Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Another flotilla stunt on its way!

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On Wednesday a flotilla of two ships - the Canadian ship Tahrir and the Irish ship Saoirse quietly left a Turkish port with the aim to breach the Gaza blockade by Friday.

News of this latest flotilla "Freedom Waves to Gaza" was kept secret until the ships reached international waters.

According to the organisers, the 27 activists on board came from Australia, Canada, Ireland and the United States, and included Palestinians and at least one Israeli Arab citizen.

Turkey has denied knowledge of the latest flotilla and has emphasised that the vessels were not Turkish-flagged, had no Turkish passengers and the captains were not Turkish, which is unlike last year's Mavi Marmara flotilla, where Turkish groups, with much alleged assistance from the Turkish government, appeared to have played the dominant role.

US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, "My sense of this was that, given the way this came together there was some element of surprise for both the Turkish government and our own government".

Nuland also said the US had sought clarification on news reports that Turkish warships might be accompanying the flotilla and were told "quite emphatically" by Turkey that this was not the case. The US has also warned US citizens not to participate in the flotilla and that they may face civil and criminal penalties if they do.

Prior to the ship setting sail, an Australian participant on board the Tahrir ship Michael Coleman said:

"I'm the Australian representative on the freedom flotilla...the aims of the flotilla are twofold. While we do have a small amount of aid on board-and that's one of the goals, is to take aid to the besieged Strip-but the other is public awareness. And we're well aware that the small amount of aid we have is tokenistic. It's not going to prevent the suffering of 1.5 million people. Only governments and international institutions can do that..."

The ‘aid' flotilla really is unnecessary and ‘tokenistic' as Coleman described above, given that Israel already allows for humanitarian aid, food and other supplies to enter Gaza via land crossings it closely monitors to prevent weapons smuggling. Gaza also has a border with Egypt over which goods are imported. Moreover, Israel has again publicly offered to convey any aid from the flotilla to Gaza.

Israel has said that the Israeli Navy is fully prepared for the arrival of the two-boat flotilla and that the IDF is not expecting violent clashes with passengers on-board the vessels, but is prepared for all scenarios.

Clearly this flotilla is another unhelpful act that is primarily concerned with gaining media attention for an obsessive anti-Israel agenda through dangerous and provocative acts.

It is not about aid deliveries or even calling attention to the "suffering" of Gazans - it has been amply demonstrated that there is no acute "suffering" in Gaza, and indeed, on average Gazans have in some important respects a higher standard of welfare that the citizens of Turkey, from which the boats departed (see here for the details.)



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