Large aid flotilla to test Israeli blockade of Gaza


Eight ships are sailing toward Gaza with 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid to challenge Israel's blockade of the Palestinian territory. In a legal challenge, an Israeli group wonders why chocolate and other foods bound for Gaza are a security risk.

Palestinian members of the Hamas naval police ride boats during a display of their preparations for the arrival of the small flotilla carrying 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid to test Israeli blockade, at the port in Gaza City, Wednesday.

Khalil Hamra/AP

By Erin Cunningham, Correspondent / May 26, 2010

Jerusalem

A flotilla of eight ships carrying some 700 international activists and 10,000 tons of aid and construction materials is currently en route to the Gaza Strip from Turkey, in the most ambitious bid yet by pro-Palestinian groups to break Israel and Egypt's economic blockade of the territory.

But this effort, like previous ones, is likely to end in confrontation with Israel’s navy later this week.

Israel warned on Tuesday it is prepared to prevent the flotilla, which one official called “a provocation,” from reaching its destination in Hamas-run Gaza. Israel sealed its borders with the Gaza after Hamas, a bitter enemy, seized power there in 2007.

IN PICTURES: Palestinian smugglers on the Egypt Gaza border

But while a series of similar flotillas and aid convoys have managed to draw media attention to the now three-year-long Gaza blockade, which has devastated Gaza’s economy, they have so far failed to change Israel’s policy.

The most effective pressure currently may in fact be coming from within Israel itself. The Israeli rights group Gisha successfully took the government to court on May 6 over its Gaza policies.

Why is chocolate a security risk?

Gisha compelled Israel’s ministry of defense to reveal information about how it formally manages the blockade for the first time. After nearly three years of secrecy, government attorneys conceded the existence of an official defense ministry list of items approved for transfer into the enclave, as well as a “Red Lines” document that establishes minimum nutritional requirements for Gaza’s 1.5 million people.

Gisha had requested the government reveal on what basis it approves or rejects goods destined for the Gaza Strip, after items like chocolate, notebooks and jam were consistently barred without explanation.

Aid groups and local businessmen say there appears to be a whole-scale ban on construction materials, which Israel says armed Palestinian groups could use to build weapons, but the import of shoes and hairbrushes were approved only earlier this year. Coriander, ginger, and livestock remain off-limits, Gisha says.

“No one, not even businessmen or aid workers, are entitled to see a list of the products allowed into Gaza,” says Israeli economist, Shir Hever. “The only way to know if you can import something is if you try. It’s complete chaos.”

While the ministry refused to disclose the actual contents of the documents, claiming their details are harmful to national security and Israel’s relations with other countries, Gisha plans to press on, with the eventual goal of ending the blockade. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for October.

“This is not only essential to the Palestinians in Gaza, but that should also concern every citizen in Israel,” says Gisha’s spokeswoman, Keren Tamir. “There are major attempts by the government to hide information related to the blockade and, from our position in here, the first step to ending it is to expose this information in the name of democracy.”

Israel says that more than one million tons of humanitarian supplies have been allowed into Gaza since January 2009.

Meanwhile, four cargo ships and four passenger vessels have left several Mediterranean ports and plan to meet up in Cyprus on Friday, Greta Berlin, one of the organizers, told the Associated Press. From there, the group will embark on the one-day journey toward Gaza.

The cargo ships are carrying an array of donated goods not allowed into Gaza, including cement, prefab homes, lumber, window frames, paper for printing school books, children's toys, a full dentist's office, electric wheelchairs and high-end medical equipment, Ms. Berlin said.

IN PICTURES: Palestinian smugglers on the Egypt Gaza border

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2010/0526/Large-aid-flot...

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Comment by fireguy on May 27, 2010 at 3:18pm
If you go that far I guess you have to choose jail.

"masked naval commandos" probably the kids of the ones who attacked the USS Liberty with John McCain's father's blessing.
Comment by truth on May 27, 2010 at 3:05pm
REAL TIME UPDATES FROM THE GAZA AID FLOTILLA!

