Global Matters: Questions, answers about the Gaza blockade

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This much we know.

On May 31, a convoy of six ships bound for the Gaza Strip was intercepted by the Israel Defense Force and ordered to stop. Five of the ships complied. Passengers were taken ashore in Israel and cargo unloaded.

The sixth ship, the Mavi Marmara, did not comply. Israeli naval personnel alerted the captain that he was in violation of Israel’s blockade of Gaza. The captain defied orders to stop.

Israeli troops boarded the Mavi Marmara. A melee ensued as Israeli troops rappelled onto the deck and were beaten and stabbed. Nine persons on board the Mavi Marmara were killed and numerous soldiers and others injured.

Beyond this bare recitation of the facts, however, there is little agreement, or at least little acknowledgment of additional facts relating to the ships bound for Gaza, their passengers, their motivation and their cargo.

If one relied only upon mainstream media reports one would come away with the impression that the ships were manned by a handful of sandal-clad pacifists and conscientious objectors whose only goal was to deliver food and medicine to a needy and grateful Gaza.

But things are not always what they seem, and this is particularly true in the context of Israel’s actions with respect to Gaza and its Palestinian neighbors and citizens.

For those interested in a fuller depiction of what happened before, during and after the interdiction of the May 31 flotilla, this Q-&-A may be helpful.

Question: How can you tell when an aid mission isn’t really an aid mission, but a calculated political provocation?

Answer: When its organizers announce from the beginning that the goal isn’t actually to deliver aid, but to break the blockade of Gaza.

Q: When does a political action cease to be a harmless political provocation?

A: When the ship’s crew is overcome by terrorists wearing flak jackets, bearing weapons and stun grenades, and carrying more than 1 million Euros hidden on their persons. When bags of flour among the cargo conceal dozens of grenades, rocket launchers and other armaments sourced from Iran.

Q: How can you tell that delivering the aid on board the ships was never a priority?

A: When Turkey refused to intervene and the flotilla organizers refused Israel’s offer to offload and deliver all humanitarian aid, medicine and food on the ships.

Q: How can you tell terrorists from activists?

A: The terrorists are those who boarded the Mavi Marmara separately, commandeered the ship, sequestered those with more peaceful intent, cut metal railings into iron rods, refused to stop their vessel and told an Israeli officer seeking to defuse the situation to “go back to Auschwitz.”

Q: How can you tell when humanitarian aid isn’t really needed or wanted?

A: When medicine is refused and food allowed to rot on the dock by the aid recipients themselves.

Q: How can you tell when the mainstream media is biased against Israel?

A: When photographs of terrorists are altered to remove evidence of their weapons, when videos of terrorists using stun grenades are not released to the public, when Israeli “aggression” is presumed before any countervailing facts are considered, and when media outlets fail to report that not only Israel but Egypt actively blockades Gaza as well, for fear of terrorist attacks being launched against it.

Q: Why does Israel blockade Gaza in the first place?

A: To deny Hamas, the terrorist organization that rules Gaza, arms and other items which it uses to attack Israel. Hamas openly seeks the destruction of Israel and has fired more than 10,000 rockets at Israel from Gaza since 2001. Israel may change its policies and ease the blockade, but one policy Israel will never pursue is national suicide.

Q: By the way, what’s going on in the West Bank? Why don’t we hear much about friction between Israel and Palestinians there?

A: The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank is working with the United States and with Israel to train a competent and professional security force. Confidence in security has resulted in greater freedom of movement and investment. Economic growth in the West Bank may approach 10 percent this year. The New York Times recently featured a profile of tourism and night life in Ramallah.

Q: Why doesn’t Hamas look at what’s happening in the West Bank and realize that it, too, could achieve peace and prosperity for its people?

A: Because, to paraphrase Golda Meir, peace will come only when Hamas loves its children more than it hates Israel.

Q: When might that be?

A: Don’t hold your breath.

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Perry B. Newman is a South Portland resident and president of Atlantica Group, an international business consulting firm based in Portland, with clients in North America, Israel and Europe.