UN Gaza Flotilla Report Vindicates Israel

Panel Commissioned by U.N. Secretary-General Upholds Israeli Self-Defense as Legitimate

— by Sharon Bender

United Nations “panel of inquiry,” led by former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer, found that Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza and the May 31, 2010, Israeli flotilla raid seeking to violate it were justified.  

In contrast with a separate U.N. Human Rights Council “fact finding mission” that had prejudged Israel as guilty, both Israel and Turkey participated in the Palmer panel, commissioned by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The report suggested that the Turkish government had enabled the maritime provocation by the Turkish extremist group IHH.  

This report finally validates and vindicates Israel’s right to defend itself.  

More after the jump.
The Mavi Marmara was one of six so-called humanitarian ships that had attempted to break through a blockade meant to prevent weapons-smuggling into Hamas-controlled Gaza. The report does, however, unfairly criticize as “excessive and unreasonable” the force the Israel Defense Forces used while intercepting the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship-a vessel on which Israeli naval commandos were assaulted.  

“Whatever efforts it undertakes in self-defense, Israel is inevitably accused of employing disproportionate force,” said B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs. “The fact that violence did not ensue on other ships headed for Gaza demonstrates that Israeli soldiers never sought confrontation, but were, in this instance, forced into it. The report exposes last year’s flotilla as another example of reckless political gamesmanship.”

Israel instituted its blockade of Gaza in response to the actions of Hamas: the control that terrorist group has seized in the coastal territory and its incessant rocket attacks on the Jewish state. At the same time, Israel facilitates importation of humanitarian supplies and materials vital to the area’s residents, and had offered to receive goods from the ships at a safe port and truck them into Gaza.

“Israel responded legally and professionally to the security threat to Israeli citizens that these ships posed,” said Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin. “This report is a positive first step in correcting the record at the United Nations that has been bent on vilifying Israel.”

Israel itself established a public commission, led by former Israeli Supreme Court Justice Jacob Turkel, to conduct an exhaustive investigation into the flotilla episode. The body found that Israel’s military acted in accordance with international laws and practices.

State Department Labels Flotilla “Irresponsible and Provocative”

The State Department released a statement last Friday calling the potential Gaza flotilla “irresponsible and provocative.”

The statement said:

We are concerned that a number of groups are organizing a one year ‘anniversary’ flotilla to commemorate the incident by sailing from various European ports to Gaza in the near future. Groups that seek to break Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza are taking irresponsible and provocative actions that risk the safety of their passengers. Established and efficient mechanisms exist to transfer humanitarian assistance to Gaza. For example, humanitarian assistance can be delivered at the Israeli port of Ashdod, where cargo can be offloaded, inspected, and transported to Gaza. We urge all those seeking to provide such assistance to the people of Gaza to use these mechanisms, and not to participate in actions like the planned flotilla.

The statement explained that there is necessity for the Israeli blockade on Gaza:

Recent seizures by Israel and Egypt of advanced military systems, weapons, and ammunition bound for terrorist groups in Gaza, as well as periodic rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza against Israeli civilians, highlight the continuing problem of illicit arms smuggling to Gaza. These seizures underscore the vital importance to Israel’s security of ensuring that all cargo bound for Gaza is appropriately screened for illegal arms and dual-use materials.

They expressed a positive outlook on the humanitarian situation in Gaza:

The United States remains concerned by conditions in Gaza, but notes that the humanitarian situation has significantly improved over the last year, including a marked increase in the range and scope of goods and materials moving into Gaza, an increase in international project activity, and the gradual expansion of exports. The United States will continue to work with Israel, the Palestinian Authority, donors, and the international community to do more and ensure that the needs of the people of Gaza are being met.

The statement concluded:

We also continue to call on Hamas to play a constructive role by renouncing violence, recognizing Israel’s right to exist, and accepting past agreements. We underscore that delivering or attempting or conspiring to deliver material support or other resources to or for the benefit of a designated foreign terrorist organization, such as Hamas, could violate U.S. civil and criminal statutes and could lead to fines and incarceration.

Full statement from the State Department follows the jump.
Gaza “Anniversary” Flotilla
Victoria Nuland
Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
June 24, 2011

Last month marked the one-year anniversary of the confrontation between Israeli forces and activists when a flotilla attempted to break Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza on May 31, 2010. The United States deeply regrets the tragic loss of life and injuries suffered among those involved in that incident aboard the Gaza bound ships.

