By Dr. Mitchell Bard
For the second time in two years, a group of anti-Israel activists have organized a flotilla under the pretext of bringing necessary supplies to Gaza. The true aim of the organizers, however, is to attract international attention and embarrass and provoke Israel by challenging its policy of preventing the terrorists of Hamas from smuggling weapons into the Gaza Strip. These provocateurs know that Gaza has no shortage of essential goods, that any needed supplies can be transferred through Egypt and that Israel is prepared to welcome ships into its ports and transfer the cargo to the Palestinians provided it is searched for contraband and weapons before being forwarded.
Labeling itself the international "Freedom Flotilla II - Stay Human," this year's convoy will include ships sailing from the United States, Canada, Greece, Ireland, France and Italy and has invited journalists and politicians to join their blockade-busting mission. The U.S. State Department criticized the organizers, declaring that "groups that seek to break Israel's maritime blockade of Gaza are taking irresponsible and provocative actions." American citizens were warned not to participate in the activity, which may also violate American law because funding for the mission was raised illegally in the States. In addition, several countries have taken measures to prevent ships from sailing from their ports. Cyprus, for example, which was used as a springboard for the 2010 flotilla, has banned all sailings to Gaza from its seaports.
Israel already has indications that some of the activists are planning to use violence against Israeli soldiers if they attempt to board the ships or prevent them from landing. Israeli intelligence learned that some of the flotilla participants may be bringing along chemical agents such as sulfuric acid in order to "shed the blood of IDF soldiers." The provocateurs apparently hope to gain the type of notoriety and publicity that activists in 2010 achieved when they brutally attacked Israeli soldiers boarding one of the flotilla vessels.
In 2010, flotilla organizers justified their actions by claiming a humanitarian crisis existed in Gaza. It was not true then and is not true now, as the deputy head of the Red Cross subdelegation to Gaza flatly stated in April 2011 that there is "no humanitarian crisis in Gaza." As recently as June 19, 2011, an aid convoy to Gaza named "Miles of Smiles 3" delivered 15 medical vehicles and 30 tons of medical supplies and milk powder to Gaza through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.
Israel has the right - legally and ethically - to stop and inspect ships that attempt to deliver supplies straight to Gaza. In the past, ships attempting to smuggle tons of weapons into Gaza were prevented from doing so by the Israeli blockade. If the Flotilla 2 activists are truly intending to deliver humanitarian supplies, and not to create a bloody confrontation with Israel, it is possible to do so by following procedures set up by the Egyptian and Israeli governments. By trying to circumvent the avenues provided to them, flotilla participants are demonstrating they are far more interested in self-promotion than the welfare of Palestinians.
Gaza flotilla begins to form as first ship heads toward maritime meeting point - Ha'aretz
Ya'alon: Flotilla participants will try to harm soldiers - Jerusalem Post
Senator Wants US-Israeli Op Against Flotilla - Military.com
Who Is Behind the Second Gaza Flotilla? - Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Gaza flotilla makes Internet splash - Reuters