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Update – 4 July 2011

Posted by Emily Gian on 4 July 2011 at 3:07pm:

Late last week it was reported that one of the ships of Flotilla II, an Irish ship named “Saoirse” (meaning “Freedom”), had been damaged. A statement was issued immediately by Dr. Fintan Lane, the national coordinator for the Irish Ship to Gaza, declaring: “Israel is the only party likely to have carried out this reckless action, and it is important that the Irish government and the executive in Northern Ireland insist that those who ordered this act of international terrorism be brought to justice. This was carried out in a Turkish town and shows no respect for Turkish sovereignty and international law” (see more).

Dr. Lane described the damage to the ship as “sabotage”, with the intention for the ship to sink in mid-sail rather than to prevent it from docking. A similar claim was made in relation to damage done to another Flotilla II ship in Greece. The allegations that are tantamount to an accusation that Israel intended to murder activists were of course without foundation. Although there was not the slightest scrap of evidence, the Sydney Morning Herald seized the opportunity on Saturday to publish ‘Gaza ships hit by Israeli attack’ and the Age did likewise with an AFP story yesterday entitled ‘Greece halts boat to Gaza’. The SMH article trumpeted that “Israeli saboteurs have carried out underwater ”terrorist” attacks on two ships preparing to challenge the blockade around Gaza, activists claim”.

The local blog Blank Pages of the Age takes an interesting look at one of the activists responsible for making the claim and her history of supporting terrorism and making false claims. Yet Fairfax continues to give prominence to accusations made by people of her ilk.

The authors of each piece were gracious enough to add the rider at the end that the Israel government considered them “baseless” and flatly rejected accusations of skulduggery as “paranoid” but omitted to mention the contents of an article that had already appeared in the Turkish Press (on 1 July) which stated that according to initial findings of the inspection of the ship, the breakdown was not a result of sabotage and that the vessel was actually damaged before it entered Turkish waters (see more). The information was readily available to Fairfax at the time of going to press but was ignored. The failure to inform readers of this important fact was further compounded when no retractions of the original baseless stories appeared today. 

The Australian, on the other hand, did provide the full story in an article by Abraham Rabinovich entitled ‘Israeli envoys and frogmen halt flotilla’. At least it cleared up and exposed the initial false accusation of “underwater warfare” further on in the piece.

The second issue that arose over the weekend and was reported in the Australian article was the arrest in Greece of the captain of another Flotilla II ship, this one from the U.S called “The Audacity of Hope”. He faces charges of ‘trying to leave port without permission and of endangering the lives of the boat’s passengers. The latter charge is felony’. The arrest was made after the captain defied a ban on boats sailing to Gaza from Greece (see more).

In late May, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement expressing “his belief that assistance and good destined to Gaza should be channelled through legitimate crossings and established channels”. He also “called on all Governments concerned to use their influence to discourage such flotillas, which carry the potential to escalate into a violent conflict”. He also reiterated that “flotillas were not helpful in resolving the basic economic problems in Gaza” (see more). He called on Israel to “take further meaningful and far-reaching steps to end the closure of Gaza”. 

Just last week, 1,236 truckloads of aid was unloaded at the crossings between Israel and Gaza, which continue show that Israel is committed to easing the blockade.

On Saturday, the Quartet (consisting of the US, UN, EU and Russia) issued a statement declaring that “the Quartet strongly urges all those wishing to deliver goods to the people of Gaza to do so through established channels so that their cargo can be inspected and transferred via established land crossings” (see more). 

In accordance with these statements, Greece’s Foreign Ministry has said, “Greece declares anew its willingness, and proposes to undertake itself, with Greeks ships or other appropriate manner, the transport of humanitarian aid through existing channels, as requested by the UN Secretary General” (see more). Which is all fine and nice, but apparently the American ship that is currently docked in Greece was “not loaded with any goods” (see more).  So what exactly was the US “Audacity of Hope” ship trying to deliver to Gaza?

I would like to think that it is not too audacious to hope that the day will come when these so-called peace activists will turn their attention to the real truth in Gaza, and will do something meaningful to ensure that Gazans can truly prosper, without meaningless publicity stunts. I would like to think that it is not too audacious to hope that at a time when Syrians are being killed daily, when the Arab world is erupting, that these so-called peace activists could direct some of their attention to those that are truly suffering over there.

Best wishes,

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