Mercy Flotilla for Gaza About to Set Off
Israelis Threaten to Block it with War Ships

An 8-ship aid flotilla will likely set sail from Turkish ports on Wednesday in an attempt to reach the Occupied Gaza Strip

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu called on the Israelis to lift their siege of Gazan civilians and warned them not to block the aid flotilla. Turkey had for decades been close to Israel, its secular generals preferring Tel Aviv to the Arab powers. But the ruling AK Partisi is imbued with more respect for Islam and for popular opinion than was common with most Turkish governments. Since two of the 8 ships in the flotilla are Turkish-sponsored, any naval confrontationof Turkey’s vessels by an Israeli warship could turn ugly in the diplomatic realm.

Ireland has likewise urged Israeli restraint.

The 1.6 million people of the Gaza Strip, half of them children, have become trapped by history between a hostile Israel on one side, cutting them off from their traditional hinterland of Arab markets, and the Mediterranean on the other. Since 2007, the Israelis have imposed on Gaza a thoroughgoing blockade, in hopes of unseating the Hamas party-militia that gained control in the January, 2006 parliamentary elections. The blockade has deeply harmed the health and economic well-being of the Gazans, but it has had zero impact on Hamas hegemony.

Although Israeli officials propagandistically claim that they allow large amounts of aid through every week, what they don’t say is that they aren’t allowing enough aid in. Saying that you give someone you keep tied up in your basement a whole 400 calories a day is just a way of saying you are starving him, since he needs roughly 2000 calories a day. Focusing on what is let through as opposed to what is kept out is just misdirection, as when a stage magician gets you to glance somewhere else other than at the elephant he brought in. After the brutal war it launched on Gaza in December- January 2008-2009, Israel banned the import of building materials that would have allowed most buildings and residences to be repaired.

Here are some revealing statistics from a recent report by the World Health Organization on the situation in Gaza:

  • “In Gaza, Israel’s blockade is debilitating the healthcare system, limiting medical supplies and the training of medical personnel and preventing serious medical cases from travelling outside the Strip for specialized treatment.”
  • “Israel’s 2008-2009 military operation damaged 15 of the Strip’s 27 hospitals and damaged or destroyed 43 of its 110 primary health care facilities, none of which have been repaired or rebuilt because of the construction materials ban.”
  • “Some 15-20 percent of essential medicines are commonly out of stock and there are shortages of essential spare parts for many items of medical equipment . . . ”
  • In Late 2008, nearly 1 in 5 Palestinians lived in “extreme poverty.” Over half lived below the poverty line.
  • “In the second half of 2008, one third of West Bank households and 71 percent of Gaza households received food assistance, with food accounting for roughly half total household expenditures – making families highly vulnerable to food price fluctuations.”
  • “In May 2008, 56 percent of Gazans and 25 percent of West Bank residents were deemed food insecure by the UN.”
  • Chronic malnutrition has risen in Gaza over the past few years to reach 10.2 percent.” [This is especially true among children in Gaza).
  • The entire fishing and agricultural sectors in the Palestinian population are very badly off.

    This heartbreaking account of Gaza by US physicians doing volunteer medical work there underlines how inadequate the medical facilities are.

    Lara Hart notes that Gaza needs 100 new schools to meet the needs of the burgeoning population of children. Israel’s self-defeating refusal to allow these schools to be built will consign a generation of Palestinian children to ignorance, making them easy marks for violent recruiters.

    This horrible siege of a whole civilian population would be bad enough, but the Israelis who carry it out have managed to hide from themselves what they are doing to the Palestinians. They have convinced themselves that it is dangerous to Israelis for the Palestinians to have so much as concrete. But what they are doing constitutes a war crime in international law. The Occupying power can’t arbitrarily and randomly punish innocent ordinary people to “encourage the others.” Such techniques were used by the most unsavory of the mass authoritarian states of the interwar period, and the victors of WW II aimed to put an end to these cruel techniques of governing occupied populations through instruments such as the Geneva Conventions.

    Anyone not so blinkered will naturally sympathize with the aid flotilla and hope that it gets through. For the sake of the children.

  • 25 Responses

    1. Prof. Cole,

      Israel needs an impoverished, undereducated and malnourished population in Gaza so that Hamas survives. Israel requires perpetual war in order to continue its illegal colonial expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The West has grown weary of the victimhood practised by Israelis and are seeing the effects of the assault on Gaza, the apartheid roads. The BDS campaigns are gaining traction and young Jewish people in Europe and the US don’t really have much in common with the Israelis.

