Posted by Sabrin Qadi on July 30, 2015 in Blog
On June 25, the third Gaza Freedom Flotilla set sail from Greece to Gaza in an attempt to deliver tons of medical equipment and humanitarian aid. The Swedish-flagged vessel named “Marianne” carried dozens of anti-occupation activists and dignitaries, including a former President of Tunisia and a current member of the Knesset party, committed to breaking the siege imposed by Israel on the city of Gaza since 2007. The convoy was intercepted, nonviolently but with disproportionate resources used, on June 29 by the Israeli Navy through a series of negotiations in Arabic between Israeli-Arab Knesset member, Basel Ghattas and a Shin Bet officer. Thirteen vessels surrounded the flotilla while drones buzzed above them all while being escorted to the port of Ashdod; preventing it from delivering much needed aid to the Palestinians in Gaza.
The Israeli response comes as little surprise considering past aid convoys to Gaza have been prevented like in 2011, and the infamous Mavi Marmara in 2010 which ended with the Israel Defense Forces killing nine on board.
Ahead of the flotilla's arrival, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu published a letter mocking the imminent arrival of the ship, welcoming them to Israel first, and suggesting that perhaps they took a wrong turn while heading to Syria and insisting that in fact, “there is no blockade of Gaza. You are welcome to transfer humanitarian aid through Israel. We are not, however, willing to allow weapons to enter Gaza and reach terror groups.” However, the flotilla was headed to Gaza due to the difficulty of international aid reaching the isolated area. The one million plus people of Gaza are considered to be living in what is described as the largest open air prison in the world.
Netanyahu's denial of the existence of a severely restrictive and inhumane blockade amounts to nothing more than semantic maneuvering and propaganda. This is proven by his contradictory statement that there is no blockade while at the same time declaring that Israel will block the aid flotilla from reaching Gaza, therefore.
The United Nations estimates as a result of the 2014 war in Gaza a reported 2,000 Palestinians died, 69% of whom were civilian, 475,000 were displace, and as many as 17,200 homes destroyed or badly damaged leaving more than 100,000 homeless. While civic life and economy thrive in Israel, the Gaza Strip and other parts of the occupied Palestinian territories suffer from a lack of basic human rights and decent living conditions. There are high unemployment rates, restrictive access to resources, electricity, medical supplies, and social services.
If the conditions in Gaza were not as horrific and severe as facts prove them to be, then there would be no need for the emergency aid rushing its way. If Gaza were not effectively blockaded, then there would be nothing preventing the flotilla from reaching the territory. The efforts of the flotilla convoys and campaigns such as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement help to actively unpack the logic and implications of the Israeli occupation. Perhaps Prime Minister Netanyahu should take a trip to Gaza and see for himself if there is or isn't a blockade in effect. Or even better, end the blockade, then at least the prime minister's actions would match his words.
Sabrin Qadi is an intern with the Arab American Institute