Since then, Israel has imposed a blockade on Gaza. Following a series of rocket attacks launched against Israeli villages by Hamas from Gaza during the winter of 2008-2009, and a punishing Israeli counter-attack, the blockade was tightened. Israel has allowed humanitarian aid into Gaza, but has blocked virtually all building supplies from entering in order to prevent Hamas from rebuilding and fortifying the territory.
AP reported a statement from Israel that it will not let the eight ship’s reach Gaza's shores, and that it will deport or imprison the activists aboard.
The Israeli military said it would divert the boats to the Israeli port at Ashdod, where the activists will be taken into the tents for identification and medical attention, if necessary.
Israeli officials also said they will have 40 buses on hand to transport the activists to Israel's international airport for deportation or to a nearby prison if they refuse to be deported voluntarily.
"We want to do this as quick and efficiently as possible," AP quoted Maya Kadosh, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman.
The flotilla organizer, an ex-Israeli citizen named Dror Feiler, told AP in a telephone interview from his ship, Free Mediterranean: "We are on a humanitarian and solidarity action, we intend to continue it until we reach our goal and will not be stopped.”
The report quoted Mark Regev, an Israeli government spokesman, who said "If they were really interested in the well-being of the people of Gaza, they would have accepted the offers of Egypt or Israel to transfer humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza. Instead they have chosen a cheap political stunt."
As Hamas and Israel await a stand-off, Hamas is building a makeshift port to accommodate the vessels, using rubble collected by children as building material.
“The primary objective is to improve the port’s poor condition and make it ready to accommodate more and larger vessels because it is currently restricted to the smaller Palestinian fishing boats,” Yasser Shanti, the Ministry of Works undersecretary for Hamas, told The Media Line, a Mideast-based news service.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported a statement from a government official on May 27 that called the approaching aid flotilla an "outright provocation." But the offical extended an alternate Israeli offer to the organizers of the aid convoy, inviting them to unload their cargo at the Israeli port of Ashdod, from which it would be transferred to Gaza following an inspection of its contents.
Haaretz quoted Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who told the foreign ministers from several countries that "Hamas, which rules Gaza, is a terror organization supported by Iran. It smuggles weapons and rockets with the sole purpose of harming Israelis, as it has done many times in the past."
Barak explained that Hamas has been holding Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit captive for four years, in complete isolation and in prevention of Red Cross intervention. "For these reasons Israel must oversee the waters in the area.”
Barak was joined by the Director-General of the Foreign Ministry, Yossi Gal, and the two stated that there is no shortage in humanitarian aid being sent to Gaza, with food, fuel, and supplies regularly being transferred into Gaza by international organizations.
One of the organizations identified as organizing the flotilla is the Free Gaza Movement, whose spokeswoman, Greta Berlin, stated: "We are planning on going. This is not going to stop us. The boats are already on their way.”
On May 27, the Jerusalem Post quoted Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon’s statements to delegates from the European Parliament:
Many of the parliaments members pressed Ayalon on the issue of settlements and the situation in Gaza.
"Hamas, as an agent of Iran, works against the interests of the Palestinians. We always attempt to differentiate between Hamas and innocent civilians in Gaza."
Another report in the Post the same day noted:
High-ranking Islamic extremists were present at the Istanbul launch ceremony of a boat participating in the Gaza flotilla, according to a report by the Intelligence & Terrorism Information Center publicized by the IDF Spokespersons' Unit on Thursday.
Some of the ceremony participants included Mahmad Tzoalha and Sahar Albirawi, two top Hamas terrorists operating in the UK, and Hamam Said, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan.
Israel’s dilemma in trying to counter the activities of Hamas while, not harming innocent citizens of Gaza is not an enviable one. But the statement made by Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon indicates that Israel is making an honest attempt to differentiate between the two.
The major media generally portray Palestinian “liberation” organization such as Hamas (and the less radical Fatah) as being engaged in a religious war for control of Palestine. However, both of these groups trace their heritage to the radically militant Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), from which the Palestinian Authority that still governs the West Bank was spun off. It was PLO leader Yasser Arafat who appointed Mahmoud Abbas as prime minister of the PA on March 19, 2003. Abbas became the Chairman of the PLO on November 11, 2004 upon the death of Yasser Arafat and became president of the PA on January 15, 2005.
However, as with many other “liberation” organizations worldwide (including Nicaragua’s Sandinistas and the African National Congress) the PLO was created to advance the worldwide revolution that has brought us a range of communist and socialist governments around the world. A most revealing article explaining this movement, “The Grasp of Socialist International,” by William F. Jasper, was posted on The New American magazine’s website on February 16. In that article, Jasper notes: “During the Cold War, the SI aligned itself with communist terrorist Yasir Arafat and the PLO, the Soviet Union’s premier terror master.”
Israel’s problems in defending its border villages from attacks made by Hamas elements in Gaza have much in common with the rising crime rate in our borders states stemming from the presence of violent illegal immigrants. In both cases, the plight of disadvantaged individuals has been used as cover to threaten a right that every sovereign nation has — to secure its own borders.
Photo: AP Images
Warren Mass is editor of the Bulletin of The John Birch Society.