Israeli commandos to block Gaza activists

Israel on Thursday unveiled a massive makeshift detention center in the country's main southern port and announced the end of days of intense naval maneuvers, vowing to stop a flotilla of hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists trying to break a 3-year blockade of the Gaza Strip this weekend.

Military authorities said that masked naval commandos would greet the eight ships deep out at sea, escort the vessels to port and give each of the activists a stark choice: leave the country or go to jail.

Comment by Tara on May 27, 2010 at 12:29pm
Israeli military plans to stop the Ship to Gaza - Sweden's ambassador summoned

ASHDOD (AFP) - Pro-Palestinian activists vowed on Thursday to steam on to Hamas-run Gaza and bust the blockade with their aid-laden flotilla as Israel again warned it would intercept the ships.
• 'Israel is guilty of colonialism and apartheid'

"We have the right to sail from international waters into the waters of Gaza," said Greta Berlin, one of the flotilla's organisers.

"The only illegal presence in the area is Israel," she told AFP, adding the "Freedom Flotilla" was on schedule to arrive in the Palestinian enclave on Saturday with more than 10,000 tonnes of building and other supplies.

But Israel insisted it would prevent the three cargo ships and five passenger boats from reaching the Islamist-run Gaza Strip, calling the blockade-busting bid a "cheap political stunt."

The foreign ministry said it summoned the ambassadors of Sweden, Turkey, Greece, Cyprus and Ireland -- the countries from which the ships set sail -- and warned them Israel "issued warrants that prohibit the entrance of the vessels to Gaza."

Famous Swedish crime author Henning Mankell is among the Swedes onboard.

The flotilla "is about to break international law," the ministry's Director General Yossi Gal told the diplomats, adding the coastal enclave "is under the control of a terrorist organisation, which does not prioritise the well-being of the citizens of Gaza."

He also said Israel "declares the flotilla an absolute provocation" and that there is no shortage of humanitarian aid in Gaza.

Israel has vowed to divert the ships to the southern Israeli port of Ashdod, where it will detain the activists before deporting them.

Part of the port has been cordoned off and prepared to deal with the activists. Chemical toilets have been set up as well as large, air-conditioned tents housing immigration booths and areas for people to be searched.

Containers blocked off what appeared to be a holding area, which was covered by tarpaulins to provide shade.

Gal suggested the organisers should voluntarily head to Ashdod to unload the supplies so Israel or humanitarian agencies can deliver them to Gaza overland.

Flotilla organisers rejected the offer.

"We are taking 10,000 tonnes of material that Israel refuses to allow into Gaza," Berlin said, adding the cargo includes water filtration units, pre-fabricated homes and crayons for children.

"This mission is not about delivering humanitarian supplies, it's about breaking Israel's siege on 1.5 million Palestinians," she said.

Irishman Fintan Lane echoed the sentiments.

"We are determined to break Israel's blockade and will not be intimidated," said Lane, one of 750 activists from around the world, including dozens of public officials from European and Arab countries, that organisers say are heading towards Gaza.

"The people of Gaza have a right to access to the outside world and the right to determine their own future," said Lane.

Israel and Egypt have sealed Gaza off to all but basic humanitarian aid since Hamas -- which is blacklisted as a terrorist group by the European Union and the United States -- seized power in June 2007.

Hamas on Thursday said Israel's threats to intercept the flotilla amounted to "Zionist piracy."

"The occupation's threat to prevent the Freedom Flotilla from arriving in the besieged Gaza Strip is Zionist piracy and a violation of international law," senior Hamas leader Ismail Radwan said in a statement.

"The occupation is concerned about these ships... because they grant legitimacy to engagement with the Palestinian government and confirm that the attempts to isolate Hamas have failed," he added.

http://www.swedishwire.com/politics/4740-israeli-military-plans-to-...
Comment by fireguy on May 27, 2010 at 12:45am
Yahya, I did not write either of the cited documents on my last post. If you follow the links you would see that they are from both sides of the story.

I doubt if endtheoccupation.org is apethetic to the plight of Palestinians, who I realize are oppressed just as people in other countries and ourselves are, albiet to a much lesser degree.

