring attention to the suffering of the people of Gaza, from entering Gaza.

Of the ten boats aiming to reach Gaza only the French boat MV Dignité came closest to reaching its destination. However, it was seized on July 19 when Israeli naval commandos boarded the boat 65 kilometres off the coast in international waters.

The France-based Platform Palestine group, one of the organisers, said the Israeli takeover “clearly shows the military logic of Israeli politics, which only speaks the language of force.”

Israel insubstantially claimed some of the flotilla passengers are terrorist sympathisers, and, with the allies of the Greek, Canadian and US governments, has used this argument to maintain its naval blockade of Gaza.

The US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, called the campaigners unhelpful and would “provoke actions by entering into Israeli waters” and that Israel has “the right to defend themselves” against the humanitarian flotilla. She presented this argument in spite of the fact that all the boats captured by Israel during its four year naval blockade of Gaza, were unarmed and seized on international waters.

In a statement organisers said: “There are no weapons of any kind on board any of our boats – which could be confirmed by dozens of international media representative on board.

“Activists intending to take passage in the flotilla are undergoing non-violence training and sign clear personal commitment not to resort to violence.”

Freedom Flotilla II organisers blamed their failure to reach their destination on the Greek authority’s collusion with Israel and accused the Greek coastal guard of using excessive force when they escorted at gunpoint back to St Nicholas port and then being detained at Greek ports.

Organisers of the Canadian boat, the Tahrir said they were forced to abandon their plans to sail after Greek officials repeatedly and falsely said the ship did not have the suitable documentation to set sail.

Irene McInnes, of the Tahrir organising committee, said, “The Government of Israel, shamefully with the tacit support of the Harper (Canadian) Government, is doing everything in its power to maintain the blockade. Yet we will persevere in our attempts until the blockade is lifted.”

Moreover, some flotilla boats were sabotaged by “hostile” and anonymous professional divers at the Greek ports. As Greece is the travel link from the West to Palestine, these sabotage attempts have made this year’s Freedom Flotilla II mission impossible.

Tahrir’s US counterpart The Audacity of Hope fared even worse, its captain John Klusmire, 60, was arrested on July 2 for defying orders and leaving the Greek port without permission and endangering his passengers, when he attempted to sail out earlier in the mission.

Fellow passenger Yonatan Shapira said Klusmire, who was released few days later, had “acted out of concern for the safety of the passengers and boat by taking us away from the Greek port where other flotilla boats are being sabotaged.”

The Irish Ship to Gaza (ISG) also accused Israel of sabotage – they claim that Israel extensively damaged their boat in Turkey. “If it had gone undetected apparently may have been life-threatening if the ship had been at sea. This is an unacceptable act of aggression against an Irish vessel, which is sovereign Irish territory, against the Freedom Flotilla, and most importantly against the people of Palestine which this flotilla was intending to reach in an act of humanitarian solidarity.”

A Swedish boat was suspected of having been sabotaged too, after it reported propeller damage after mooring in a Greek port.

However, Israel denies all allegations of sabotage, accusing the flotilla of being simply a provocation.

The Israeli Shurat HaDin Law Centre wrote to global maritime insurance firms and satellite communications companies, warning them that any company or firm that provides services to the flotilla will be sued in the US for helping Hamas. The Israeli Government also threatened journalists aboard the boats of the flotilla with arrest and deportation.

Moreover, a video appeared on YouTube, in which a gay rights activist, “Marc Pax”, accused the Freedom Flotilla organisers of demonstrating homophobia. However, an investigation by reporters revealed that Pax was in fact Omer Gershon, an Israeli actor who had created the video in an attempt to defame the flotilla.

Although it is unknown who commissioned the professional-looking video, it was posted by an employee in the Israeli Prime Minister’s office and re-distributed internationally by the Government’s Press Office, who later claimed they too had been fooled by the video.

However, the flotilla activists are adamant the video was part of the “dirty tricks campaign” by the Israeli Government. Similarly, last year’s Freedom Flotilla was sabotaged by fake videos created by the Israeli Government.

There is overwhelming support of the Freedom Flotilla II. A coalition of campaigners issued a Statement of Support for the Gaza- Bound Freedom Flotilla on July 4, stating that “Israeli organizations, Jews and Arabs, full-heartedly support Freedom Flotilla” and “condemn the campaign of slander which the Government of Israel is waging against the flotilla and those who take part in it.”

It says that, “The Gaza Flotilla is indeed a courageous act of political protest, an expression of worldwide solidarity with the Palestinian people and rejection of Israeli practices of oppressive occupation” and that “The state of Israel is obliged, under International Law, to put an end to its control over the Gaza Strip – indirect as well as direct.”

They “call upon the Government of Greece to rescind forthwith its order, prohibiting the flotilla boats from leaving the ports of Greek, let them sail and ensure the safety of passengers and boats alike”, “call upon the Government of Israel and its armed forces to let the boats get to Gaza and deliver peacefully their cargo of humanitarian supplies” and “call upon the Government of Israel to put an immediate end to the siege and blockade of Gaza.”

The Muslim Association of Greece whose Chair Naim Elghandour is on board the Juliano told The Muslim News they believe their Government is complicit in maintaining “biggest prison in the world”.

A spokesman for the group accuse the Greek port police of “never heard before” rules but still fail to find a legal means of stopping adding “[They are] delaying them until they have new orders.”

“The Greek people always had warm relations with Palestine, they support Palestine, but the Greek Government under the extreme pressure of the financial collapse of the country is obliged to obey to the loaners who obviously order her to extend the Israeli naval zone up to Greece.

“We have legally sailing boats blocked by the authorities and the world scene is silent by this.”

However, the US, Greek and Canadian governments continued to support Israel’s naval blockade. The British Government, although not necessarily supporting the Israeli Government, also expressed its opposition to the Freedom Flotilla II. Minister for Europe, David Lidington, said in a written statement that, “We continue to advise against participating in flotillas or overland convoys to Gaza because of the risks involved.”

Simultaneously, Israel and Turkey have been in the middle of a hostile discussion concerning a reconciliation document which would clearly address Israel’s attack on a Turkish ship during last year’s Freedom Flotilla attempt, which resulted in nine Turkish activists being killed. This incident obviously damaged relations between Israel and Turkey. It has been said that until the two governments can reach an understanding, an already delayed UN report on the flotilla attack of last May will be further held back.


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