Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Flotilla activists drop all pretence of "humanitarian" mission, declare victory and plan to test Israeli airport security

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As AIJAC has been reporting, the planned flotilla to Gaza has been facing a number of obstacles in recent weeks. In the wake of the Greek decision over the weekend to prevent any vessels planning on sailing to Gaza from leaving Greek ports, the flotilla organisers appear to be looking to shift tack, dropping all pretences that they may have had of bringing any humanitarian aid to Gaza.

While it will not revoke the order preventing the ships from leaving, the Greek Government has offered to transfer all humanitarian aid that was on board the flotilla to Gaza through other means; this offer was accepted by the Israeli Government but the flotilla organisers rejected it outright, opting instead to try and pressure the Greek Government into reversing its policy. Similarly, Israeli authorities offered last year to allow the flotilla ships to dock in the Israeli port of Ashqelon and transfer the aid to Gaza - an offer which was rejected by the flotilla organisers, but did represent the outcome of the affair after their boats were intercepted. As the Jerusalem Post reports:

Organizers of the flotilla seeking to break Israel's blockade over the Gaza Strip on Sunday rejected an offer by Athens to allow Greek Navy ships to transfer the humanitarian aid they had planned to bring with them to Gaza on their behalf... "It is possible that this is under consideration but... that is not considered breaking the siege," said Ewa Jasiewicz, one of the leaders of the Free Gaza Movement, which is in charge of the flotilla. "We want to break the siege and the flotilla is not about expanding the drip of humanitarian aid to Gaza."

In this statement, Jasiewicz has more or less admitted that, despite many claims to the contrary by its supporters, the flotilla is by no means a humanitarian aid mission and, rather, is merely an anti-Israel publicity stunt. This fact was echoed in a statement made by another flotilla activist to The Washington Post, claiming a "victory" in the "propaganda war", in spite of the fact that the flotilla is looking increasingly unlikely to reach its planned destination, or even leave port.

Medea Benjamin, an activist from Washington who was with the U.S. ship, said that even without reaching its destination, the effort to sail had succeeded in refocusing international attention on "the plight of the people of Gaza."

"We have still managed to show the lengths Israel is willing to go to stop a ragtag group of 10 ships and 300 unarmed peace activists from reaching Gaza," Benjamin said by telephone from Athens. "This is not over. We've certainly won the propaganda war."

In fact, as if to demonstrate the depths of their obsessive determination to have their planned confronation with Israeli authorities, hundreds of flotilla sympathisers internationally are reportedly planning to fly into Israel's Ben-Gurion Airport on Friday, where they will stage a protest against the pressure that has been applied on the flotilla by the Israeli Government. Naturally, they will have little chance of entering into Israel.

By staging large demonstrations at Ben Gurion International Airport, Israeli media say the activists plan on disrupting flights. Media reported that already tight security at the airport will be beefed up. Police refused to comment on operational preparations.

In a press release, the group of activists said their goal is to physically reach Palestinians in Gaza via Israel. "Most of us are frankly a bit scared," said the press release, "because of one decision we've all made: to tell the truth that our plan is to visit Palestine."

The activists have been warned they may face "probing questioning" upon arrival at Ben Gurion Airport, due to their publically stated sympathy with the Palestinians, and say they may be denied entry to Israel for this reason.

Too many in the Western media and amongst pundits have been inclined to accept the line put forward by the flotilla organisers and their sympathisers that these flotillas are missions motivated by humanitarian concerns.

Hopefully these recent actions will demonstrate to the world that the organisers of these flotillas - if not all the participants - are far more concerned with making noise and acting out of their irrational anti-Israel obsessions than making any positive changes for Gazans.

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