In light of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla sailing on its way to break the siege of the Gaza Strip, Israel has once again dug itself into a hole of immeasurable proportions. Now the country’s ministers are hastily accepting suggestions to save Israel’s face in the international community. But will these suggestions fully serve their purpose?
Send the activists to an Israeli port in Ashdod where they can wait for the Flotilla’s cargo to be searched for weapons. Israel will be received as a safe country dedicated to protecting its citizens.
Give the activists emotional letters sent originally to Gilad Shalit who is currently being held by hostile forces. Israel will be received as a victimized country trying to fend for itself amid Arab aggression.
Greet them with displays of spent rocket casings fired by Hamas militants at Sderot and other Israeli border-cities. Israel will be received as an innocent bystander-country always under attack.
Regardless of which suggestions the Israeli government chooses to incorporate when dealing with the approaching Flotilla, one thing is for certain: Israel wholeheartedly disapproves of this humanitarian mission.
Israel has already made progress in preparing for the fleet of internationally-sponsored relief boats. Lining the Gazan coast are gunships prepared to physically and forcefully redirect the Flotilla away from Gaza’s main port. Armed naval forces are currently on standby in case the Flotilla draws too near. These responses are indicative of Israel’s anti-humanitarian measures towards the Palestinian people.
And this proves to be Israel’s first mistake.
As the Flotilla’s backing continues to grow in international popularity, Israel stands as the only public enemy of the humanitarian relief mission. Israel’s public image has once again been tarnished as a result, even if only minutely.
Israel’s response to the Flotilla may appear to be a tactical security measure, but even interior ministers and high government officials are acknowledging Israel’s mishandling of the situation. Israel is now forced to bear the consequences of its instinctive inability to tolerate Palestinian relief efforts. Regardless of whether or not the Flotilla’s cargo is permitted to pass into Gaza, Israel’s motives will be questioned. What made the Israeli government denounce the Flotilla in the first place? Why did Israel hesitate to allow basic medical supplies and other necessities into Gaza? The answer is simple: This effort can relieve some the stresses of the blockade imposed upon the people of the Gaza Strip.
Judging from recent announcements made by Israeli Defense Force officials, the most likely outcome of this showdown-at-sea is the redirection of the Flotilla to an Israeli port. One by one, each of the 750 international activists will be processed and forcefully deported. The boats, having been commandeered by the Israeli Navy, will be strip-searched (literally) by specially-equipped naval and canine units.
As for the material aid, some will be spoiled and much will be damaged. The rest, if any at all, might be transported to a Gaza border crossing at which point the fate of the aid will be left uncertain. Although these are only projected outcomes, they will serve to instigate Israel’s already strained relationships with many foreign communities endorsing the Flotilla’s objectives. Disrupting this peaceful humanitarian effort will justifiably serve as Israel’s declaration of anti-humanitarianism.
Right now, the Flotilla is not succumbing to any Israeli threats. The fleet of boats, each filled to the brim with inspirational activism and political awareness, will continue to head towards the Gaza Strip’s main docking port. Whether or not the aid reaches the starving population of Gaza and whether or not the activists are treated with respect and dignity is up to the government of Israel. By staunchly denouncing and even threatening to attack this humanitarian relief effort, Israel is contributing to its deterioration in the eyes of the international community.
Israeli interior ministers can sift through suggestion after suggestion on how to greet the Flotilla. But the presence of Israeli gunships currently lining the coast of the Gaza Strip indicates Israel’s repeated hostility against movements aimed at improving the conditions of those within the Gaza Strip. Israel’s response to the Freedom Flotilla further confirms growing allegations that the well-being of 1.5 million Gazan civilians is not a concern in its occupation of Palestine. The more Israel propagates such sentiment, the deeper the hole gets.