Counsel to Arabs/Muslims
Palestinian sympathizers aplenty called one me to speak out against the human rights injustices that took place on the flotilla raid. I wish it were that easy. For such individuals there are some uncomfortable realities to be faced.
It’s being repeatedly claimed that Israel boarded the flotilla in international waters illegally. But that’s just not the case. International law permits the country calling the blockade to move outside of its own waters. I learned that, not by perusing Jewish propaganda, but by checking in with our own researchers here in Parliament and also from conversing with a researcher from the European Union. Some will continue to debate this, but the weight of law and research carry sway here. A blockade can include international waters, so long as it does not bar access to ports of neutral states. There have been precedents for this for decades. The blockade may be wrong in many eyes, but it is not illegal.
I have absolutely no doubt that many on the vessels were dedicated humanitarians just trying to get needed supplies to Gaza. Both Israel and Egypt offered to transmit the supplies to Gaza if the boats would just land in an Israeli or Egyptian port. When the response came back that, “This mission is not about delivering humanitarian supplies; it’s about breaking Israel’s siege on 1.5 million Palestinians,” the issue became more complex. The flotilla participants represented an eclectic mix of motives. The organizers knew full well what would happen; others perhaps didn’t. For days, Israel had been informing the expedition leaders that they would be intercepted. They knew it, and went anyway. You can’t blame them in some ways because of Israel’s refusal to open up more routes for relief supplies. But others saw it as a way to create an incident – and they succeeded, tragically.
We’ve all seen the video. Each side blames the other, but the fault lies in both camps. Those supporting the flotilla expect average Canadians to witness the images of Israeli soldiers being pounded with clubs and knives and blame it on Israel. Like it or not, it just won’t wash. Neither will Israel’s claim that it was merely doing so in self-defense. The images tell a tale, and that is that both sides were too aggressive. Sadly, neither side will confess to it, and neither will the supporters who contacted me today.
It has now been confirmed that Israel made repeated attempts to get the flotilla to sail to the port of Ashdod. Five ships took them up on the offer. The remaining organizers refused this offer, opting to provoke a confrontation instead. We know the result, and the deaths sadden us still. But when Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya declared on television that “this is a historic day … a day of freedom … a turning point in the battle to end the siege in Gaza,” it suddenly wasn’t about the dead, or even the innocent people in Gaza and Israel, but about an ideological agenda that must share a portion of the blame for this fiasco.
All this brings us back to our original question: what of the innocents? Hamas and Israel are at war. Due to the crossfire and sheer poverty faced in Gaza, thousands die. Israel must open up new corridors for aid. Arab and Muslim groups must stop laying total blame at Israel’s door and acknowledge the corruption and violence touted by Hamas.
Tomorrow we will look at Israel’s culpability in the incident, but for now we can’t ignore the realities that this was not just a flotilla of aid supplies. It was a dedicated effort by some to cause a confrontation. It was about the breaking of the blockade for some of the organizers and never about the suffering in Gaza. These are hard truths that must be acknowledged before we can discover some way forward.