      The leaking of the South African papers outlining Israel’s willingness to supply the then apartheid regime with nuclear weapons wasn’t an accident either.
      The pressure is mounting on Netanyahu. The only question remaining is when he’ll give way.

    2. Not only that, but a small flotilla of private Israeli boats have vowed to assist the Israeli navy in preventing the flotilla to reaching the Gazan port, with one spokesperson saying something to the effect that these activists care nothing for the Palestinians, that not only are they supporting Hamas, something Mark Regev regurgitates ad nauseum, but that if they really care about the plight of Gazans, they would hand over the tonnes of cement, water purification systems, crayons, chocolate, medical supplies and all the rest to the Israeli authorities – to let them distribute these materials to Gaza! Seriously, the bloody cheek of some people. Also lending their support of the freedom flotilla are a group of Polish MPs, saying that:

      ”This flotilla represents no threat to Israel’, they said in a statement released today. ‘And that is why we are outraged and greatly concerned to hear that the Israeli government is threatening to use force against the flotilla and prevent the delivery of humanitarian aid’.

    3. Isn’t this blockade of Gaza similar to the “economic sanctions” that the US uses all the time to affect regime change?

    4. This may be Robert Fisk’s best ever, please read the whole speech:
      the convoy of boats setting off for Gaza. I don’t think they are a bunch of anti-Israelis. I think the international convoy is on its way because people aboard these ships – from all over the world – are trying to do what our supposedly humanitarian leaders have failed to do. They are bringing food and fuel and hospital equipment to those who suffer. In any other context, the Obamas and the Sarkozys and the Camerons would be competing to land US Marines and the Royal Navy and French forces with humanitarian aid – as Clinton did in Somalia. Didn’t the God-like Blair believe in humanitarian ‘intervention’ in Kosovo and Sierra Leone?

      In normal circumstances, Blair might even have put a foot over the border.

      But no. We dare not offend the Israelis. And so ordinary people are trying to do what their leaders have culpably failed to do. Their leaders have failed them.

      Have the media? Are we showing documentary footage of the Berlin airlift today? Or of Clinton’s attempt to rescue the starving people of Somalia, of Blair’s humanitarian ‘intervention’ in the Balkans, just to remind our viewers and readers – and the people on those boats – that this is about hypocrisy on a massive scale?

      The hell we are! We prefer ‘competing narratives’. Few politicians want the Gaza voyage to reach its destination – be its end successful, farcical or tragic. We believe in the ‘peace process’, the ‘road map’. Keep the ‘fence’ around the Palestinians. Let the ‘key players’ sort it out.

      link to

    5. more Fisk:

      Today, as foreigners try to take food and fuel by sea to the hungry Palestinians of Gaza, we journalists should be reminding our viewers and listeners of a long-ago day when America and Britain went to the aid of a surrounded people, bringing food and fuel – our own servicemen dying as they did so – to help a starving population. That population had been surrounded by a fence erected by a brutal army which wished to starve the people into submission. The army was Russian. The city was Berlin. The wall was to come later. The people had been our enemies only three years earlier. Yet we flew the Berlin airlift to save them. Now look at Gaza today. Which western journalist – and we love historical parallels – has even mentioned 1948 Berlin in the context of Gaza?

    6. What will be needed to make trade permanent? Aid after aid after aid leaves Gazans economically dependant.

      The only path that I can see that would enable them to have a functioning port, conforming with international law of the sea applied in responsible port management, is internationally recognized sovereignty.

      The only paths that I can see to realize that sovereignty are declaration by Gaza as independant, or reconciliation with the PA (even if under terms that are less advantageous than they would hope).

    7. Im a humanitarian aid worker, working in the Palestinian Territories. currently I am working on a project which is funded by the US government (USAID) to support the reconstruction of schools damaged in the war in Gaza. Our project began at the beginning of the year and until now the Israeli government has still not allowed the import of needed materials to help rebuild these schools. And this is even with USAID pressure. They know where the schools are and have access to all of our reports on how these materials will be used.

      The misdirection of the Israeli government on this issue is horrific and completely anti-humanitarian. Articles in Ha’aretz last summer highlighted how much of the meat and produce allowed into Gaza are based on the need for the agricultural industry to offload surplus goods into Gaza. For instance, tomatoes would not be allowed in, but when Israeli tomato growers complained a market saturation in Israel drove down prices, then magically (for a month or two), tomatoes would be allowed into Gaza.

      They are not only starving Gaza, but doing so for profit.

    8. Cole: “But what they are doing constitutes a war crime in international law.”

      Obama and Congress are actively funding and supporting these war crimes.

