By Stuart Reigeluth
There is no lack of creativity, viciousness and connivance in Israeli and European attempts to dissuade and discourage the “Freedom Flotilla II” from leaving Greece for Gaza.
The list is long, too long to enumerate here, of blatant Israeli instances of grotesque repression against Palestinian identity, culture and livelihood. Two of the most famous Palestinian non-violent activists to be killed were the political cartoonist, Naji Ali, shot in the back in London in July 1987 and the short story writer, Gassan Kanafani, killed in a car bomb in Beirut in July 1972.
Then there was the destruction of the Palestinian Research Centre in Beirut in 1982 by the Israelis. Twenty years later in September 2002, the Israeli army destroyed the newly rebuilt Khalil Sakakini Cultural Centre in Ramallah. And in December 2008-January 2009, Israel flattened the American International School in Gaza (as well as many other less prestigious buildings)…
Israeli aggression against the Palestinians is therefore a common theme, from the founding Zionist massacres of Palestinians and the razing of hundreds of their villages, to the targeted assassinations of Palestinian intellectuals and politicians throughout the Palestinian era in Lebanon and in Tunisia in the 1970s and 1980s, through the Oslo and post-Oslo years of the 1990s and early 2000s. But now it is different. Although the killing of nine human rights activists in international waters on the Mavi Marmara on May 31, 2010 was a gross demonstration that things may not be all that different when it comes to Israel’s ‘security’ and right to ‘self-defence’, we can only hope now that Israel will not kill international activists like the renowned US writer, Alice Walker, who has joined the flotilla.
Now things are different — whether because the activists include Palestinians and others that hail from Europe and the United States. Killing some Turks is one thing for Israel and Europe, but killing Pulitzer-prize winners is another entirely. The Palestinians have been effective in putting this in the international media limelight and Israel knows that it cannot get away with another flotilla fiasco.
Or could it? Israel probably could, but would rather avoid the diplomatic and international uproar, so sabotage is the name of the game; sabotage the boats so they don’t leave Greece in the first place — hence the unknown scuba-divers that tinkered with the propellers of a Norwegian/Swedish boat and an Irish vessel in the same manner, rendering them ‘un-operational’ by international standards.
Though this may be illegal — and cause enough to file for vandalism of European property, for these boats are owned by Europeans — this also shows the restrictions of Israeli actions. Israel may wish the boats would just disappear or suddenly sink in the Greek and Turkish ports, but they can’t very well torpedo them. Israel has to resort to other means of intimidation and dissuasion.
The Israeli propaganda machine went into full effect as well and threatened that any journalist that joined the “Freedom Flotilla II” would not be allowed to enter Israel thereafter. It is hard to repress a sardonic smirk at Israeli methods — anyway, CNN, NBC, Al Jazeera and many others are already in company of the international and Palestinian activists.
But there is another tool in Israel’s inventory that is perhaps the most effective in persuading European officials to not endorse the departure of the 10-vessel flotilla bound for Gaza and that is the trump card of offering the potential to procure for Europe much-coveted natural gas from sources discovered by Israel in its territorial Mediterranean waters.
Israel is offering to transport the natural gas via underwater pipelines to Cyprus and Greece. This alternative source of energy is much heralded by the Europeans that want to avoid more dependency on Russia, and soon Turkey with the South-Stream and Nabucco pipelines being built. Israeli gas sources fit neatly into Europe’s diversification schemes to meet its energy needs. The Tamar gas field off the Haifa coast discovered in April 2009 could provide Israel with enough energy until 2030; then there is the massive Leviathan field that could provide enough energy for the next 60 years, the surplus could be traded and sold to Europe quite easily. And this ties in closely with the European economic crisis and the crumbling Greek economy.
How effective this energy card actually is in deterring the current ‘Freedom Flotilla II’ from actually leaving Greece is unclear since the underwater pipeline has yet to be built, but one thing is for sure: Israel does not want those boats sailing for Gaza. In the meantime, the challenges confronting the flotilla depict the entire absurdity and counterproductive actions of Israel and Europe.
For why should international boats not be allowed to travel to Gaza? Wouldn’t Europe benefit now of all times from more trade and maritime commerce, even with Gaza — this great historic crossroads of regional traffic? Wouldn’t Israel benefit in its security concerns from a more prosperous Gaza? It is so painfully obvious, and yet Gaza remains an international anomaly.
– Stuart Reigeluth is managing editor of REVOLVE magazine. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. (This article was first published in Gulf News – gulfnews.com – on July 4, 2011.)