WRITE! for Justice, Human Rights, and International Law in Palestine


The Miami Herald has published an op-ed by Brian Siegal of the American Jewish Committee ‘Second Gaza Flotilla Looks for Trouble’ (6/17) which disparages the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and repeats numerous standard talking points of the Israeli government in an attempt to justify the continuation of the blockade.  Siegal even maintains that the Free Gaza Movement and the European Campaign to End the Siege are “naive” to believe that the blockade is oppressing Palestinians.

Unfortunately for Siegal, the facts tell a different story with 95 percent of the water in Gaza unfit for drinking, one of the highest levels of unemployment in the world at 45 percent, 53 percent food insecurity, critical medicines routinely in short supply, and the absence of adequate building materials for the thousands left homeless by Operation Cast Lead — the illegal blockade has taken a devastating toll on Palestinians in Gaza and the international community has done virtually nothing about it.  However, the flotilla is not ultimately about bringing humanitarian supplies — but the right of people to be free from tyranny and live a decent life and this is precisely in line with the spirit of the ‘Arab Spring’ and not counter to it as the author suggests.

Please WRITE! to the Miami Herald at HeraldEd@MiamiHerald.com or use the feedback form http://www.miamiherald.com/contact-us/ in order to correct the record.  Letters should be kept under 150 words and be sure to include your name, address, and phone number for verification purposes.

For further information:

Tell President Obama to ensure safe passage of the Freedom Flotilla 2
Kathy Kelly: Don’t Look Away — The siege of Gaza must end
Richard Falk: A UN Secretary General v. the Freedom Flotilla 2
Nobel Laureates Letter to Ban Ki-moon: Safe passage for Gaza Flotilla
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Second Gaza flotilla looks for trouble
BY BRIAN D. SIEGAL
Amid dramatic events unfolding across the Middle East, the pending Gaza Flotilla II is a looming danger to regional peace.
The event is scheduled for later this month, a year after the first flotilla, consisting of six ships, was stopped by Israeli naval vessels. One of the ships resisted an Israeli boarding party, and nine passengers were killed, triggering international condemnation of the Jewish state.
Ostensibly, Flotilla II, as well as its predecessor, intends to bring humanitarian supplies by sea through the Israeli blockade and deliver them to the supposedly desperate residents of Gaza to improve their situation. But even the International Red Cross reports “there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza.” Flotilla II is actually aimed at provocation.
Flotilla II is expected to be larger than its predecessor, with 15 ships and some 1,500 people from all over the world. The aim is clearly to place Israel in an impossible dilemma. If it stops the ships, Israel suffers another severe public-relations setback, especially if blood is shed once again. Should Israel let it through, the blockade is effectively negated. And now that post-Mubarak Egypt has opened its border with Gaza, the sea blockade is even more vital.
Israel’s blockade of Gaza accords with international law.
Israeli officials inspect all items entering Gaza by land, allowing in some 50,000 tons of goods and humanitarian aid biweekly. The blockade was imposed with international support after the radical Islamist group Hamas violently seized control of Gaza in June 2007. Hamas, explicitly dedicated to the elimination of Israel and designated a terrorist organization by the United States and European Union, has fired thousands of rockets and missiles at Israeli civilians across the border. Indeed, Israel’s blockade is intended to prevent the entry of materiel that can be used for these attacks and other threats to Israeli security.
The only way to head off the new flotilla is for the nations from whose ports the ships will sail to recognize that since the Israeli blockade is legal, necessary for Israel’s security and conducted in a humane manner, those seeking to break it will be aiding Hamas and its Iranian sponsors in their war against Israel. As it happens, there is plenty of evidence that such is the case.
Behind both flotillas is a coalition of pro-Palestinian groups. Some, such as the Free Gaza Movement and the European Campaign to End the Siege of Gaza, seem to reflect a sincere if naive assumption that the Israeli blockade is indeed oppressing the Gazans.  Not so the IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation, which provided three of the six ships in the original flotilla and was the only sponsoring body to advocate, and practice, violence.
The IHH is an NGO based in Turkey. It was officially registered in Istanbul in 1995, originally to aid Bosnian Muslims, and, more generally, to provide humanitarian relief to those suffering in areas of war, earthquake, hunger and conflict. However, evidence of cooperation with Hamas and al Qaeda has led Israel and the Netherlands to ban the IHH as a terrorist organization.
While the U.S. has not yet followed suit, the IHH is a member of the Union of the Good, a Saudi-based umbrella group of Muslim charities set up by Hamas that the U.S. Treasury has designated a terrorist organization. French counterterrorism experts discovered, in the 1990s, that the IHH was orchestrating attacks by Islamists in Europe, and Turkish authorities found weapons, explosives and forged passports at IHH headquarters.
The “Arab spring” that is painstakingly replacing one-man rule in countries of the Middle East, and the elimination of Osama bin Ladin as a symbol of fanatical Islamism, give hope for a turn away from terror in the region and its replacement by a peacefully functioning democratic system, including a Palestinian state living alongside Israel.
A second Gaza flotilla could help sabotage such hopes, however. It is up to the community of nations to prevent the ships from sailing. All governments should heed the words of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who called on them “to use their influence to discourage such flotillas.”
Brian D. Siegal, is regional director of the American Jewish Committee for Miami and Broward counties.

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