      Some would argue (like Chomsky) that without US support Israel could not commit these war crimes.

      • Some would argue (like Chomsky) that without US support Israel could not commit these war crimes.

        HA! “Some“?

        The reality; for anoyone that knoes anything, is that our money causes influence, and without our influence, Israel would behave far more violently. You think that Israel is bad now? Well, wait to see what happens if they feel that their back is against the wall.

        Do you people think at all? My lord, it’s like people only read one side of the propaganda and then think that they know all that’s going on. Incredible. Reading this group of responses is akin to vegans saying that eating meat is evil.

        • “You think that Israel is bad now? Well, wait to see what happens if they feel that their back is against the wall. ”

          US citizens should keep paying for Israeli war crimes? Is that your plan?

    9. USAID are also responsible for the building of settler roads in the occupied territories:

      “Khalilieh said the PA was being effectively bullied into conceding the road infrastructure wanted by Israel.

      ‘What happens is that USAID presents a package deal of donations for infrastructure projects in the West Bank and the Palestinians are faced with a choice of take it or leave it. That way the PA is cornered into accepting roads it does not want. ‘ ”

      link to

    10. I hope these ships get through to the Palestinians, but I seriously doubt that they will.

      We have equipped the Israelis with a tremendous amount of arms…including a powerful navy. I don’t see how a flotilla of eight or nine unarmed ships is going to prevail over that force of arms. The United States and other countries make that possible.

    11. […] and crops. Since then they’ve continued the war by other means, the garotte of a blockade.   According to the WHO the consequences have been severe:   “In Gaza, Israel’s blockade is debilitating the […]

    12. Slowly starving the people in the Gaza. Only physically though. Because their spirits seem to only grow stronger as well as people around the worlds support for their plight.

      Until the U.S. deals with this critical situation more honestly and fairly the conflict will continue. How many times do we need to hear that the unbridled $$$$ support that the U.S. provides for Israel is one of the main reasons people in that part of the world are so pissed off at us? How many times do we have to hear this?

      The MSM’s coverage of the BP oil disaster in the Gulf has shut down all coverage on Iraq, Afghanistan, returning U.S. soldiers. The MSM has almost always been shut down to what is happening in the I/P conflict.

      But now they have BP’s oil in their eyes, ears and mouths.

      Silence on these other critical issues

    13. link to
      “As for the supplies on board, Israeli authorities said they would undergo a security check, and then transfer them to U.N. agencies to be distributed in Gaza. Israel said the activists should have chosen this option in the first place if they wished to get the materials to Gaza.
      ‘If they were really interested in the well-being of the people of Gaza, they would have accepted the offers of Egypt or Israel to transfer humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza,’ said Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev. ‘Instead they have chosen a cheap political stunt.’ “

    14. * On tonight’s TV news, the outspoken head mullah Nasrullah of Lebanon in front of a large audience threatened to shower Israel with rockets if it tries to stop the Freedom flotilla from landing their stores….

      I doubt this threat will stop Israel blocading the Freedom Fleet, but who knows, Nasrullah may do what he says… and then it will really be on!

    15. […] One may wonder if the Irish leader can publicly urge both sides to show restraint, why Prime Minister John Key – a recent visitor to Turkey for the Gallipoli commemorations, and erstwhile leader of a trade mission to the region – has been so far silent on this ‘hot button’ issue in the Middle East, and the related human rights violations that inspired the aid flotilla to set sail. And how can such a aid convoy have set sail without Keith Locke on board? The devastating impact of the siege that Israel has imposed on Gaza – as a collective punishment of the Gaza population, the blockade arguably constitutes a war crime under international law – can be found in this news article about the contents of last week’s World Health Organisation Report. Some of the WHO report findings have also been reported by Juan Cole on his Informed Comment site. […]

    16. […] And while the Israelis claim that the blockade does not seriously affect Palestinian lives, the World Health Organization vigorously contests Israeli officials’ protestations that their siege of…. In fact, there is widespread unemployment, poverty, lack of medicine and medical equipment, and […]

    17. […] I noted early last week, the World Health Organization vigorously contests Israeli officials’ protestations that their siege of…. In fact, there is widespread unemployment, poverty, lack of medicine and medical equipment, and […]

    18. […] Forget for a moment that Israel is stealing European passports to assassinate people or that it ignores the Goldstone  Report which found them responsible for the overwhelming majority of civilian casualties in Gaza.  Forget for the moment that (according to Juan Cole) conditions in Gaza as a result of the Israeli blockade are deplorable: […]

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