We are concerned that a number of groups are organizing a one year “anniversary” flotilla to commemorate the incident by sailing from various European ports to Gaza in the near future. Groups that seek to break Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza are taking irresponsible and provocative actions that risk the safety of their passengers. Established and efficient mechanisms exist to transfer humanitarian assistance to Gaza. For example, humanitarian assistance can be delivered at the Israeli port of Ashdod, where cargo can be offloaded, inspected, and transported to Gaza. We urge all those seeking to provide such assistance to the people of Gaza to use these mechanisms, and not to participate in actions like the planned flotilla.

Recent seizures by Israel and Egypt of advanced military systems, weapons, and ammunition bound for terrorist groups in Gaza, as well as periodic rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza against Israeli civilians, highlight the continuing problem of illicit arms smuggling to Gaza. These seizures underscore the vital importance to Israel’s security of ensuring that all cargo bound for Gaza is appropriately screened for illegal arms and dual-use materials.

The United States remains concerned by conditions in Gaza, but notes that the humanitarian situation has significantly improved over the last year, including a marked increase in the range and scope of goods and materials moving into Gaza, an increase in international project activity, and the gradual expansion of exports. The United States will continue to work with Israel, the Palestinian Authority, donors, and the international community to do more and ensure that the needs of the people of Gaza are being met.

We also continue to call on Hamas to play a constructive role by renouncing violence, recognizing Israel’s right to exist, and accepting past agreements. We underscore that delivering or attempting or conspiring to deliver material support or other resources to or for the benefit of a designated foreign terrorist organization, such as Hamas, could violate U.S. civil and criminal statutes and could lead to fines and incarceration.

The Hamas – Oops, Gaza – Flotilla

–by David Harris

We’re on the verge of another “flotilla” to Gaza. Estimates of the number of ships and participants vary from day to day, tending downward, but the erstwhile organizers insist that the maritime operation will take place.

Their spokesmen have been hyperactive in drawing attention to the event. After all, without coverage, they’d be denied their oxygen. And the kind of coverage they seek – idealistic humanists and peace activists determined to aid the poor, beleaguered residents of Gaza versus stone-hearted oppressors in military uniforms determined to block them at all costs – would, needless to say, portray Israel in the worst possible light.

The International Solidarity Movement, Free Gaza Movement, U.S. Boat to Gaza, and kindred spirits want the world to believe there is a strip of land called Gaza that, left to its own devices, would create the Shangri-La of the Middle East.  
All its residents want are peace, harmony, coexistence, and tranquility. Some spokesmen acknowledge that Gaza has a governing authority. A very few even mention its name, Hamas, but hasten to add that it was elected democratically, so end of story. The rest don’t give it a name, as it might muddy the waters.

According to this narrative – a word particularly popular in Middle East discussions- the residents of Gaza face a neighboring oppressor, Israel, which, for diabolical reasons of its own, wants to inflict maximum harm on people whose only dream in life is to live and let live. For these spokesmen, the wealth of vocabulary in the Oxford English Dictionary fails to capture the true nature of Israel’s venality.

Enter, then, the self-described, modern-day Freedom Riders. They’re boarding flotilla ships, they suggest, to bring aid, relief, and attention to those trapped in Birmingham, Alabama, circa 1963.

George Orwell, where are you? You could have a field day with this story.

Actually, you anticipated it when you wrote about the Ministry of Truth in your classic book, 1984. What were the ruling party’s slogans on the outside of the 1,000-foot-tall building housing the ministry? Weren’t they “War is Peace,” “Freedom is Slavery,” and “Ignorance is Strength”? And didn’t the ministry rewrite history at will to ensure it always served the party’s interests?

The Gaza flotilla spokesmen are inverting the truth and rewriting history at will to serve their interests. And what are those interests? To prop up the Hamas regime in Gaza and delegitimize Israel.

While they are entitled to their own opinions, however misguided, they are not entitled to their own facts.

They cannot separate Hamas from the equation. Much as they might try, the central fact is that Hamas is key to understanding Gaza today.

