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Some Fallout From The Freedom Flotilla Fiasco, As The MV Rachel Corrie Still Sails For Gaza

June 2, 2010

Events continue to move quickly in the aftermath of Israel’s interception of the Gaza-bound “Freedom Flotilla” – or rather partial interception, sinc e one of the Flotilla’s ships had apparently fallen behind the others and is still proceeding towards Gaza. It will be fascinating to see whether this ship, the Irish-registered MV Rachel Corrie, gets the same kind of reception as the original six. The ship is backed by an Irish parliamentary resolution urging Israel to grant her safe passage, although only five of the nineteen people on board (including the Nobel laureate Máiread Corrigan-Maguire) are Irish. Furthermore, the Israelis might prefer to avoid any chance of further bloodshed, given the diplomatic fallout from the first maritime clash and the possibility that the MV Rachel Corrie may have a shillelagh or two on board. On the other hand, they might also prefer to keep their blockade intact despite the risk of violence. For the moment neither side seems interested in backing down.

The death toll, as far as I can tell, is still “at least nine”. Four of the dead seem to be Turks, but Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is already holding out the possibility of resuming normal ties with Israel “once the Gaza blockade is lifted and our citizens are released”. Lifting the blockade may be a tall order, but the Israelis are promising to release almost all of the Flotilla activists they took into custody. (The organisers of the Flotilla are indignant about the only apparent exceptions, four Israeli Arabs who have been remanded for a week.) Two of the three Canadian citizens who were detained have already been released, although the status of the third is unclear. Apart from Kevin Neish, nominally the subject of my earlier post on the Freedom Flotilla, the other two Canadians are Rifat Audeh and Farooq Burney.

Audeh claims to have been beaten by the Israelis, and is a “self-styled activist” and eloquent if overwrought writer. He is also the co-founder of Michigan Media Watch, an organisation that describes itself as “promoting accurate, factual and balanced coverage of the Middle East”. Burney, for his part, directs “a group dedicated to promoting freedom of learning for students in Gaza and the West Bank”. He also seems to have a few dubious Islamist connections.

Meanwhile, the UN  Security Council has called for an inquiry into the interception of the Freedom Flotilla. The United States, quietly backed up by Canada, is already insisting that the inquiry should be led by Israel itself. This hardly seems like a recipe for impartiality and credibility.

I don’t know exactly what this proposed inquiry is supposed to inquire into. Perhaps it will try to establish the exact sequence of events during the interception of the Flotilla, and no doubt there will be an earnest attempt to apportion blame for the bloodshed. Thing is, I’m not really sure there’s much blame to be apportioned. The people aboard the Flotilla were determined to either reach Gaza or force a spectacular confrontation, a reasonable set of goals given their broader objective of easing the blockade. The Israelis were determined to stop the Flotilla from reaching Gaza, a reasonable goal given their broader objective of keeping Hamas weak and isolated. A clash was inevitable, and at some point blood was going to be spilled unless one side backed down – if not during this particular confrontation between the Free Gaza crowd and the IDF, then during the next one or the one after that.

It’s hard to see how an inquiry could do much to resolve the conflicting agendas that exploded into violence off the coast of Gaza. Patient diplomacy and negotiation might do the trick, but the process would have to be slow and incremental. One plausible proposal, from Liberal MP Glen Pearson, is that “an internationally respected group or country” might take on the role of inspecting and delivering aid shipments intended for Gaza, circumventing both Israel and Hamas. “Is this a role Canada could effectively play?” Pearson asks, perhaps rhetorically. The answer is probably not, given that we have moved (for no discernible reason other than Stephen Harper’s temperament and electoral strategising) from some semblance of balance in our approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a clear alignment with Israel. Setting up a delivery service for Gaza hardly sounds like a sensible Canadian priority in any case, but it might be nice to at least have the option of doing something neighbourly and constructive.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Shauna permalink
    June 2, 2010 3:38 pm

    Thank you for both of your informative posts on the Israel’s treatment of the flotilla. A public inquiry led by Israel is a bizarre notion. Even more bizarre is the notion that Canada could be considered an independent third party given our current role as Israel’s BFF. It’s hard to believe that we could undermine 60 years of careful diplomatic relations in the Middle East so quickly.

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  1. Flotilla Update: Angry Turks, Petulant Hamas, And Fretting Pundits « Canada's World

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