By Press TV
By Mohieddin Sajedi
Israel’s recent seizure of two ships carrying aid to besieged people of Gaza was easily lost in international and regional silence, as if, collective punishment of the Gazans has won Western and international approval.
A total of 27 political activists from various countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia and Palestine boarded two Irish and Canadian ships which carried medicine and medical equipment to Gaza. There was nothing suitable for military purposes or with double use onboard the ships. To avoid the problems caused for previous convoys by governments of Greece and Cyprus, the activists kept lull about their journey until they got close to their goal, Gaza.
The Israeli army then attacked those ships, seizing all people on board along with the medical cargo. After the bitter experience of attacking a Turkish ship last May and its negative consequences, Israelis have been careful to avoid violent treatment of the activists organizing such convoys.
Last May’s attack on the Turkish aid ship, Mavi Marmara, left nine Turks dead and caused serious strain in Ankara-Tel Aviv relations. Israel even refrained from apologizing to Turkey. After an international fact-finding committee headed by Judge Geoffrey Palmer released its report on the case, Ankara expelled the Israeli ambassador and bilateral relations declined to their worst. The mission of the committee was to investigate Israel’s military attack on Turkish aid ship.
It was also last May that US President Barack Obama announced that the Siege on Gaza has become unbearable. The European Union followed by the UN called on Israel to end the siege. Israel, however, was not ready to even lessen the intensity of the siege and only allowed some new consumer products such as potato chips and chocolate to enter Gaza.
The Palmer Committee announced to the amazement of international community that the Siege on Gaza was not incompatible with international law and asked Israel to reconcile with turkey. The conclusion evoked serious opposition of international legal experts and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRS). Even if Palmer report had owned up to illegal nature of Gaza siege, it would have made no difference as Israel would not have changed its mind.
The United Nations announced that the Siege on Gaza was illegal and against human rights and international law. ICRS also announced that the siege violated Geneva Conventions. Due to the barriers created by Israel, the inhabitants of Gaza do not have access to one-third of their farmlands and 85 percent of Gaza’s coasts are closed to the Palestinian fishermen. The Siege on Gaza is an example of collective punishment as mentioned in Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. According to Article 38 of the same convention, people of Gaza are entitled to receive individual and group aid.
After Ankara expelled Israel’s ambassador, Turkey Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that his country’s Navy will escort ships carrying aid to Gaza. Erdogan, however, has not lived up to his word. No Turkish warship escorted Irish and Canadian ships which started out from a Turkish port city to break the Siege on Gaza. It was announced in Washington last Friday that the US president had been assured in advance that no Turkish warship was bound for Gaza. Why the US president should be concerned about dispatching medicine to Gaza?
Relying on Palmer report, Israel believes that it is legally entitled to put the Siege on Gaza, which has rendered its people jobless and hungry. Almost 2 million people live in Gaza Strip whose area does not exceed 360 square kilometers. No other place on Earth is home to such a dense population. Neither the United States, nor the European Union or even the Organization of Islamic Cooperation or the Arab League has tried to put more pressure on Israel to end this inhuman siege. Gaza and its inhuman siege represent a forgotten crisis. Even when Israel killed 11 Gazans in an airstrike two weeks ago, there was no serious reaction. People in Arab countries are also busy fighting to change their own regimes. Perhaps, Israel thinks it can make the most of the current situation. This policy, however, would surely backfire in the long run.
After the Egyptians attacked Israel’s embassy in Cairo making the ambassador and embassy staff to flee, only one Israeli diplomat was left in the country and he has taken refuge at the US embassy and is doing administrative work from there. Israel is looking for a safe building for its Cairo embassy, but nobody is ready to take the risk and lease his/her property to Israel.
The Arab masses will never forget the Siege on Gaza and will show suitable reaction in due time. Sending aid to Gaza will not be of much help to its people. The important aspect of such efforts is their human side and the attempt by philanthropic groups to break the siege. Recent membership of Palestine in UNESCO and the adamant efforts by Washington to prevent Palestine’s membership in the UN clearly proves immense isolation from which both the US and Israel are suffering. Continued Siege on Gaza will only worsen that sense of isolation.