Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

On the international aid flotilla now approaching Gaza

May 28th, 2010

Some days ago, a flotilla of nine ships left a port in Turkey bound for the Gaza enclave, laden with medical and building supplies and carrying some 800 peace activists from a range of countries. It marks a major international attempt to deliver 10,000 tons of much-needed medical and building supplies to the 1.5 million Palestinian population currently penned up in the territory. The passengers include some 350 Turkish nationals, 35 parliamentarians mostly from European countries and the Arab world, and a group of Israeli Arabs.

The potential for confrontation had at first seemed quite high. The aid convoy was initially described by the Israelis as an ‘unnecessary provocation” and the Israeli Defence Forces had expressed their willingness to intercept the flotilla, take over the ships by force and ensure that no-one managed to break the Gaza siege. These tensions increased when the aid flotilla refused to participate in stunts that, at one point, included a suggestion by Ehud Barak to assemble a group of Israeli women soldiers dressed in white to meet the convoy, and offer them an aid package for the Israeli prisoner Gideon Shalit. However, the Israelis have now decided that the ships can be received at the port of Ashdod, where they will be searched and the aid supplies forwarded via the UN to Gaza. Ironically – given the situation in Gaza – the peace activists will be penned in a special compound, and then deported. Needless to say, a lot could still go wrong between now and the weekend.

Ireland has urged both sides to avoid confrontation, and to show restraint. Turkey, from the outset, has said that it would treat seriously any attack on a convoy that will be flying the Turkish flag. Reportedly. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed his full support for the flotilla, saying that breaking the “oppressive” siege of Gaza “is at the top of Turkey’s list of priorities”.
At the heart of the issue is the treatment of the population of Gaza by an Israeli blockade that has allowed only an inadequate level of supplies into the territory, thus compounding the suffering caused by the Israeli military offensive last January. Yesterday, Amnesty International released a report accusing the U.S. and members of the European Union of obstructing international justice by using their positions on the UN Security Council to shield Israel from accountability for war crimes allegedly committed during that Gaza war last year . As the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz says:

The rights group also accused Israel of continually violating human rights in the Gaza Strip. It cited Israel’s ongoing economic blockade as violating international law, leaving Gaza residents without adequate food or water supplies

In its report, Amnesty lauded a United Nations commissioned report released last year by South African justice Richard Goldstone for highlighting Israeli violations during the war in Gaza. Goldstone’s findings found both Israel and Hamas guilty of war crimes during the conflict…”Among other things, [Israeli Defence Forces] carried out indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks against civilians, targeted and killed medical staff, used Palestinian civilians as ‘human shields’, and indiscriminately fired white phosphorus over densely populated residential areas,” it added. “More than 1,380 Palestinians, including over 330 children and hundreds of other civilians, were killed.”

“In a display of counter political bias, the UN Human Rights Council, initially resolved to investigate only alleged Israeli violations,” said the report. “To his credit, Judge Richard Goldstone, subsequently appointed to lead that investigation, insisted that the UN Fact-Finding Mission should examine alleged violations by both Israel and Hamas.”

Reportedly, the situation in Gaza is not improving. Last Sunday the UN Development Programme issued a report that about three-quarters of the damage inflicted by Israel’s war on Gaza more than a year ago had not been repaired. Moreover, as this Gulf News news report says:

In early May, John Ging, director of operations of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in Gaza, threw his support behind the flotilla, calling on the international community to break the siege on the Gaza Strip by sending ships loaded with desperately needed supplies to the strip….The flotilla is expected to arrive in Gaza only days after the World Health Organisation demanded that Israel end the siege on the strip “immediately”, saying that it was causing a shortage of medicines.

One may wonder if the Irish leader can publicly urge both sides to show restraint, why Prime Minister John Key – a recent visitor to Turkey for the Gallipoli commemorations, and erstwhile leader of a trade mission to the region – has been so far silent on this ‘hot button’ issue in the Middle East, and the related human rights violations that inspired the aid flotilla to set sail. And how can such a aid convoy have set sail without Keith Locke on board?
The devastating impact of the siege that Israel has imposed on Gaza – as a collective punishment of the Gaza population, the blockade arguably constitutes a war crime under international law – can be found in this news article about the contents of last week’s World Health Organisation Report. Some of the WHO report findings have also been reported by Juan Cole on his Informed Comment site.

The outcomes of the Israeli siege of Gaza include :

“In Gaza, Israel’s blockade is debilitating the healthcare system, limiting medical supplies and the training of medical personnel and preventing serious medical cases from travelling outside the Strip for specialized treatment.”

