Israeli/Arab law-maker to join Gaza-bound flotilla

22 Jun

3591035123MK (Knesset Member) Basel Ghattas, speaking at a Knesset committee meeting in February 2014. Photo by Michal Fattal

Israeli Arab MK (Parliamentarian) Basel Ghattas, who is to join the Gaza-bound flotilla, urges Israel to lift naval siege on Gaza ahead of third flotilla to coastal enclave.

[We post this Haaretz article in full, complete with attacks by Israeli leaders on Ghattas and the Flotilla. Editor,]

By Jack Khoury, Haaretz (Israeli daily newspaper), 21 June 2015

Israeli Arab Knesset Member Basel Ghattas (Joint Arab List) announced Sunday he will be joining a new flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip and urged the Israeli government to lift the naval blockade on the coastal enclave ahead of their arrival.

In a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Ghattas beseeched the Israeli leadership to allow the Palestinian activists to enter the Gaza Strip by sea.

The three-boat flotilla, part of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition and third in number since the Mavi Marmara incident, is now departing from Athens and includes activists, lawmakers and journalists, including Swedish-Israeli composer and activist Dror Feiler and Spanish European Parliament member Ana Maria Miranda Paza.

“The civilian flotilla is aimed at breaking the siege is peaceful,” Ghattas wrote in his letter. “Its goal is drawing international public attention to the state of the 1.8 million Palestinians living in jail-like conditions as a result of the blockade imposed by Israel – which is a form of collective punishment and constitutes an infringement on humanitarian law,” Ghattas wrote.

He further urged the Israeli leadership to allow the flotilla to pass, warning that should Israel try to stop and board the ships it could “entangle Israel in additional international crises which would be the full responsibility of Netanyahu’s government.”

The flotilla’s journey is expected to take four days.

An activist on board the flotilla told Al Jazeera that unlike the previous missions, this flotilla’s objective was not aid, but to force Gaza’s port to open.

“Our aim is to end the siege of Gaza. We want the Palestinians to know that we haven’t forgotten about them. There are many crises in the world, but the situation in Gaza is also really bad, and we do remember them,” Kalle Ohlsson told Al Jazeera.

The Marianne will be the third flotilla since 2010, when nine activists were killed on board the Mavi Marmara in an operation by Israeli commandos. A second flotilla planned for 2011 was unable to reach Gaza after Greek authorities prevented the ships from leaving Athens.

In response to Ghattas’ announcement, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said the flotilla is an attempt to tarnish Israel’s image, and accused Ghattas of “joining those who wish to fight Israel,” and of acting in the service of the enemy under the cover of parliamentary immunity.

Hotovely added that the Foreign Ministry is acting to prevent the flotilla from arriving in Israel’s territorial waters.  

The Zionist Union said in a statement that “as the Gaza flotilla isn’t a humanitarian act but a political act that will legitimize the Hamas regime and increase terrorism against Israel, MK Basel Ghattas joining it is unfortunate, political and not humanitarian and will increase strife inside Israel.”

Zionist Union MK Zuheir Bahalul said that though the blockade of Gaza must end immediately, he doesn’t think another flotilla will solve the problem: “In light of the results of the last flotilla, which tore the Arab and Jewish publics in Israel apart, I’m not sure another extravagant flotilla will solve the severe humanitarian problem in Gaza, but will simply divert the discussion again to other realms.”

Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi) also blasted the news of the flotilla, saying that it is proof that Israel’s 2005 disengagement from Gaza was a mistake. “A decade after the disengagement from Gush Katif [Israeli settlements in Gaza], rockets are fired on our children, tunnels are being burrowed into our communities and terror flotillas are being launched at our shores… We evacuated Jews and got flotillas in return,” he said.

“Israel should clearly say: We are not fleeing from our land, and the Palestinians have lost any right – if they ever had one – to claim it,” Bennett said.



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