The Israel Navy prepares to stop a flotilla from heading to Gaza with thousands of tons of aid. Activists and politicians intend on breaking the unlawful blockade of the Strip. Mohamed Vall reports at Al Jazeera (3:11):
Eight ships carrying 10,000+ tons of humanitarian aid, called the “Freedom Flotilla”, will attempt to break Israel’s forcefully imposed blockade on the Gaza Strip, “setting up a major confrontation with the Israeli Navy”, Jason Ditz writes at AntiWar News.
“Israel has promised to stop the aid from reaching the Gazans at any cost, and while they have previously allowed some ships into the besieged strip on other occasions they have attacked the ships and captured the aid workers,” he adds. Last July, former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and Nobel laureate Mairead Maguire were among the 21 unarmed activists “abducted” by the Israeli Navy while bringing aid to Gaza.
Jonathan Ferziger reports at Bloomberg (via Business Week):
Israel will “use all available means to stop the ships” from docking in Gaza and “has instructed the Israel Defense Forces and the Navy to act accordingly,” the government said in a second statement from the Foreign Ministry.
Israel has completely blockaded Gaza from bringing in any materials to reconstruct the damage caused by Israel in its recent massacre of the Strip during Operation Cast Lead. People continue to die in this “Prison by the Sea” as basic medical supplies are not allowed to pass the border by Israel’s decree and forces.
The Israeli government, in documents submitted to an Israeli court, asserts the blockade is to punish Hamas, which governs the Strip. The documents were uncovered earlier this month by the BBC. Tim Franks reported:
But Israel has never published a list of banned items, saying it approves requests on a case-by-case basis.
Items allowed have changed over time, which has left humanitarian organisations and commercial importers constantly attempting to guess what will be approved….
The lack of clarity causes immense frustration not just among Gazans, but among aid groups, diplomats, and the United Nations—which has described Israel’s blockade as “collective punishment”.
The full list of banned items was posted at the BBC website [.pdf]. “The Defense Ministry is refusing—on security grounds, it says—to reveal why Israel prohibits the import into the Gaza Strip of items such as cilantro, sage, jam, chocolate, french fries, dried fruit, fabrics, notebooks empty flowerpots and toys, while allowing cinnamon, plastic buckets and combs,” Amira Hass reported at Ha’aretz.
The spin out of the Israeli government to the media is actually, “There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza,” Sherine Tadros reports at Al Jazeera (2:25):
Israel recently “rejected a Qatari proposal by the Persian Gulf emirate to carry out rehabilitation work in the Gaza Strip”, Zvi Bar’el reported at Ha’aretz—soon after the documents were leaked. The plan, “which would allow it to bring construction materials and other goods into the Strip” with the Qatar government having “undertaken reconstruction of infrastructure”, included reopening “the Israeli diplomatic mission the Qataris closed during Operation Cast Lead”.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who U.S. President Barack Obama stated last summer is a “force for stability and good“, was provided with the proposal by the Israeli government, according to Mr. Bar’el’s Egyptian sources. “Israel’s rejection of the plan, it seems, resulted largely from Egyptian opposition,” he added.
Egypt and the Fatah-ruled Palestinan Authority have overtly collaborated with Israel as puppets of the U.S. and are rewarded, like Israel, with billions more in welfare from the Obama Administration. Mel Fryberg recently reported at Inter Press Services:
The collusion of fellow Muslim and Arab country Egypt, and the tacit approval of other regional regimes, is a particularly strong rallying point for the collective anger of the Arab street….
Over a million Gazans have been reduced to living in a state of chronic poverty, unemployment, malnutrition and misery in one of the world’s most densely populated areas.
Gaza, 45 km long by 5-12 km wide, has been described as the world’s largest open-air prison.
During Israel’s military assault on the territory, codenamed Operation Cast Lead, from December 2008 to January 2009, civilians had nowhere to run and nowhere to hide in the hermetically sealed territory as the Israeli Air Force carried out extensive and indiscriminate sorties over residential areas….
Cairo controls the Rafah entry to Egypt in the south of the Gaza Strip. This is predominantly a passenger terminal although some passage of goods has been permitted.
However, all other crossing points into the strip are controlled by the Israelis. These terminals are specifically designed for the passage of goods and produce into Gaza.
In 2005 an agreement between Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority (PA) was signed.
The agreement outlined how European Union monitors and PA officials and security—all linked to Israeli surveillance equipment and cameras—would control Gaza’s side of the Rafah border crossing….
Even though Hamas now controls Gaza, before Gazans can leave the territory their movement has to be coordinated with the Egyptian authorities who in turn coordinate with the PA and the Israelis as to who may or may not leave.
While Egypt has permitted the entry of limited amounts of humanitarian goods it has forcibly prevented larger convoys as well as activists accompanying the convoys from entering Gaza.
Egypt has been blowing up many of the hundreds of smuggling tunnels that link Gaza with the Sinai and through which most of the necessary day-to-day goods, as well as arms, are smuggled.
The Egyptians recently commenced construction of an underground, bomb-proof 14 km-long steel wall complete with advanced American surveillance technology to prevent further smuggling tunnels from being built.
Samir Awad, from Birzeit University near Ramallah, argues that the Egyptians, as recipients of one of the largest amounts of American foreign aid, are under enormous pressure from the U.S. to cooperate with the blockade.
“If Egypt doesn’t kowtow to Washington’s regional foreign policy they could lose their aid,” says Awad. “But the Egyptian authorities are also interested in keeping the region politically stable until President Hosni Mubarak’s son Gamal can take over as his successor.
“They believe pressuring Hamas to sign a reconciliation agreement, which they authored, with the PA is essential to stabilising the area,” Awad told IPS.
The Egyptians are afraid that a successful Islamic regime such as Hamas on their doorstep would provide succour to their own Muslim Brotherhood which poses a serious political threat to the regime of President Mubarak.
Being popular with their people has never been an issue with the Middle East’s dictatorial regimes where democracy and human rights are not priorities. They lost the popularity battle a long time ago.
Instead, they count on continued economic and military aid from the West, particularly the U.S., and political support from their elites who benefit from the mutual cronyism.
By controlling the media the Egyptian authorities have succeeded, to a certain degree, in persuading their public that the fault for the Gaza siege lies with Hamas and Israel exclusively.
Prof. Moshe Ma’oz from Jerusalem’s Hebrew University believes American coercion is less of an issue.
“The Egyptians have their own agenda and what they are doing is coordinating their common interests with that of the Israelis,” Ma’oz told IPS.
Yousef, meanwhile, believes the PA is also complicit.
“The PA might say publicly that it is against the collective suffering of Gaza’s civilians under the siege, but actually it is benefiting politically from the blockade as it hopes this will undermine our rule in their favour,” he told IPS.
Still don’t believe Middle Eastern hatred for the U.S., where it exists, isn’t directly rooted in the U.S. government propping up the dictators who directly oppress them?
History didn’t begin on 9/11 and it didn’t end there. It perpetuated itself on steroids.