“Israel’s 2008-2009 military operation damaged 15 of the Strip’s 27 hospitals and damaged or destroyed 43 of its 110 primary health care facilities, none of which have been repaired or rebuilt because of the construction materials ban.”

“Some 15-20 percent of essential medicines are commonly out of stock and there are shortages of essential spare parts for many items of medical equipment . . . ”

In Late 2008, nearly 1 in 5 Palestinians lived in “extreme poverty.” Over half lived below the poverty line.

“In the second half of 2008, one third of West Bank households and 71 percent of Gaza households received food assistance, with food accounting for roughly half total household expenditures – making families highly vulnerable to food price fluctuations.”

“In May 2008, 56 percent of Gazans and 25 percent of West Bank residents were deemed food insecure by the UN.”

“Chronic malnutrition has risen in Gaza over the past few years to reach 10.2 percent.” [This is especially true among children in Gaza).

Collective punishment of an entire population is – to repeat – a war crime. Nor has the punishment inflicted on Gaza been proportionate – as international law also requires – to any threat to the Israeli population that has been emanating from Gaza. Given the scale of the suffering that is being perpetuated, it is not too late for John Key to throw New Zealand’s support behind the aid flotilla, and to join with Turkey in treating the lifting of the Gaza siege as a human rights priority, and a pre-condition for any lasting peace in the region.

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    1. 15 Responses to “On the international aid flotilla now approaching Gaza”

    2. By Dan on May 28, 2010 | Reply

      Good call Gordon. Don’t hold your breath for this government to face up to the situation in the Middle East though. Within weeks of the Israelis getting caught forging Aussie & UK passports Mckully was over there negotiating trade deals & then came the announcement that an Israeli embassy would be coming back to NZ. In a NZ government building no less! For “security reasons” of course.

    3. By Joanna on May 29, 2010 | Reply

      Thank you for this, Gordon.
      The hypocrisy of countries that tout freedom and democracy is sickening.
      Hamas is the democratically elected government of Palestine, but Israel call them terrorists. Same as it ever was, with the ANC, the American civil rights movement, on and on ad nauseam.
      I see that Cynthia McKinney, the leader of the USA Green Party is on board. Where, indeed, is Keith Locke?
      If Dan is correct, and the Israeli Embassy is housed in a NZ government building, it is an outrage.
      John Key should know that there are many Jews, even in Israel, who denounce the treatment of the Palestinians.
      Israel has gotten away with its outrageous behaviour only because the main stream media spews all Israeli PR without the slightest hint of objectivity.

    4. By Brewer on May 29, 2010 | Reply

      Israel openly states that it is blockading Gaza in order to bring Gazans to their senses ie. stop supporting Hamas. This policy is bound to fail.
      Israel will not deal with Hamas and the Palestinian people will not deal without Hamas for precisely the same reason:
      Hamas stands by the right of return of the refugees (as do all Human rights organizations, the U.N., the Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Accords).
      At the present time, ROR is the pivotal issue in this conflict. Hamas have put it back on the table.
      To this end, Israel keeps up a relentless campaign to portray Hamas as terrorists.
      Nothing could be further from the truth. Hamas have proved to be capable administrators. This is evidenced not only by the approval they have won among highly principled observers but by the six month ceasefire they imposed in 2008, confirmed by Israel’s own Terrorism Information Center. It was their influence that eliminated suicide bombing, not the Apartheid Wall.
      Hamas is a highly principled and capable group. Some leaders:
      Aziz Dwaik, professor of urban geography, PhD
      (University of Pennsylvania).
      Ismail Haniyeh, B.A. (Arabic Literature)
      Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi, physician, studied pediatric medicine and genetics at Egypt’s Alexandria University, graduating first in his class. (Assassinated by the Israeli Army after they fired hellfire missiles from an AH-64 Apache Apache helicopter at his car)
      Khaled Mashal, Bachelor of Science degree in Physics. (Survived assassination attempt by Mossad under orders from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu)
      Basim Naim, Physician.
      Mahmoud al-Zahar, Surgeon.
      Jamila Shanti, Ph.D (English)
      Mousa Abu Marzook, Ph.D. in industrial engineering (United States)

    5. By Angus MacPherson on May 30, 2010 | Reply

      Zionism is a terrible thing. The world (according to the paid puppets of mainstream media) gasps when Arizona makes a law that says if somebody is arrested, their citizenship is checked. Yet who in mainstream media bleeds for the people trapped in Gaza by a group of Zionist idiots? Who bleeds for the innocent men, women and children killed by illegal and immoral drone strikes in Pakistan and Afghanistan?

      When giant corporations who are behind these injustices control the mainstream media, then most people will believe what they are told to believe.
      http://www.infowars.com <–tune in, turn on, fight back.

