By Daniel Chejfec
The incident off the Gaza shore is far more complicated and involved than the media is giving it credit for. To begin with, the organizations which organized the flotilla were repeatedly asked over the past few weeks to channel their relief supplies through the UN or the Red Cross, something they refused to do. They insisted they were going to breach the blockade, to which Israel responded that they would be stopped. Israel also offered them to unload their cargo in the Israeli port of Ashdod to be inspected for weapons and forwarded by land to Gaza, an offer they again refused, persisting in their intention to break the blockade.
One of the lead organizers of this flotilla is an Islamic humanitarian group based in Turkey which has been banned in Israel and in several Western countries because of its close ties with Hamas. When this information is combined with their systematic refusal of alternatives that could have prevented the confrontation while delivering the supplies, it can only be concluded that their goal was not the relief of the population in Gaza, but to force Israel into a confrontation.
While one could ask what did they have to gain by forcing a confrontation, one doesn't have to look very far to find a likely cause. Turkey, a NATO member, was forced into a military alliance with Israel under US pressure back in 1996, a relationship that has hindered Turkish role in the Middle East. The election in 2002 of an Islamic government (the AKP party) initiated an era of growing tensions between Turkey and Israel as well as with its NATO allies. The Islamic government of Turkey is intent on reestablishing the key role Turkey had in the Middle East prior to the abrogation of the Khalifat in 1928 during the Turkish Revolution led by Attaturk that established the Republic; any attempt to reestablish that role necessitates in the current political climate severing relations with Israel, something the current government did almost immediately following the incident off Gaza in spite of the fact that Israel kept the Turks appraised of all that was happening. Turkey will therefore come out of this affair greatly reinforced as a regional power and its image in the Arab street is greatly improved, putting Turkey in a position of strength to demand a seat at the table on any Middle East negotiation.
As for the situation in Gaza, in 2009 more than 738,000 tons of food and supplies entered Gaza, and photos on Gaza newspapers show local markets aplenty with fruit, vegetables, cheese, spices bread and meat to feed the 1.4 million Gazans. This amounts to almost 180% of the aid delivered by Israel to Gaza in 2008. In 2010 to date, 230,700 tons of humanitarian aid was transferred from Israel to Gaza, including in addition to food medications, animal feed hygiene products and clothes. The amounts of humanitarian aid transferred to Gaza is increased during Muslim Holidays.
In 2009 over 10,000 Palestinians from Gaza received medical attention in Israel. Gaza also exported in 2009 over 7.5 million tons of flowers (one of the main exports) and 54 tons of strawberries with Israeli cooperation, and Israel also facilitated the transfer of 1.1 billion shekels (250 million dollars) to Gaza for the ongoing activity of international organizations and to pay the salaries of Palestinian Authority workers. By contrast, Hamas has been repressing freedom of expression, killing dissidents and PLO sympathizers, diverting humanitarian supplies to build missiles and preventing girls from receiving education. Places of entertainment such as movie theaters and discotheques have been closed for being contrary to Islamic law as they interpret it.
While the loss of life is a tragedy, it is one that could have been avoided had the organizers of the flotilla been more interested in the welfare of the Palestinians in Gaza than in their own political agenda. The goal of this flotilla was not to deliver humanitarian aid but to force Israel and Egypt to lift the Gaza blockade to facilitate the rearming of the Islamic forces in that territory. Demonstrators were not yelling to help the Palestinians but were calling for Death to Israel and Death to the US, and the activists on the flotilla had weapons on the ready to attack the Israeli soldiers. Peace activists? I doubt it – Islamist Militants sounds more like it.
To understand the title of this article and to see Israeli humor in action, click here