[QODLink]
Marwan Bishara
Marwan Bishara
Marwan Bishara is the senior political analyst at Al Jazeera.
Gaza boat: Three questions for Marwan Bishara
Our senior political analyst on the international significance of the Gaza-bound aid flotilla.
Last Modified: 27 Jun 2011 19:20
The reasons fo the Mavi Marmara's absence from the current aid flotilla headed to Gaza might be political [Reuters]

On the one-year anniversary of the violent Israeli raid on an aid flotilla that left nine people dead, another international aid convoy is being sent to the Gaza Strip, where an Israeli-enforced blockade has created a humanitarian crisis.

Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera's senior political analyst, comments on three crucial issues surrounding the convoy and Israel's vow to prevent it from reaching the Palestinians.

What is the flotilla trying to accomplish considering Egypt's recent partial lifting of the Gaza siege?

Any medical and humanitarian aid will save lives in the impoverished and overpopulated Gaza Strip, home to over a million refugees.

However, with Egypt's partial lifting of the siege, the importance of the flotilla is increasingly symbolic and strategic.

It underlines the role of the international solidarity with the Palestinians, and puts pressure on Israel to lift the siege and allow for free movement of Palestinians within their own homeland.

After all, the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza weren't only cut off from the outside world, they were also violently torn away from their homeland.

Strategically, the international civil society activists sailing to Gaza are helping expose Israeli repression and its occupation of Palestine on the agenda of the international community.

People power, as we've seen in recent months, can be, well, powerful and effective.

Does it pose security risk to Israel?

It's rather strange despite last years debacle, that Israel insists on deploying military means to confront peace activists trying to deliver humanitarian aid to a besieged people.

The Israeli security cabinet has instructed Defense Minister Ehud Barak to stop the flotilla after failing to pressure European governments to block their exit to sea.

But Israel's security justifications don't add up. Could anyone imagine that France, Greece or Turkey would allow a ship carrying European civil society activists and more than a few journalists to sail from their shores carrying arms, and/or "terrorists"!

Even the claim that there are "extremists" on the board of the ships doesn't hold water, since according to Israel, Gaza is already infested with and dominated by extremists and terrorists.

In reality, Israel could either swallow its false pride and "let the flotilla go" - as proposed by the daily Haaretz - or face the embarrassing consequences of another violent showdown against peaceful activists and journalists.

For the peaceful activists risking their lives, Israel has long held the population of Gaza hostage until the release of its captured soldier [I don't use the name of the soldier, because tens of thousands of Palestinian detainees in Israeli jails remain nameless in the media] and the unseating of Hamas.

Why won't the Mavi Marmara join the dozen ships sailing to Gaza?

The declared reason is technical difficulties. I heard that several times when I was in Turkey to explain frequent delays. Clearly that's not the issue.

There are reports of American and Israeli pressures on the Turkish government not to escalate an already tense relationship with Israel, especially if it expects an apology and compensation for last year's violent takeover of the Mavi Marmara and the killing of nine people in international waters.

When I asked Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish foreign minister, a few days ago about the Israeli threat to repeat its operation against the Turkish ship, he said: "Oh, then they will see the consequences. We cannot tolerate Israel to claim that Eastern Mediterranean belongs to them and they can do any operation in open seas or territory, in international waters. This cannot - this will not - be happening again."

But apparently neither side is interested in such a confrontation. Instead they are reportedly conducting secret talks to arrive at a deal that turns the page on the Mavi Marmara.

Some European and international activists have argued that the solidarity effort must remain international and shouldn't be eclipsed by another diplomatic Turkish-Israeli showdown.

With Mavi Marmara out of the equation and the Turkish activists joining hundreds of others on their ships in their peaceful journey to Gaza, Israel is finding it more difficult to justify another assault on the flotilla.

Source:
Al Jazeera
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
More than one-quarter of Gaza's population has been displaced, causing a humanitarian crisis.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Muslim charities claim discrimination after major UK banks began closing their accounts.
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Featured
Assam officials upset that WWII-era Stillwell Road won't be used in transnational highway linking four Asian nations.
Informal health centres are treating thousands of Syrian refugees in Turkey, easing the pressure on local hospitals.
Indonesian and Malaysian authorities are keeping a close eye on local supporters of the hard-line Middle East group.
Wastewater ponds dot the landscape in US states that produce gas; environmentalists say they’re a growing threat.
China President Xi Jinping's Mongolia visit brings accords in the areas of culture, energy, mining and infrastructure.
join our mailing list