    6. By Angus on May 31, 2010 | Reply

      Israeli troops attack ship carrying aid to Gaza killing 16

    7. By McRad on May 31, 2010 | Reply

      Looks like the Israeli ‘defence’ force couldn’t wait. Interesting to see how the Turkish, US and NZ governments will act. I’m guessing a “let’s wait and see until all the facts become clear.” Then, a few weeks from now, “many of the sailors carried potentially lethal flares and knives”.

    8. By Iain M on Jun 1, 2010 | Reply

      What is amazing is that New Zealand yet again shows no backbone and meekly supports the line of Australia UK and US.
      And will not withdraw Embassy staff and withdrawing credentials for the Jewish Ambassador in Wellington. How did we get to Ambassador level anyway !!??

      They are the terrorists and pirates of the international waters as events clearly show today.

      Israel is a failed state and cannot continue more than anoter 20 years, they have to get to a TWO party solution in order to live in any sort of peace.
      We have to withdraw All diplomatic ties NOW.

    9. By Bunny on Jun 1, 2010 | Reply

      Wow, you know isn’t funny how you internationalist types are always talking about how, we should always have free speech and a that we should have free dialogue, yet you are willing to flatter your own nonsense, in an ultra left-wing echo chamber like this one.

      Well just to bring in a little balance shall we, isn’t it funny how you continuously use the UN as somehow this source of truth and good and purity? Do you realise, that about 60% of all condemnations are against a single member, yes you guessed it!!! It’s Israel!!!
      Tell me, do you think that Israel is responisble for 60% of all HR violations in the world? It’s funny how you are always talking about how you should be careful of media and corporate bias, and yet you are so willing to eat your own.

      Never do you Internationalist Ultra lefties pay any attention to any war crimes committed by anyone who isn’t a westerner, oh sure Japan is target because they’re a rich western country, oh sure Israel is a democracy who shock horror has to defend itself because about 20 countries surrounding them have vowed to kill every Israeli man woman and child, sure it’s fine to denounce the US, ooohh it’s a democracy and it’s not living up to your naive hollywood standards of what a good guy is supposed to be, oh the horror, oh the zen-like irony the good guys are BAD!!! Let’s side with dictators and theocracies!!!!
      Even in this debate you are critisizing israle for taking police action against a flotilla of ships who was intending to enter Israeli waters and who REFUSED INSPECTIONS! I mean Honestly the US or Europe, or Turkey or any other country in the world would not tolerate this from any country, in fact the penalties in Turkey are especially harsh given the Drug trafficking through that country, and yet we
      we expect Israel to just let them pass, depite the potential for drugs, weapons, and even terrorists onboard on the flimsy excuse that they don’t trust Israel to deliver the goods (despite the fact that they do regularly deliver humanitarian aid into the Gaza strip) these people were spoiling for a fight to get media attention and that’s precisely what they got.
      I mean really the Arab and African world commits probably more than 90% of all of the war crime in the world, (not of course that there would be any official figures as anyone doing this study would be considered RACIST and would not get funding but really if you count up the numbers, 90% would be a conservative estimate), and yet none of you on the ultraleft (and believe me I am already a lefty, I support gay rights, solar power etc, most Left wing positions etc) have the fairness of mind to ever denounce them, you perpetually ignore, excuse, and thereby propogate, all and any warcrimes committed by the arab world, you are perpetually naive to the fact that this “peace movement” is funded by the islamic world to draw attention away from from their own atrocities and to rile up anti-western feeling in their own countries, to distract their populations from their own corruption and incompetence, or that these people didn’t give a rats ass about peace, in the 60s and 70s when they had soviet backing and better weapons they did everything in their power to destroy Israel who only survived through smarter tactics, and only reluctantly entered “peace talks” after they lost the technological advantage, or even that Hamas leader have said openly and blatantly that the only reason they would ever agree to a ceasefire with Israel is that they wish build up a military to destroy Israel a few years later down the track.
      The elephant in the room in this internationalist anti-Israeli ideology is that you are completely blind to the bad faith and intentions of the Arab world towards Israel, or the contempt the Arabs have towards anyone who isn’t one of them and how willing they are willing to renege on a deal with anyone who isn’t muslim, and their manipulation of the western media, to portray themselves as pacifist and victims, don’t believe me? Compare the speeches Arab leaders make in English and what they say in Arabic. They are just as much the deceitful unrealiable, stupid , warlike , imperialistic and misogynistic religious fundamentalist as the American Evangelists you Ultra lefties are so fond of critisising if not more so.

