Thu May 27th, 2010 at 11:44:23 AM EST
The Gaza Freedom Flotilla is on its way to Gaza. It consists of nine boats including three cargo vessels carrying tons of humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza, and 700 passengers, dignitaries, government officials, and just plain old peace activists, a lot of them. 350 Turks from IHH, the world based Turkish humanitarian society, have joined the convoy.
Paul Woodward on Mondoweiss reported this disappointing news yesterday.
...Paul McGeough, who's on the Flotilla covering it for the Sydney Morning Herald and who reported the possibility, was just told by the chairwoman of the Free Gaza Movement that Noam Chomsky is not on board.
Drats. Well, just who is on board? And what other news organizations are covering the flotilla? That's not certain. But here is Turkish prime minister Ergodan speaking about the Gaza humanitarian situation. In response, Israel is now accusing Turkey of attempts to recreate the Ottoman Empire through its support of the Free Gaza Flotilla.
There are three cargo ships one of which is Turkish (below), plus another five or six passenger boats.
The crowd at send off
This latest email from the flotilla, however, describes some interesting developments. The latest in today's issue of Yediot Aharonot:
There will be used electronic masking devices to prevent broadcasts of the confrontation (as could be expected - I hope you have some counter-measures)
- Except for the Naval Commandos, you should expect on the Gaza boats "Massada", the special anti-riot unit of the Israeli Prison Authority. They were given a special permission to operate outside the borders of Israel and against people who are not (yet) prisoners.
- The Navy might start "Operation Sky Winds" already tonight, they might want to catch the different boats separately, before they all assemble.
- Netahyahu who is going off to France, Canada and the US has given authorisation. He feels that he has "defeated Obama" (that is the headline in "Ma'ariv") because he got an invitation to a meeting in the White House which would be friendlier than the one two months ago, and therefore he feels that he can do whatever he wants.
Israel is now stepping up its antiTurkey sentiments. Turkey was once an ally and friend of Israel, but after the December 2008 Gaza massacre, Israel lost all respect.
The anti-Turkish propaganda line is intensified. Alex Fishman, military commentator of "Yediot Aharonot" who is an unofficial spokesperson for the Israeli Army, says today that this is not really a continuation of the earlier Gaza boats, this is a Turkish plot to open a regular shipping line to Gaza and deprive Israel and Egypt of the monopoly of controlling access to Gaza. If this flotilla is let through, Israel might as well give up the siege altogether. "This is not about 500 wheelchirs to Gaza, this is about the effective re-establishment of Turkish Imperial Power". He says that many of the people on the boats are idealistic if misguided, and if it was only them it might have been advisable to let them through. But this is quite different, the Turkish government is involved, it is an Islamic government so this is not just a Turkish plot but an Islamic one (there is a reference to the head of the Islamic movement in Israel, Sheikh Ra'ed Salah, being present when the Turkish boats departed from Istanbul). Of course when faced with such an Islamic plot, there is no choice but to use force. "Putting Gaza under siege might not be the best policy, but it is the policy which we decided upon and we cannot let the Turks change it for us" (very interesting that Fishman is writing that, as I said he is close to the supreme command of the Israeli Armed Forces and they often use him to air their views).
The conclusion of Fishman "We have already lost the PR battle (the title of his commentary is "We have already lost"). Since the boats must be stopped anyway, the Navy should try to do is as quickly as possible, to reduce the length of the unfriendly footage.
Yes, it is about footage, about censorship and propaganda. Is there any US newspaper carrying this story? Not yet anyway.
These are the highlights, you get a headline on the front page and the whole of Page 2 and 3.
- There is a good interview from onboard with Dror Feiler "we don't want a confrontation with the IDF, but we are determined to get through, and will resist passively, it will not look good for soldiers to confiscate wheelchairs" and that morale on the boats is high and people are singing. Dror is really doing good work, avoiding very radical statments (no need for them, the whole action is radical enough in itself) and conveying just the right tone.
- The special detention center seems to be within the Port of Ashdod. The police is worried that leftists will arrive from all over the country and make trouble, it is up to us here to make their fears come true.
- They will want to expell the international activists from the country as soon as possible, and are worried that the activists have already made contact with Israeli lawyers and will try to hold this up through the courts. No mention here of Palestinians, which day before yesterday were mentioned as also possibly arriving in this detention center. Palestinians may stay imprisoned much longer.
Bye for now, good luck
Adam (Keller, Gush Shalom)
PS: Here is the latest from the government and the navy.
Developing story: a confrontation between Israel and Turkey. Stay tuned.