Hamas is a terrorist organization. Don’t take my word for it. Check with the United States and European Union, both of which have designated Hamas as a terrorist entity.

Hamas preaches the elimination of Israel and a toxic brew of classical anti-Semitism. Again, don’t believe me. Read the Hamas Charter.

While Hamas may have been elected to govern with the PA in 2006, the first and only national Palestinian elections, one election does not a democracy make. Hamas used the ballot box to gain a foothold, then employed anti-democratic means to impose its own suffocating vision on the land. Hamas violently ousted the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority from Gaza in 2007 and has ruled ever since. Because Hamas cannot reform, the much heralded “unity” agreement it signed with Fatah six weeks ago is headed for an uncertain future.

Hamas celebrates violence. It joyously speaks of jihad, martyrdom, conflict, and the ultimate destruction of Israel. It has matched its fiery rhetoric with a sustained effort to import weapons, courtesy of Iran, smugglers in the Sinai, and tunnels from the Egyptian side of the border. In recent years, literally thousands of rockets and missiles have been fired from Gaza at Israel. Why?

Israel has no claim on Gaza. To the contrary, Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005. Soldiers and settlers alike were pulled out by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, giving local residents the first chance ever in their history to govern themselves.

Indeed, with Israel’s encouragement, a number of Jewish donors purchased Israeli greenhouses in Gaza and left them behind to help jump-start the local economy. The first reaction was to ransack them, when they could have been sources of flowers and vegetables for the local economy.

Israel has an interest in a stable, peaceful, and prospering Gaza, not a gun-toting, missile-firing, jihad-preaching entity. After all, you can change a lot of things in life, but not neighbors. Israel and Gaza are destined to be neighbors for a long time to come.

The Quartet – the U.S., EU, Russia, and UN – set three conditions for engagement with Hamas. The group must forswear violence, recognize Israel’s right to exist, and accept previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements. To date, none of those conditions have been met. Apologists for Gaza would have you believe otherwise, but Hamas’s spokesmen always undercut them. When it serves their purposes, they might briefly curtail violence to regroup and rearm, but Hamas is adamant that it will never abandon its struggle against Israel.

So, let’s be clear. The flotilla participants, whether they acknowledge it or not, are handmaidens of a terrorist regime. That regime, not Israel, is responsible for the conditions in Gaza, which may not be enviable, but are a far cry from the dire picture of starvation and stunted growth painted by the hyperbolic spokesmen.

Israel has only one concern, which is to ensure that Hamas, a declared enemy of Israel, does not get additional means to threaten its neighbor. That’s it, pure and simple.

As has been said, if Hamas laid down its weapons, there would be peace. If Israel laid down its weapons, there would be no Israel.

The flotilla participants claim their mission is nothing more than humanitarian, but, in reality, it serves the interests of a regime that espouses terrorism, peddles anti-Semitism, and praises the memory of Osama Bin Laden.

To portray themselves as the new wave of Freedom Riders is to trample grotesquely on the legacy of America’s civil rights struggle and rewrite history. Orwell’s Ministry of Truth is back.

For more information, visit ajc.org.

Hebron Fund Dinner

— Fern Sidman

While most political and religious organizations and assorted worthwhile charities generally select such venues as tony hotel ballrooms or lavish catering halls to hold their fundraising events, The Hebron Fund has announced that it will be breaking with this tradition as they prepare to host their annual dinner in New York City on Tuesday evening, November 16. In a symbolic departure from past rituals, this year’s dinner attendees will be feasting on a sumptuous smorgasbord and listening to inspirational speeches while cruising around the island of Manhattan on a ship that can hold up to 1000 people.

More after the jump.
Billed as the “Hebron Aid Flotilla”, the event was created as a response to the international condemnation of Israel’s May 31st, 2010 commando raid on the MV Marvi Marmara, a Turkish flagged ship that was part of a six ship flotilla sponsored by the “Free Gaza Movement” and an Islamic Turkish NGO called the IHH (The Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief). The stated intent of those on board this ship was to break the longstanding Israeli naval blockade of Gaza. The blockade had been imposed by Israel in order to prevent the smuggling of lethal arms and weapons to Hamas terrorists who would then, in turn, use these weapons against Israeli civilians and soldiers.