    10. By Bunny on Jun 1, 2010 | Reply

      Wow, you know isn’t funny how you internationalist types are always talking about how, we should always have free speech and a that we should have free dialogue, yet you are willing to flatter your own nonsense, in an ultra left-wing echo chamber like this one.

      Well just to bring in a little balance shall we, isn’t it funny how you continuously use the UN as somehow this source of truth and good and purity? Do you realise, that about 60% of all condemnations are against a single member, yes you guessed it!!! It’s Israel!!!
      Tell me, do you think that Israel is responisble for 60% of all HR violations in the world? It’s funny how you are always talking about how you should be careful of media and corporate bias, and yet you are so willing to eat your own.

    11. By Jax on Jun 1, 2010 | Reply

      Well apparently 60% of condemnations has done NOTHING to stop Israel’s violent illegal actions over and over again. They continue to do what they do without impunity because they CAN. And now for them to even suggest that their highly skilled commandos are somehow the ones who were attacked by a peaceful convoy of men, women, children, a Holocaust survivor, a Nobel Laureate, Parliamentarians, journalists and elderly is so ludicrous it is obscene. We need to wake up to the criminal behavior by the Israeli government and the extent they will go to LIE about their actions. They must held accountable.
      “By way of deception thou shalt do war” Mossad motto- once again in action.

    12. By Jax on Jun 1, 2010 | Reply

      There is no balance – Israel is wrong and should be held accountable. For them to even suggest that their highly skilled commandos are somehow the ones who were attacked by a peaceful convoy of men, women, children, a Holocaust survivor, a Nobel Laureate, Parliamentarians, journalists and elderly is so ludicrous it is obscene. We need to wake up to the criminal behavior by the Israeli government and the extent they will go to LIE about their actions. They must held accountable.
      “By way of deception thou shalt do war” Mossad motto- once again in action.

    13. By Barbara on Jun 2, 2010 | Reply

      Thanks for this Gordon. A pity that the Israeli Ambassador persists in repeating the lies of his masters in this case and that our government and mainstream media are so far spineless enough to support this version of events.
      Bunny, your position would be more credible if you avoided attacking the writer and the forum and actually addressed the real issue – which is Israel’s appalling human rights record and the IDF’ spparent belief that it can literaclly get away with murder by lying about participants in an aid convoy.

    14. By Isaiah on Jun 2, 2010 | Reply

      Bunny- My what a big victim mentality you have!

      The condemned attack on the humanitarian aid flotilla was done in INTERNATIONAL waters (not as your excuse/justification implied it was in Israeli waters ).

      I thought you were much smarter than that.

    15. By Isaiah on Jun 2, 2010 | Reply

      Jax great point- are you saying that the attack on the ships bringing humanitarian aid supplies to Gaza was an attempt to kick off WW3.

    16. By Endymion on Jun 3, 2010 | Reply

      Re Bunny’s rant: The fact that 60% of all UN complaints against a member are against Israel (if that’s true) is probably because Israel deserved each one. Yes there are many more Human Rights violations in the world but most of these are either internal to a State – ie a State’s actions against its own citizens which the UN is not the forum for (it is a forum for international relations) or matters (such as the subjection of women) which are a matter of cultural viewpoint. Israel is almost unique in its record of human rights violations of the citizens of other countries, and now on the high seas.

      What war crimes has Japan committed in the last 50 years? And if we’re going to look at war crimes before that, don’t we need to look at the war crime that was the dropping of nuclear bombs on the citizens of Nagasaki and Hiroshima?

      Yes, there’s a lot of rhetoric from some Arab politicians regarding ‘wiping Israel off the map’. What have they done about it? Apart from a few ineffective rockets fired in Israel’s general direction by Hamas extremists, nothing. Oh yes. Saddam Hussein also fired some rockets at Israel, when he had other things on his mind than the destruction of Israel. Did the Arab world rush to support him?

      No country has the right to stop a ship on the high seas. The Cuban Missile Crisis nearly caused WW3 on this very point – the US threatened to stop Russian ships on the high seas because they thought they were carrying missiles to Cuba. The Russians correctly claimed this would amount to an act of war. fortunately the Russians turned the ships around before it was put to the test. The Turks quite rightly could hold this to be an act of aggression by Israel against them and call on NATO support to protect Turkish ships in future flotillas.

      Your last paragraph gives the game away. Your one-eyed, fanatical, paranoid hatred of the Arab world (actually anti-semetic, given that the Arabs are also semites) almost requires you to support Israel on an ‘enemy-of-my-enemy’ basis. I’ve not much time for Arabic culture, which is still lamentably medieval in my view, but Israel proves itself over and over to be a paranoid bully that has almost exhausted any right to excuse or sympathy.

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