From Socialist Voice, July 2010

International

Gaza Freedom Flotilla hijacked by Israel


In the early hours of Monday 31 May, Israeli commandos hijacked the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in a brutal attack that left nine international aid workers dead and many others severely injured.
     The flotilla was on a mission to break the illegal siege of Gaza and deliver 10,000 tonnes of much-needed aid and supplies to the tiny coastal strip that is home to more than 1½ million Palestinians. The cargo included items that Israel has banned from reaching Gaza, such as construction materials, children’s toys, and paper and pencils. The attack, which happened in international waters, horrified and outraged the world.
     The Israeli PR machine immediately spun into action, releasing selected video clips and photographs, claiming that this was a premeditated attack by those on the Mavi Marmara, and that the heavily armed commandos were only “protecting” themselves. There were claims that weapons were on board, along with “active terror operatives.” What we know now is that the “weapons” the people on board used to defend their ship from this act of piracy were items found on any ship: metal rods, galley knives, etc. And we also have evidence that while the commandos were murdering people in cold blood, activists on board were actually treating wounded Israeli soldiers!
     After their kidnapping, many of the international activists received beatings while in detention, and suffered the theft of all their electronic items, including laptop computers, cameras, and mobile phones.
     Less than a week later the Irish ship Rachel Corrie was also hijacked in international waters as it attempted to bring 1,100 tonnes of supplies to Gaza.
     Yet despite the best efforts of Israel’s propagandists, the attack has been something of a watershed in regard to Israel’s standing in the world. Relations between Israel and Turkey—Israel’s long-time ally in the region—have reached their lowest point, and the siege of Gaza has become a point of contention the world over—so much so that Israel has been forced to announce what it calls a “liberalising” of the blockade by allowing the import of “civilian” goods to Gaza but restricting “problematic dual-use” items.
     This is nothing but a PR stunt, a purely cosmetic response, as Israel will still define—according to its own cynical criteria—what constitutes “problematic.” Nor has there been any mention of exports from Gaza.
     Any easing of the siege is to be welcomed for humanitarian reasons—indeed it represents a significant victory for international solidarity activism.
     However, a mere “easing” should be unacceptable: the siege of Gaza must end completely and immediately. Palestinians in Gaza must enjoy freedom of movement and trade and be able to rebuild on their own terms.
     The Irish Government, to its credit, was forceful in its condemnation both of the Israeli attack—calling it “completely unacceptable”—and of the siege of Gaza in general, saying that it is “unacceptable under any circumstances.” Yet when it comes to Israel, mere words are not enough. This rogue state will respond only to action.
     Unfortunately the Irish Government is unwilling at present to impose or even support sanctions, and so is talking out of both sides of its mouth. The Government could cease buying military equipment from Israel, support the suspension of Israel from the Euro-Med Agreement, oppose any further upgrades in relations between Israel and the European Union, and cut diplomatic ties.
     However, it will not do any of this unless sustained public pressure is brought to bear.
     People in Ireland can aid the Palestinian struggle for self-determination by joining the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (www.ipsc.ie) and helping build the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
     Future flotillas by the Free Gaza Movement and others have been announced but at the time of writing are still in the early planning stages, with nothing confirmed.
[KS]

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