The “Free Gaza” Flotilla II campaign was a flop. Leaders of the international community essentially pulled the plug on what they recognized as a provocative and potentially dangerous anti-Israel publicity stunt.
Flotilla organizers had planned to launch 10 to 15 ships with self-described “peace activist” passengers on board in an attempt to violate Israel’s naval blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. They hoped to provoke Israel into a military response that would be widely publicized and severely condemned by the international community.
But things did not work out as they had hoped. The flotilla boats gathered in Greek ports, but Greece refused to give them permission to sail. Some boats ran into mechanical problems. Others ran into problems with insurers who, alerted to the flotilla’s purposes, feared potential liability. Most important, the United States, United Nations, European Union and Canada all were extremely critical of the flotilla and underscored that it was an unnecessary provocation that endangered passengers.
The international leaders refuted the flotilla organizers’ accusations against Israel, accusations which are also used in other campaigns to discredit Israel, from the boycott movement to the “flytilla” in which hundreds of anti-Israel activists had planned to fly into Ben-Gurion International Airport on July 8.
Flotilla organizers claimed Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza was “illegal.” International leaders underscored that it is, in fact, legal and that Israel is entitled to militarily enforce the blockade. As the Canadian foreign minister explained, “Canada recognizes Israel’s legitimate security concerns and its right to protect itself and its residents from attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups, including by preventing the smuggling of weapons.”
The organizers have been stopped short in their effort to misapply international law on naval blockades in order to single out and defame Israel.
Similarly, international airlines that would not permit “flytilla” activists to board planes made it clear that Israel, like all nations, has a right to issue a “no fly” list. If a country informs the airline that somebody will not be allowed to enter, the airline is legally obliged to decline boarding said passengers, because “any country has the right to refuse entry,” explained Swiss Air spokesperson Donzel Jean Claude.
The organizers’ charge that there is a humanitarian crisis in Gaza was exposed as a ruse. The international community, including the International Red Cross, made it clear that there is no humanitarian crisis and whatever goods are needed can be delivered through legal, official entry points, where they can be inspected for weapons. “We want to just reiterate that there are established and efficient mechanisms for getting humanitarian assistance through to Gaza …” emphasized U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner on June 1.
The international community recognized that the flotilla was not a humanitarian mission, but rather a premeditated provocation whose goal was to trigger violence by compelling Israel to enforce the blockade militarily. They held the flotilla organizers, not Israel, responsible for any violence that might occur. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “called on all governments concerned to use their influence to discourage such flotillas, which carry the potential to escalate into violent conflict.” Passengers on the American-flagged ship Audacity of Hope, whose captain was arrested by Greek police, were furious that the U.S. State Department refused to demand that Israel let them sail safely into Gaza. Instead, the State Department warned the activists not to violate Israel’s blockade.
The international community also recognized that the flotilla activists’ primary aim was to lend support to Hamas, the Iranian proxy and a terrorist organization according to the European Union, the United States, Canada and Japan. Passengers and corporations involved with the flotilla were warned that they could be held liable for aiding and abetting a designated terrorist organization, which would be in violation of American civil and criminal law.
The activists themselves have been exposed as extremists and agents provocateurs. It is now clear to the international community that members of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas organized and raised money for the flotilla. Radical anti-Israel groups, like the International Solidarity Movement, which has called Palestinian suicide bombing “noble,” and Code Pink, whose leaders met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and gave him advice about how to carry on his war against Israel, joined with the Islamists and brought often naïve “peace activists” along with them.
Anti-Israel activists should learn from their flotilla failure. Their mission to cause potentially dangerous mischief is transparent and is discrediting them in the eyes of the public. Their focus on Gaza, when just miles away Syrians are desperately fighting for their freedom from a brutal, dictatorial regime, exposes the warped values and priorities of their anti-Israel obsession. It is time for them to discard the extremism that propels them into their bitter vendettas against the Jewish state. If they are interested in improving the lives of Palestinians and Israelis, they should be promoting peaceful coexistence and negotiations, not engaging in political stunts that pervert international law and endanger their fellow travelers as well as Palestinians and Israelis.
Roz Rothstein is CEO of StandWithUs, the international Israel education organization, and Roberta Seid is education/research director of StandWithUs.