The Gaza Flotillas to Come: Some Ground Rules before Setting Out

Written by Alan Baker


There is no humanitarian emergency among the civilian population in Gaza, and hence there can be no justification for conveying emergency shipments intended to alleviate an emergency that clearly does not exist. Provoking a confrontation with Israel continues to be the primary aim of flotilla organizers like the Turkish IHH.

Aiming to Provoke a Confrontation

Since the May 2010 wave of "flotillas" organized by Turkish and other groups, ostensibly conveying cargoes of vital and indispensible aid intended to reach the population of Gaza, much has been written and televised as to the real intentions of the organizers.  Additionally, several enquiries have been instituted in order to analyze the legal, military, and other aspects of the flotilla affair and the way it was handled. 

What seems to have been made very clear by the groups that organized the flotilla, especially the Turkish-led IHH terror-related organization, is the fact that the use of an ostensibly civilian, humanitarian flotilla and a huge PR campaign in order to demonstratively breach the Israeli naval blockade of the Gaza coast and thereby challenge Israel's policy regarding the Gaza Strip and provoke a confrontation with Israel, was clearly and continues to be the primary aim. 

Conveying humanitarian goods to what was represented as a distressed Gaza population was a minor, secondary, and perhaps even incidental aim, at least among the most vocal participants in the flotilla, although there were indeed some who participated out of a bona fide belief in the importance of identifying themselves with, and trying to alleviate what they genuinely thought to be, a humanitarian crisis among the residents of Gaza. 

The regrettable outcome of the May 2010 flotilla and the extensive international echo that still reverberates throughout the international community have nevertheless brought about a series of changes in the "situation on the ground." 

The logic and aim of Israel's blockade is to prevent the Hamas terror organization presently administering Gaza from acquiring arms, ammunition, and other supplies that could contribute to hostile activities against Israel. Since May 2010, the Israeli government has altered the manner in which it administers the limitations on the transfer of goods to Gaza. It now specifically prohibits only those materials that might be taken and directed by Hamas and other terror groups in furtherance of their hostile purposes. 

Furthermore, since the May 2010 flotilla incident and in light of the considerable publicity that has been given to the daily flow of goods and supplies into the Gaza Strip, it has become very clear to all that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza and all essential and other provisions are available to all residents. 

On the other hand, the practical military and tactical implications and lessons of the May 2010 flotilla have been learned by Israel's military forces and the appropriate conclusions as to how to handle future flotillas have been reached and put into place. 

Some Basic Facts

In light of these significant changes in the situation on the ground, one may wonder on what basis could future planned flotillas be justified and, in a similar vein, what might be the real intentions and motives of the organizers who are busy preparing the next flotilla touted for June 2011. 

In this context, it might be pertinent to review some of the basic ground rules surrounding the flotilla phenomenon: 

In light of all the above, there is good reason to assume that the instigators of the planned flotilla intending to set sail for Gaza in June 2011 would be hard put to justify themselves other than by admitting their real character and motives as a provocative and political demonstration. 

Sponsorship, organization, and presence on such flotillas by terror organizations or their activists disguised as humanitarian groups will no longer deceive an international community which witnessed the May 2010 flotilla, the premeditated violence of its organizers, and the regrettable and tragic outcome. 

While such demonstrations may well take place if only for their PR value, they will have to abide by internationally accepted rules and prove their bona fide nature in order to be considered as genuine.

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Amb. Alan Baker, Director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is former Legal Adviser to Israel's Foreign Ministry and former Ambassador of Israel to Canada.

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