I hope all those supplies get through and Israel, Egypt and the rest of the nations can work together but I don't see it happening. I know many Christians who risk their lives to help people all over the world as doctors, nurses, dentists and non professional people and if they could they would be in Gaza too but they are isolated by their "enemies" and their "friends" and you see how hard it is to get into the place.

Knowing the history of the people does should not make a person apethetic but more understanding of the issues.

Jesus died for all of us Jew, Muslim, Gentile, Pagan, Wicken or whatever His salvation is not about religion, man loves religion and God hates it.

I think we are on the same page but speaking from different worldviews.
Comment by fireguy on May 26, 2010 at 9:15pm
If Israel would open the gates Christian charities would be tripping all over themselves to be PROVACATIVE and help the Palestinians. The way it is now it is all covert like smuggling Bibles into China.
Comment by truth on May 26, 2010 at 7:43pm
Comment by fireguy on May 26, 2010 at 7:15pm
Who are the Palestinians? Where did they come from?

http://www.endtheoccupation.org/article.php?id=141

Palestinian Arabs are descendants of the vast Arab/Islamic empire that from the seventh century, had dominated Palestine with the rise of Arabic language and Arab/Islamic culture.--While the majority of Palestinians were peasants, Palestinian cities, especially Jerusalem, were hubs of Arab civilization, where scholars, poets and scientists congregated and where, enriched by a constant influx of traders, they forged the city's identity as an important national center.--Islam's religious and moral teachings remained the dominant social forces, but small indigenous Jewish communities remained. They were the remnants of Palestine's ancient Jewish kingdom that was conquered by Rome in 70 AD, its people largely scattered.--Along with groups of Christians, those Palestinian Jews maintained their faith and separate communal identities within broader Palestinian society throughout the rise of Islam. Like most parts of the Arab world, national consciousness for Palestinians grew in the context of demographic changes and shifts in colonial control. During the 400 years of Ottoman Turkish control, Palestine was an identifiable region within the larger empire, but linked closely with what was then known as Greater Syria.

With World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Palestine became part of the British Empire. But even before that, beginning in the 1880s, the increasing influx of European Jewish settlers, brought about a new national identity--a distinctly Palestinian consciousness--among the Muslims and Christians who were the overwhelming majority of Palestinian society. The indigenous Palestinians-Muslims and Christians- fought the colonial ambitions of European Jewish settlers, British colonial rule during the inter-war period, and the Israeli occupation since 1948 and 1967.

And:

Palestine and the Palestinians

http://www.thercg.org/articles/patp.html


Ownership of the territory is another controversial issue. The Palestinians claim to be the ancient owners of Palestine. Yet we see that they only took possession of the land in the wake of the Turkish campaign through that region in about the tenth century A.D. The claim made by ancient Israel precedes this claim by about 2,300 years.

How ironic that these Palestinians accuse the Jews of depriving them of their home when (1) the vast majority of them moved to Israel after the Jews reclaimed the land from desolation and ruin, and (2) their Arab relatives in the world of Islam own over 1,000 times more real estate than exists within the boundaries of tiny Israel. Remember when thousands of Palestinians were expelled from Kuwait in 1991 after they were found conspiring with the Iraqis in selling out their host country?
Comment by Tara on May 26, 2010 at 5:37pm
Yes IDJ, our individual governments don't have the brass cahones to deal with the Israel issue so it is charity groups that are doing what they can to bring much needed help and aid to the Palestinians. Whether or not Hamas or other Middle Eastern countries are NWO or not is not the issue. The issue remains that the Palestinians are suffering because a lack of food, supplies and common everyday needs by the Israeli government and something must be done about it. They are living in a perpetual prison amidst the land where Jesus once walked. FREE PALESTINE!
Comment by fireguy on May 26, 2010 at 4:08pm
OK, I'll just keep the rest of my thoughts on the subject to myself.

Would hate to be labeled a "ZIONIST". LOL
Comment by illuminated-dj on May 26, 2010 at 4:00pm
yeah but it's not our individual governments deciding to help the palerstinians.it's individual charities ect.. from our countries.and yes i think hamas is controlled as an excuse to keep attacking the palestinian people.

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