At last year’s pro-Hamas flotilla on May 31, 2010, 9 Turks died and Israel was unfairly vilified. This year’s “Freedom Flotilla” was to be larger with more ships, more activists and more press.
Last May the Turkish ship the Mavi Marmara was part of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla that attempted to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. When the dust and sea water settled 9 Turks were dead along with 7 Israeli soldiers injured with gunshot and stab wounds.
All year long while several investigations into the Israeli raid were underway the “Free Gaza Movement” and the IHH (Insani Yardim Vakfi, “humanitarian relief fund”) were planning the next flotilla.
This year the “Freedom Flotilla 2” has been postponed more times than there are versions of what happened last year.
Originally hoping to fall on or around the anniversary of last year’s Flotilla of May 31, it was to be better planned, more cohesive with more countries and people involved, but it has yet to sail.
On June 17 it was announced by the president of the IHH that the Mavi Marmara would not join the other ships in the Flotilla,
“I want to make it clear why the Mavi Marmara is not sailing with the flotilla to Gaza: The exact reason has nothing to do with the government or the state, it is exactly about the technical problems. The Israelis, unbelievably, damaged our vessel, the Mavi Marmara [last year],” Bülent Yildirim, head of the IHH nongovernmental organization, which was organizing the ship’s participation in the flotilla, told a press conference Friday at IHH headquarters in Istanbul.
Interestingly this claim of damage to the ship did not come out until after pressure had been put on Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to stop the flotilla from sailing to Gaza.
In advance of this year’s planned flotilla, 36 members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan last month, saying he had a “unique opportunity to potentially save lives,” by discouraging the flotilla from leaving for Gaza. Earlier this month, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu suggested that “the aid flotilla should also wait to see what happens with the Rafah [Gaza-Egypt] border crossing being opened.”
In my article of June 6, I wrote about the various countries taking part in this year’s flotilla,
Thus far, France, Germany, Britain, Italy, Ireland, Belgium, Norway, Holland, Switzerland, Greece, Sweden, Spain, Canada and the United States have ships involved with passengers possibly reaching 1000 or more.
I also explained that with the Rafeh border between Egypt and Gaza now open this flotilla was not even necessary and was nothing more than provocation,
Why, if the border is open, is there any need for this so called “humanitarian aid”? Since the closing of the borders both Israel and Egypt have been allowing aid through, so long as the items could not be utilized for weapons or weapons manufacturing. This never mattered to any of the “rights” groups that have supported the flotillas.
There can be only one reason to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Provocation. This needs to be put to rest once and for all.
One of the many setbacks was the accusation of sabotage by Israel to some of the ships participating.
On Monday, the propeller of the Greek-Swedish ship "Juliano" was found broken, and Gaza flotilla organizers said they believed it was deliberate sabotage by Israel.
Another ship, the Irish Saorise, was also reported to have been damaged and its activists claimed Israel was behind it. Surprisingly, even the Turkish Police investigation cleared Israel of being involved according to the Turkish Daily Hurriyet,
The Irish boat planning to participate in this year’s Gaza-bound aid flotilla was damaged before it entered Turkish waters, according to Turkish authorities who investigated claims by the owner that the ship had been sabotaged while in port in Göcek.
Turkish authorities investigated allegations that the Irish-owned ship, the MV “Saoirse” (Freedom), which was planning to participate in Freedom Flotilla 2, was sabotaged in Turkish territorial waters by Israel. The accusations are the second since boats started arriving in the eastern Mediterranean ahead of the flotilla’s planned voyage.
Organizers for the Saoirse said the engine of the Irish vessel was damaged in such a way that the ship would have sunk in the middle of the ocean and that the ship was docked in Turkey’s territorial waters when the tampering occurred.
Many of the ships participating in the flotilla have met up in Greece, but Greece then put a ban on any ships leaving its port for Gaza.
On Friday, the Greek coastguard announced that the Gaza-bound mission could not leave their ports -- at least for the moment.
'The departure of ships with Greek and foreign flags from Greek ports to the maritime area of Gaza has been prohibited today,' the coastguard said in a statement released Friday, an hour before the ship set sail.
'All appropriate measures' should be taken to implement the ban, it said.
The American ship, named The Audacity of Hope after US President Barack Obama’s best-selling book, was organized by an American group called “US Boat to Gaza.” According to Human Events website the ship was stopped on Saturday just off the coast of Greece and its Captain arrested,
Greek officials stopped "The Audacity of Hope" Gaza Flotilla II ship and arrested the captain after they slipped out of port without permission.
Greece's coast guard said the captain of the "Audacity of Hope" faces charges of trying to leave port without permission and of endangering the lives of the boat's passengers.
The "Audacity of Hope" was carrying 36 passengers, four crew and about 10 members of the media. Its attempt to sail Friday night from the port of Perama, near Athens, was thwarted by coast guard speedboats.
Just yesterday, the Canadian ship “Tahrir” attempted to leave port in Greece only to have the same outcome,
As the Canadian ship departed from the port with all passengers on board wearing life vests, the Greek coastguard tracked the ship in the water and boarded it within minutes.
After seizing the ship, coast guard officers asked who was the captain but the passengers refused to reply, with every passenger saying that he was the captain.
Greek coast guard officers are currently sailing the Tahrir back to the port, and the passengers are all due to be taken into custody by Greek authorities.
Now, as a show of good faith, Greece has offered to ship the aid to Gaza on its own ships. As reported by the Voice of America,
The Greek initiative would have the humanitarian aid currently aboard flotilla ships loaded onto watercraft of the Greek government and transferred to Gaza through organized channels. The supplies would be shipped to Gaza through Israeli ports as requested by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Earlier Sunday, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou discussed the offer with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Greece said the plan would involve "constant contact with the Palestinian Authority" and that Mr. Abbas had expressed his support.
The Israeli government also agreed to Greece's offer.
So even Greece, who certainly has their own problems right now, is attempting to stop what it sees as nothing more than provocation, but the activists insist on sailing to Gaza.
Organizers of a pro-Palestinian flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip have rejected a Greek government offer that would ferry humanitarian aid to Gaza using its own vessels under United Nations supervision.
Activists late Sunday said they still are looking into ways to circumvent Greece's order preventing ships docked in its ports from departing for the Hamas-run Palestinian territory.
So what is the real reason behind this flotilla? Obviously, if getting aid to the Palestinian people was the main concern why would they not accept the offer from Greece?
Accepting the offer from Greece would not only avoid any chance of confrontation, it would be less costly for the activists, who could then give the money saved to the Palestinians as well. But, then again, it would avoid what they really want which is confrontation.
Unfortunately, even though it seems that the flotilla may not sail at this point in time, I have no doubt they will spend more time and money to get this voyage underway. This would prove it has nothing to do with aid and everything to do with making Israel look like the bad guys yet again.
Remember this once they set sail, get stopped by Israel and undoubtedly have a confrontation. The argument of aid can’t hold water.
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