Pro-Palestinian activists on board what they describe as a “peace boat” on Monday urged Israel not to interfere in a planned aid flotilla that will sail for Gaza later this month.
Exactly one year ago, a similar flotilla was intercepted by the Israeli navy when it attempted to break the blockade of the Gaza Strip. When the ships refused to turn around, Israeli commandos boarded them and were attacked with metal rods and knives. Seven soldiers were injured. Nine activists were killed.
Israel has maintained a blockade of the Gaza Strip since Hamas came to power there in 2007 to prevent weapons from being smuggled into the territory.
Over the past five years, militants in Gaza and in south Lebanon have fired thousands of projectiles at Israeli cities and settlements. Most recently, in April, an anti-tank missile hit a school bus near the Gaza Strip. A teenager was critically wounded in the attack. Israel launched more than a dozen strikes against suspected terrorist targets across the border in retaliation. Hamas then hurried to announce a truce.
The Israel navy has repeatedly intercepted Iranian vessels bound for Gaza carrying arms, most recently in March of this year.
In February, Iranian navy ships, for the first time in over thirty years, traversed the Suez Canal, shortly after Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, who had strongly maintained his country’s peace treaty with Israel during that period, was forced to resign in the face of a popular uprising. Late in May, Egypt’s military interim government reopened the border with Gaza, allowing militants and smugglers to circumvent the Israeli blockade.
Hamas, which describes itself as a “militant resistance movement” and professes to fight for the destruction of Israel, recently signed a unity agreement with Fatah, the moderate Palestinian party of Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. Together, they intend to appeal to the United Nations General Assembly in September for recognition of Palestinian statehood.
On the day the flotilla participants made their announcement this week, the Israeli government revealed that a number of Turkish activists who are part of the İHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation that organizes the effort were involved in violent anti-Israel demonstrations in Jordan during last month’s Nakba Day. On this date, Palestinians commemorate the “catastrophe” that was the creation of Israel in 1948.
İHH is part of the union of Good — an umbrella organization of over fifty Islamic charities that both Israel and the United States have designed a terrorist organization because it funnels resources to Hamas. İHH joined forces with the Free Gaza Movement in the 2010 flotilla. This group of human rights activists has strong leftists ties. The American anti-war movement Code Pink is notably associated with the endeavor.
Why are these people working together? What are they hoping to achieve?
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pointed out what he described as a “strange fusion” between radical Islamists and the far left in Europe in an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan two months ago. “This is the strangest union you can possibly contemplate,” he said, noting the vast political differences between the two groups, except “they all unite on one thing — bashing Israel. Bashing the Jewish state.”
The “Freedom Flotilla” is not a relief effort. It is a provocation organized by radical Islamist and far-left activists who are hoping that Israel will once again defend itself and intercept their fleet. The president of İHH recognized last month that another incident could help their struggle against Israel. “Even if we sacrifice martyrs for this cause, we will be on the side of justice,” he explained.
İHH also understood that once again, “all of the world’s nations will stand against” Israel. Immediately after last year’s raid, countries rushed to condemn Israel before details of the event were clear. It will happen again.
Whatever the outcome of June’s flotilla, it will be portrayed as the well intention effort of good samaritans who just want to help the poor people of Gaza. Israel, if it enforces its blockade, will be depicted as a brutal oppressor that won’t even let medicine reach Gaza — even if last time, it urged the İHH to deliver their supplies to an Israeli port so they could be transfered to the territory under Israeli supervision. Most civilian goods are after all exempt from the blockade.