Weapon-wielding Hamas apologists who presented themselves as “activists” for “the freedom of Palestinians in Gaza” instigated the violence that left nine supporters of Hamas terrorism dead as Israeli commandos acted in self-defense as they boarded the ship in order to peacefully convince the activists to give up. Two Israeli commandos sustained gunshot wounds as their guns were wrested away by the “peace activists” on board and other soldiers were severely beaten and stabbed.

“After the world absurdly condemned Israel for a boarding a terrorist flotilla, we decided to hold our fundraiser on a ship. Our flotilla will support peace and life”, declared Yossi Baumol, Executive Director of the Hebron Fund. Giving voice to the prominence and centrality of Hebron to the Jewish nation, Baumol added, “Hebron is one of the holiest Jewish cities, where the Cave of the Patriarchs is located. Hebron was the first tract of land purchased in the Land of Israel by the first Jew of the world. Just as Jews can live freely in Harlem, Moscow and Paris, so too are they free to live and build anywhere they choose in the Land of Israel. We are thrilled at the expansion of Jewish life in all areas of the so called West Bank and we decry the anti-Semitic attempts to curb that expansion.”

Mr. Baumol also made a point of thanking the dozen or so anarchist protestors who campaign against the Hebron Fund dinners every year because the publicity that is generated by this opposition, “does so much to bring out our supporters in droves. They are worth their weight in gold”, he said. In November of 2009, the Hebron Fund dinner was held at the Ceasar’s Club at Citi Field, the new home of The New York Mets baseball team. Despite the rabid protests by such groups as Jews Against the Occupation and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the Mets organization stood by their commitment to rent the venue to the organizers of the Hebron Fund.

The Hebron Fund is proud to announce that the master of ceremonies at this year’s dinner will be the esteemed criminal defense attorney Benjamin Brafman and the guest of honor and keynote speaker will be Ms. Caroline Glick, the managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, the Senior Fellow for Middle East Affairs of the Washington, DC based Center For Security Policy and chief diplomatic correspondent for the Makor Rishon newspaper. Ms. Glick was named by the Israeli newspaper “Maariv” as “the most prominent woman in Israel” and she also served as producer of the video clip entitled, “We Con the World” which spoofed the hypocrisy inherent in the public reaction to the Gaza flotilla incident. As a retired IDF captain, Ms. Glick will receive the auspicious Gevurat Ha’Imahot (Bravery of the Matriarchs) award. Other special guests, including both American and Israeli politicians will also be present.

Popular attorney, columnist and Long Island community leader, David Seidemann of Lawrence, New York along with his esteemed wife Jane will be the recipients of the Bonei Hevron (Builders of Hevron) award. Mr. Seidemann is a longtime Hebron Fund board member and former Fund president.

The Chasdei Avot(Charity of the Patriarchs) award will be bestowed to David and Joclyn Stern, two beloved activists on behalf of Hebron. The Sterns are regular guest in Hebron during the special Chayei Sarah weekends attended by tens of thousands each year. Mr. Stern is the president of Brooklyn’s Young Israel of Midwood synagogue and has led numerous missions to Hebron.

Fred and Carole Samuel are slated to receive the Magen Avraham (Abraham’s Shield) award for their constant devotion to the security of the people of Hebron. During their frequent trips to Hebron, they have established close and enduring friendships with the local residents and Mr. Samuel is currently spearheading an important Hebron related security project.

The Aishet Chayil (Woman of Valor) awardee for 2010 is the distinguished Ester Arieh-Hatanian. She is the mainstay of the Hebron Fund office in Brooklyn, New York and will be receiving the recognition that she so justly deserves for over a decade of dedicated service that can only be termed as above and beyond the call of duty.

“The Jewish settlements are legal and donations to humanitarian and religious causes are tax deductible by law regardless of the ethnicity or the location of the recipients”, said Mr. Baumol. “We encourage Americans to provide tax deductible donations to aid the residents of Judea and Samaria. President Obama must know that discrimination against the expansion of Jewish life won’t be tolerated”, he added.

The “Hebron Aid Flotilla” will set sail at 6:00 pm on Tuesday, November 16 on Pier 59 at Chelsea Piers. Those interested in attending this unique celebration of Jewish life in Hebron may contact The Hebron Fund at 718-677-6886 or by e-mail at: [email protected], or [email protected]