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Update – 21 June 2011

Posted by Emily Gian on 21 June 2011 at 7:09pm:

Dear All,

Monday’s online edition of the Age featured a piece on the National Times section entitled, ‘Joining the freedom flotilla to break Gaza blockade is a necessity’, by Sylvia Hale, a former Green’s MP from NSW. Hale is on her way to Europe to join the second flotilla, and penned her piece to justify this jaunt at a time when the Arab world is exploding and atrocities are being committed by Arab regimes in several parts of the Middle East against their own civilian populations. Would she consider a flotilla to Syria to save those being murdered in cold blood by Bashir al-Assad’s troops?

It is of interest to note that while Hale and others are rushing to join the flotilla to Gaza, the IHH, which was responsible for the violence on last year’s flotilla has pulled out of this one.

Using emotive language to describe Gaza such as the “fetid smell” where “dust and grit swirl everywhere”, Hale fills her piece the usual uninformed propaganda now expected from flotillistas. There are many mistruths attached to her narrative that need clearing up.

The first is the issue of the illegal Palestinian tunnels, which are used to smuggle items across the border with Egypt. Hale says she visited some of these tunnels in July last year while touring the West Bank and the Gaza Strip on a trip with the NSW parliamentary friends of Palestine (see more). She laments about the terrible conditions for the workers in these illegal tunnels, tunnels which were tolerated and encouraged by Hamas and were also used for the smuggling of weapons. Further, when she visited the area, the blockade was already being partially lifted, with the majority of goods quite capable of coming in legally, and not through the tunnels (see more) unless of course, the “goods” happened to be weapons.

Hale declares that “it’s the rockets fired from the Rafah area that Israel uses as partial justification for the blockade. But in a tacit acknowledgement of just how counterproductive the attacks have been, according to the New York Times, Hamas clamped down on them in 2009”.

Really Ms. Hale?

It must be so easy for her to ignore the 10,000 rockets that rained down on Southern Israel over the last ten years and while there has been a reduction of attacks since Operation Cast Lead, a recently released report from Terrorism Info stated that “in the two years since Operation Cast Lead, 261 rocket hits were identified in Israeli territory… In addition, several hundred rockets and mortar shells misfired and landed in the Gaza Strip” (see more).

So Hale’s red line for terrorism is a reduction in the number of rocket attacks down to 261 including the missile attack ordered by Hamas and directed at a clearly marked yellow Israel school bus which killed a 16 year old schoolboy earlier this year. This seems to be acceptable to Ms. Hale but one wonders at whether she would be comfortable if even one rocket fell near her comfortable home in NSW? She mentions traumatised children of Gaza but what of the traumatised children of Southern Israel, who have grown up with sounds of the “red alerts” that give them 15 seconds to run to safety?

Hale talks about Israeli shelling of areas in Gaza and declares that to her mind “it’s an unforgiveable war crime whose sole purpose can only be to terrorise and maim civilians desperately trying to survive” but she knows that no shelling would occur if Hamas ceased the attacks on Israel, if Hamas did not espouse its deadly Covenant with its racist genocidal overtones that have for decades been carried out by words and by deeds. Hale and others of her ilk seem very competent in the art of whitewashing Hamas’ deadly intentions but the flotilla on which she is travelling serves the purposes of strengthening Hamas’ grip on Gaza and its people. Nobody should be fooled that it is in any way otherwise.

Moreover, she claims the Israelis have inflicted atrocities on Palestinian schools, schools that have been demolished and unable to be rebuilt but ignores the fact that during Operation Cast Lead, we learned a great deal about Hamas’ attitude towards learning institutions for Palestinian children. Please see this video entitled ‘Hamas booby trapped school and zoo’ where IDF soldiers follow the lead of a bomb fuse which goes directly from a zoo to a school. And of the children that may go to such a school? During Operation Cast Lead we also witnessed video footage of armed Palestinians literally grabbing a child and using him as a human shield. This video also shows children and teenagers being used as tools. Now they are the tools of Hale and her flotillistas as much as they are of Hamas.

Hale references these children in talking of Israel’s “punishment” of them for having the “temerity to elect a government of which Israel disapproves”. Israel does not just flippantly disapprove of Hamas for the fun of it. The fact that Hamas appears on the list of Foreign Terrorist Organisations by the United States and the European Union, just to name a few, seems to suggest to me at least that this is more than just petty disapproval from Israel.

Hale mentions Israel’s easing of the blockade, saying that it has consisted more of words than actions. She urges people to read reports by the United Nations and by Oxfam, Amnesty and Save the Children among others. I would urge Ms. Hale to visit Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, where they have been transparently publishing just how much aide comes across the border on a daily basis. At the start of June it was noted that there was a 128% increase in the volume of truckloads transferred through the crossings compared to last month (see more), showing that each month, the number of materials are only increasing.

Hale also brushes over the opening of the Rafah Crossing, which make her flotilla even more of a publicity stunt. This is not surprising considering the “aid” that the flotilla brought in last year. Once the aid was unloaded a few interesting points were noted:
• The equipment did not constitute humanitarian aid in the accepted sense (basic foodstuffs, new and functional equipment, fresh medicines);

• The humanitarian aid on all the ships was scattered in the ships’ holds and thrown onto piles and not packed properly for transport; and

• The use by dates of some of the medicines had already expired and others were due to expire soon after the flotilla arrived. The operating theatre equipment, which should be kept sterile, was carelessly wrapped (see more).

Finally, Hale refers to Gaza as the world’s largest open-air prison. I do not wish to whitewash over the poverty that exists in Gaza. I am sure that the situation for many the living conditions are not great but to suggest that an area, which is now regularly opening swimming pools, shopping malls and restaurants is an open-aired prison, is a fair stretch of anyone’s imagination.

In the meantime, I can think of one person who truly is being imprisoned in Gaza, who Sylvia Hale and her friends on the flotilla could also direct their attention to when they visit Gaza at the end of the month. That person is Gilad Shalit, who, on Saturday 25 June will mark his fifth year in terrorist Hamas captivity. Those on the flotillas have completely ignored Gilad’s plight, and seem to care very little about the fact that his captivity is in violation of every human rights law.

The Zionist Council of Victoria will be running a campaign from 24-26 June called ‘Five Minutes for Gilad’. We are asking all community members to take five minutes to stop and think about Gilad Shalit’s plight, a minute for each year that he has now spent in captivity.

On Sunday morning at 10:45am we invite community members to come together at the Caulfield Park Pavilion to mark the five minutes of silence in a community show of solidarity. Join the Facebook event here. We have all been touched by Gilad’s plight and our physical show of solidarity is very important. Let us join together on Sunday morning in the hope that this is Gilad’s last year he will mark in captivity and that he will be returned to his family safely and quickly.

Best Wishes,


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