According to my first morning sms, the Lebanese Transport Minister has told the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation that the two boats planning to sail to Gaza — the Lebanese Flotilla — have been given permits to go to Cyprus.

He indicated that it will then be up to Cyprus to decide if these Lebanese ships can go to Gaza!

But, haven’t we just been through that?

Cyprus didn’t want to encourage the last three Free Gaza expeditions to sail, once the massive IDF Operation Cast Lead was launched against Gaza (27 December 2008 to 18 January 2009):
X.) Free Gaza’s Dignity was rammed by Israeli warships on 30 December 2008, and limped to a Lebanese port for months of repairs. A formal Israeli naval blockade was declared on 3 January 2009 (just as the ground operation phase began).
Y.) Saying “We had no choice”, Free Gaza’s Spirit of Humanity decided on its own to turn around, “to save lives”, on 15 January 2009.
Z.) Then, after the Gaza war, Free Gaza’s Spirit of Humanity tried again, in June 2009. This, the ship was boarded and forced to go to Ashdod port, where the activists on board were detained for about ten days then deported, while its cargo was offloaded, some (maybe most) of it was sent into Gaza under Israeli procedures via Israeli-controlled land crossings.

Cyprus tried the same thing Lebanon is doing now — banning ships from leaving its ports if the declared destination was Gaza (which, the Cypriot government said, standing on a fine technical point, was not a real harbor).

So, the latter Free Gaza expeditions gave another destination.

When the Freedom Flotilla was moving, the Cypriot government finally issued a formal decision banning the ships from leaving its harbors if their destination was Gaza, because of the formal declared Israeli naval blockade.

Six ships in the Freedom Flotilla [formed by an expanded coalition including Free Gaza; Free Palestine (a group which split from Free Gaza due to siome ideological or tactical dispute); the European Campaign to end the siege; Ship to Gaza (Sweden) and Ship to Gaza (Greece); plus a large, very large contribution from a Turkish relief organization IHH, which apparently did have a small ad hoc group of men engaged to act as security on board the large (600+) passenger ship Mavi Marmara, with very ad hoc instructions to prevent Israeli forces from boarding the ship at sea] was stopped on 31 May by shocking use of force, and at least nine deaths on board the Mavi Marmara.

The MV Rachel Corrie, part of Freedom Flotilla but travelling separately and more slowly, went on principle straight into the same procedures (but it was smaller, and those involved on both sides acted with much more scripted behavior…)

Now, it’s going to start all over again?

By the way, it seems that the Free Palestine splinter or offshoot group (and not Free Gaza) is involved in the organization of the Lebanese Flotilla, which has been at pains to stress that it is not linked to Hizballah. (And, like many of those who don’t know and don’t have to deal with the reality of Israel every day, they seem to have exaggerated estimations of Israeli fragility…)

It’s true that this will now bring media attention, in a way that Free Gaza expeditions never did (even at the height of Operation Cast Lead), and it focuses on the core issues. But, lives are at risk, a lot of money is simply being wasted, and don’t we have to ask — if this is just a kind of kabuki political theater — isn’t there a better way?

Israel will not loosen naval blockade of Gaza

As we reported earlier, Israel will maintain its naval blockade of the Gaza Strip even as it accedes to international demands to ease the military-administered sanctions it imposes on the coastal territory.

Israel’s security cabinet met on Sunday, as did the full cabinet. A decision was taken to allow into Gaza (via land crossings only) all materials which are not weapons or “materials used to make weapons” (this could be a very broad list, including sugar).

But boats will not be allowed to travel directly to Gaza.

Continue reading “Israel will not loosen naval blockade of Gaza”