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Gaza flotilla - Piracy

Felicity Arbuthnot


Image courtesy of Palestinian Pundit

May 30, 2010

'Unadikum' (I call to you!) by Ahmad Kabour, was based on a poem by Tawfiq Ziad, best known for his "poetry of protest".

"I call to you all.
I take your hand and hold it tightly.
I kiss the ground on which you place your feet.
I know that for you I would give my life.
My life I would give for you."

It is probably Gideon Levy, writing in today's Haaretz, who puts it best: "Flotilla drives Israel in to a sea of stupidity."

The flotilla - bound for besieged Gaza's port - to which Levy refers, is that of eight vessels, a fifty passenger ship from Athens, a six hundred passenger ship from Turkey, and cargo ships from Ireland, Greece, Algeria and Turkey.Two vessels, the Challenger 1 and the Challenger 11 are flying the US flag. Over seven hundred passengers, the eldest, Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein (85), from thirty countries, have organized financing for aid, including ten thousand tonnes of construction materials, almost entirely denied by Israel since the massive destruction by its attack in December 2008 - January 2009, which killed 1440 and injured over five thousand. The vital construction materials are to aid some of the fifty thousand made homeless in the onslaught. Also on board are necessities for schools - and treats of sweets and chocolates, inexplicably also embargoed by the nation which describes itself as "the only democratic country in the Middle East."

Official support to the vessels has been given by governments including Norway, Sweden, France, Italy, Mexico, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Russia, the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton, and Turkey, all who have called on Israel, via their Ambassadors, to allow safe passage, warning them against attacking those taking in aid, in international, or Gaza territorial waters, as has happened previously.The silence of the United States and Britain has been deafening.

Gaza's 1.5 million remaining inhabitants are trapped in what the UN has described as a "mediaeval siege", citing the "excessive damage" caused. Amnesty, in a damning report just published, highlights Israel's ongoing crimes against its tiny neighbour, most who fled there, or their descendents, having lost their towns, villages, homes and livelihoods in the tidal wave of Israeli settlements, which engulfed their ancestral land.

As surgeon David Halpin (http://www.doveanddolphin.org.uk) encapsulates in an enraged letter today to the BBC., near alone internationally, in their lack of coverage of the flotilla: "The United Nations reports that '15-20% of essential medicines are commonly out of stock and there are shortages of essential spare parts for many items of medical equipment", further noting that 80% of what comes in to Gaza, does so via (tunnels dug deep under ground, ironically reminiscent of the Warsaw ghetto.) Unemployment is at nearly 60% and 98% of industry, factories and businesses, have been decimated by the siege and the war on Gaza."

Amongst a shaming volume of items vetoed by Israel are batteries for hearing aids for Gaza's Atfaluna Deaf School.

Turkish Prime Minister Racep Tayyip Erdogan has called on Israel to allow the boats through. The flotilla has on board politicians, former US Ambassador Edward Peck and US Colonel Anne Wright, who resigned in protest at the invasion of Iraq. Nobel Laureates, Journalists, academics and numerous passionate people, are all risking much in solidarity with Gaza.

As I write, Israeli war ships are surrounding the flotilla, which left Cyprus just hours ago. War planes are flying overhead. Earlier today an Israeli Ministry Foreign spokesman, Yigal Palmor, stated that : "The boats will not be allowed to enter i>"Gaza territorial waters."(My emphasis.)

This, says Sabah Al Mukhtar, President of the Arab Lawyers Association: "Is exactly what piracy is." Further: "When you interfere in territorial waters, it is beligerancy." Israel, he holds, can claim no right of self defence. "Everything Israel is doing is contrary to international law anyway, from the (2008-2009 attack on Gaza) to (ignoring) the Goldstone Report."

Ignored, also, is that the Turkish ship, a NATO country flies their county's flag with government approval. To attack one NATO country, is to attack all. "Technically speaking" says Al Mukhtar, " .. attacking ships could be shot out of the water, the US Navy Sixth Fleet could be brought in to attack the Israeli Navy. Gaza is Palestinian territorial waters, not Egyptian or Israeli waters."

Further: " There are moral grounds, matters of principle ... piracy under the law of the sea can be groups, States, not alone individuals. Piracy is stopping vessels in international, or waters of another country."

As Switzerland has vowed to do if its nationals are apprehended, Israel can be sued under the Laws of the Sea which also forms domestic law, says Al Mukhtar, adding that there is international concern regarding East African pirates, as a blind eye is likely to be turned to Israel.

Israel, said Gideon Levy in today's article, has unleashed "A ship of fools." And for much of the international community, the patience for : "The only democratic community in the Middle East", is running out.

"In the Arab and Islamic world", says Al Mukhtar, there is a saying:

"Ye who sees wrong should reverse it,
And if unable, denounce it,
If unable to do that,
Denounce it in yourself."

The last, he says, Islamically, is the lowest form of decency.
Arguably, those on the flotilla are practising the formost.

:: Article nr. 66498 sent on 31-may-2010 06:45 ECT


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