27 June 2011. A World to Win News Service. With their departure currently delayed for at least a few days, participants in the "Freedom Flotilla II" to defy the Israeli blockade on Gaza are facing new obstacles.
After the move by the Turkish government and the Islamic charity IHH to cancel plans for the ferryboat Mavi Marmara to sail as the flotilla's flagship, now the Greek government is acting against the six vessels currently docked in Greek ports, where hundreds of flotilla participants have gathered. The police are holding up the boat renamed "The Audacity of Hope" (see AWTWNS 110627) on which a number of American volunteers were to travel because of what Greek authorities say is a complaint from "a private party" questioning its seaworthiness. According to Israeli Army Radio, the Israel Law Centre is behind the complaint. The Canadian boat "Tahrir" has also been subject to an unexpected going-over and other vessels are scheduled for non-routine inspections before they are allowed to depart. There are fears that a boat anchored in the Greek city of Piraeus which was to carry Greek, Swedish and Norwegian protesters may be held back following the discovery that its propeller shaft has been severed.
The protesters from more than 20 countries were encouraged when Greek dockers joining a country-wide general strike scheduled to begin 28 June voted to make an exception to the shutdown to allow the loading of these ships. Palestinians in Gaza have been holding rallies demanding that the flotilla members be guaranteed safe passage.
Israeli officials continued to threaten the flotilla participants, claiming that the ships and boats would be carrying "dangerous incendiary chemicals" and that the protest's purpose was to "spill the blood" of Israeli soldiers.
Two cargo ships and about seven passenger boats carrying hundreds of anti-blockade protesters are supposed to assemble at an undisclosed location in the eastern Mediterranean and head for Gaza. One of two French boats involved in the flotilla, called the "Dignit
é/Karama", left Marseille after a spirited rally in which Jewish Defence League attackers were rebuffed. It stopped off in Corsica and is now on the open seas heading for the assembly point.
The ships and boats are carrying 3,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid for the population of Gaza. Israel has blocked delivery of many supplies for the strip's 1.5 million inhabitants since 2006 and kept them prisoner as a collective punishment for electing a Hamas government. The International Committee of the Red Cross, UN bodies and international law experts have declared this blockade illegal.
Yet the US and other governments continue to back the blockade in practical terms even though they may admit to its dubious legality. On 22 June the US State Department issued a "travel advisory" warning that last year's Freedom Flotilla resulted in "the injury, death and deportation of US citizens," as if the American government could do nothing to prevent this from happening again and would bear no responsibility if it did.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accused the flotilla of planning "provocative actions by entering Israeli waters to create a situation in which Israelis have a right to defend themselves." This is factually and legally incorrect, since the waters off Gaza do not belong to Israel and the Mavi Marmara was in international waters when Israeli commandos attacked it and shot nine passengers to death in 2010. Of course Clinton knew this. Her statement seemed meant to give prior approval and a pre-established excuse for whatever Israel may decide to do to the passengers this time.
No "Net neutrality"
It is noteworthy that the American government that sometimes claims to support the goals of the "Arab Spring" is anxious to deny access to the Net and social media to those Arabs seeking justice who happen to be Palestinian. While the US likes to criticise other countries for Net censorship, the Barack Obama government made no protest when Apple removed a "Third Intifada" downloadable application 23 June, after it had been posted online for only a few days. In March, Facebook shut down an Arabic-language Web page also called "Third Intifada" that had quickly acquired 350,000 "friends".
In both cases these Web monopolies said they were responding to Israeli government requests. The Israeli Public Diplomacy Minister called such sites "anti-Israeli and anti-Zionist" views that are not illegal to express in most countries and are in fact shared by countless millions of people, including some Jews. Instead of making the usual claims about "terrorism" or even the threat of violence, the Israeli minister said quite frankly that any "calls for an uprising against Israel... could unite many thousands toward an objective that could be disastrous".
That is the stand the governments of the US and most other Western countries have taken in declaring the cause of justice for Palestine intolerable. The world's powerful do not argue that actions like the flotilla are morally wrong or illegal but simply that the defence of the Jewish state justifies brutal repression against even symbolic protests.