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Who was behind the seized flotilla?
Who was behind the seized flotilla?
More about the goals and supporters of the humanitarian mission that lead to Israel’s high-seas assault
The Freedom Flotilla Coalition, as the organizers call themselves, is composed of a number of peace activist groups and human rights organizations.
Tuesday, June 1,2010 15:35
by Patrick Martin The Globeandmail.com

1. Who was behind the flotilla?

The Freedom Flotilla Coalition, as the organizers call themselves, is composed of a number of peace activist groups and human rights organizations. The two most prominent members are the American Free Gaza Movement and the Turkish Insani Yardim Vakfi (or IHH).

Free Gaza’s leadership stems largely from the International Solidarity Movement, a group that dispatches observers in areas of conflict in an attempt to protect the rights of victims. They have long been involved in showing support for Palestinians under Israeli occupation – one of the flotilla’s ships was named for Rachel Corrie, an ISM member killed in Gaza in 2003 while trying to prevent an Israeli bulldozer from leveling a Palestinian home.

IHH is an Islamic charity that first was established to help Muslim victims from the war in Bosnia. It has strong connections to Islamic movements around the world, including the Muslim Brotherhood (forerunner to Hamas in Gaza and the West Bank). The group was declared illegal by Israel for apparently funding Hamas charities that provided money to families of people who carried out suicide attacks. The group remains legal elsewhere and is an official observer at the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

2. Was it a humanitarian mission?

Yes, but it was definitely more than that. Organizers said they were transporting some 10,000 tons of relief supplies (cement, prefab homes, medical and school supplies), which constitutes a humanitarian effort to relieve disadvantaged people in Gaza.

At the same time, however, the flotilla’s leadership also made it clear they wanted to “break the siege” Israel has maintained on Gaza since June, 2007, when Hamas came to complete control of the strip. This was something the Hamas leadership openly welcomed.

It was as much a political mission as it was humanitarian.

3. Are conditions in Gaza as bad as these groups say?

Conditions in Gaza are terrible in some ways – the whole population is under lock and key, forbidden to leave or to receive visitors. (The only people who can enter Gaza these days are diplomats, members of certain well-established NGOs, and accredited journalists.) As well, the economy is in bad shape with no opportunities for people to work in Israel or in industrial zones that once existed on the frontier.

But no one in Gaza is starving. Farming still is carried out and fresh fruit and vegetables abound at different times. Humanitarian supplies are reaching the people, mostly through United Nations agencies, facilitated by the Israelis (though they can stop the facilitation if and when they wish.) Fuel oil is permitted into the strip, in sufficient quantity to generate about 12 hours of electrical power each day, and the famous tunnels at the south end of the territory bring in an astonishingly large variety of food and consumer products.

Life is remarkably normal, a testament to Gazans’ resilience. But the place could be described as a well-supplied prison.

4. Did Israel violate international law in boarding the ships?

Yes, it probably did.

Israel justifies the boarding of the ships in international waters basically as an act of self defence. It is Israel’s argument that the naval blockade of Gaza is needed to prevent Hamas in Gaza from attacking Israel.

However, notes Michael Byers, Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International law at UBC, the test in international for constituting legal self defence is whether the action taken was “necessary and proportionate.” On the facts, “the action does not appear to have been necessary in that the threat was not imminent,” Prof. Byers said.

“To say that this blockade would be jeopardized by the flotilla and that sometime down the road weapons might come into Gaza as a result, and thereby pose a threat to Israel, is to stretch the definition of self defence way further than anyone ever countenanced.”

The fact that commandoes may have encountered violent behaviour when they boarded the ships still is not justification for their use of deadly force, he added. “The issue isn’t whether the passengers were violent, but whether Israel should have boarded the ships in this way at all.


tags: Freedom Flotilla / Flotilla / Gaza / Hamas / West Bank / Human Rights Organizations / Palestinians / Rachel Corrie / NGOs / International Law
Posted in Palestine , Human Rights  
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