Gaza flotillas fill no great humanitarian void, clearly designed to provoke Israel
by Jason Edelstein
Another round of “Flotilla Activism” aimed at inciting greater tension in the Arab-Israeli conflict is scheduled for this week. Just like last year’s infamous flotilla incident that resulted in nine deaths, the latest crop of flotilla participants – a fringe group of extremists working alongside terrorists – is more concerned with their own PR and promoting hate, violence, and chaos, rather than with working with Israelis and Palestinians to find peaceful solutions to the conflict. Hence, it is all the more shocking that several European government-funded groups are either publicly supporting or participating in this stunt.
Like other tactics before, the flotilla is a continuation of the “Durban Strategy” to isolate Israel internationally. Numerous NGOs are contributing to the strategy’s implementation. This includes the Israeli Committee Against Housing Demolitions (ICAHD) - funded by the European Union (EU), Spain, and the governments of the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, and Switzerland via the NGO Development Center (NDC) – and the Alternative Information Center (AIC), which is funded by Diakonia (Sweden), and ICCO (the Netherlands).
Additionally, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) is supporting the flotilla. It is funded by the European Union and by the governments of Ireland, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway; NDC, and numerous private organizations, including Ford Foundation (USA), International Commission of Jurists (Sweden), and George Soros’ Open Society Foundations (OSI - US). Why European governments are lending support to this anti-peace initiative is incomprehensible.
Ironically, many of these individual governments, along with the EU, have voiced their strong opposition to the flotilla. The EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid Kristalina Georgieva has declared, “We are not in favor of attempts to help people in this way. One needs to work with the authorities in Israel in order to transfer humanitarian aid via the formal channels…” Similarly, Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal told Parliament on April 28, 2011: “The Dutch government will unambiguously say that we are against this flotilla…”
No crisis in Gaza
Furthermore, under international law, UN member states, as mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 1373, must “prohibit their nationals or any persons and entities within their territories from making any funds, financial assets or economic resources or financial or other related services available” for terrorist activities.
Clearly, then, European funding of NGOs participating in the flotilla is contrary to government policy and to common sense. The individual governments and the EU should therefore freeze funding to these NGOs and launch investigations regarding their funding of NGOs active in these activities.
In addition to these government-funded NGOs, the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), which led the 2010 flotilla and is also centrally involved this year, has a history of supporting “armed struggle” and initiating violent confrontations with Israeli soldiers. Regarding these provocations, co-founders Huwaida Arraf and Adam Shapiro once wrote that deaths from Palestinian “resistance” are “no less noble than carrying out a suicide operation. And we are certain that if these men were killed during such an action, they would be considered shaheed Allah.”
In other words, peace and humanitarian aid are not the primary motivation of flotilla organizers – partly because there is no need for a humanitarian mission to Gaza.
As reconfirmed by Mathilde Redmant, deputy director of the Red Cross in Gaza, on April 21, 2011, “There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza.” Humanitarian aid reaches Gaza through multiple routes, including the hundreds of tons of goods that Israel trucks in each week. Additionally, Israel has agreed to deliver any humanitarian aid to Gaza after inspection at the border.
The flotilla, therefore, fills no great humanitarian void, but is clearly designed to provoke Israel and expand the Durban process. And now, taxpayer Euros are funding this activity that contradicts Europe’s policies vis-à-vis the Arab-Israeli conflict. European governments should ensure that funding does not go to groups that work against peace.
Jason Edelstein is communications director of NGO Monitor