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Update – 18 June 2010

Posted by Emily Chrapot on 18 June 2010 at 3:45pm:

Today’s print edition of the Australian carries a story entitled ‘Israel eases its Gaza blockade’ about Israel’s decision to:
• Liberalise the system by which civilian goods enter Gaza
• Expand the inflow of materials for civilian projects that are under international supervision.
• Continue existing security procedures to prevent the inflow of weapons and war materials. (see more)

Hamas senior leader Ismail Radwan stated, “We in Hamas reject the Zionist decision, which is an attempt to obscure the international decision to completely lift the siege”. The article also notes that the Palestinian Authority called it a “public relations ploy”, which is an interesting choice of words considering the events of the last two weeks in regards to the flotilla.

The United States hailed the decision with State Department spokesman Mark Toner stating, ‘we welcome the general principles announced earlier today…They reflect the type of changes we’ve been discussing with our Israeli friends… As these principles get further developed and implemented we hope the situation in Gaza will improve… We want to see an expansion of the scope and types of goods allowed into Gaza to address the Palestinians’ legitimate needs for sustained humanitarian assistance and regular access for reconstruction material’ (see more). 

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said, ‘It is the first major progress since the crisis began. But it is not enough.’ This sentiment was echoed throughout the European Union.

I am seeing a lot of statements calling on Israel to do more, but I am yet to see these same people offering an alternative in terms of weapons being smuggled in to Gaza to be used against Israeli civilians. Surely if Israel is to ease restrictions it should be done with a genuine pledge by Hamas to put an end to terror and incitement. Or has everyone forgotten Hamas’ deadly covenant calling for the annihilation of Jews, or the 10,000 rocket that have been fired at Israel in recent years, which should show us they are not joking around.

Meanwhile, Australian Greens leader Senator Bob Brown tried to bring the issue into the Australian Senate yesterday when he attempted to move that the Senate:
a. Notes that basic food products including pasta, coriander, fruit jams, instant coffee and fresh meat, none of which have any link to national security, have been banned under Israel’s blockade on Gaza; and
b. Expresses its concern for the social humanitarian and economic impact of Israel’s blockade on Gaza.

Senator Ludwig responded, “The government will not support this motion in its current form. As has been stated on previous occasions, the government objects to using formal motions to deal with complex international matters, particularly those involving other governments. This motion in its current form is unbalanced and fails to recognise Israel’s genuine security concerns”. To read more follow this link and go to page 15-16.

The Israel Security Cabinet decision also stated ‘Israel expects the international community to work towards the immediate release of Gilad Shalit’ though less media sources are willing to write about Gilad, who has been held by Hamas for almost four years in contravention to international humanitarian laws. Toner also reiterated calls for his release.

In regards to the flotilla incident, earlier in the week, the Israeli Government released details of the ‘special, independent public commission’ which ‘will make it clear to the entire world that the State of Israel acts according to law, transparently, and with full responsibility’. The group would consist of two foreign observers (see more). The UN Special Envoy to the Middle East stated, ‘The Secretary-General has taken note of Israel’s announcement and recognises that a thorough Israeli investigation is important, and could be consistent with the Secretary-General’s own proposals for an international panel – the two combined would fully meet the international community’s expectation for a credible and impartial investigation’ (see more). He also noted that the two inquiries would be complimentary with each other.

Excuse me for appearing cynical but the UN’s Goldstone Report released as a result of Operation Cast Lead was hardly impartial and showed us just how flawed a supposedly objective inquiry could be. At the time even Goldstone himself acknowledged that ‘we had to do the best we could with the material we had. If this was a court of law, there would have been nothing proven’ (read more). So just whose evidence would the UN rely on in relation to the flotilla? The Turkish terrorist organisation the IHH? Hamas? Supposed peace activists who knew these terrorists boarded the ship in Turkey?

Next Friday, 25 June 2010, will mark four years since Gilad Shalit was abducted. He has been held for four years by Hamas terrorists in contravention with international humanitarian law. The Melbourne Jewish community has always been behind the campaign to raise awareness of Gilad’s plight and we ask that as we approach yet another painful anniversary that you continue to keep Gilad in your thoughts and continue to get the message out that Gilad still lives. In a time when the world is focused on the supposed humanitarian crisis in Gaza the real crisis is that Gilad Shalit has been held for so long with no access to the outside world.

In the next few days the Zionist Council of Victoria will be sending out more information on the “Blue Ribbon Campaign”, which we have continued consistently since Gilad’s abduction in 2006.

Best wishes,