PHOTO: The ship Rachel Corrie will arrive off Gaza late Friday night or early Saturday morning. The crew is refusing to negotiate with Israel and U.S. lawmakers are urging the Jewish State to disable the ships engines and tow it into port.
Several Members of Congress are now calling for diplomatic and economic sanctions against Israel because of the Gaza flotilla incident in which nine people died. The most notable critics are two 2008 presidential candidates, Congressmen Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and Ron Paul (R-TX).
Paul has often claimed “Israel created Hamas,” and yesterday he said the people of Gaza “are starving and having problems that are almost like in concentration camps.” The former Libertarian Party candidate for President says the blockade of Gaza is “atrocious” and America’s support of it makes us:
Morally responsible. We are preventing goods from going in, it’s actually an act of war. It’s absolutely wrong to prevent people that are starving and having problems. We endorse this whole concept. I think it’s just terrible, and I don’t think we should be a part of it.
Paul’s Campaign for Liberty website contains statements from Greta Berlin, the head of the Free Gaza Movement, who was part of the flotilla. She announced that a new ship will try to break the blockade today and said, “We are trying to tell the world that Israel has no right to starve 1.5 million Palestinians.”
In an editorial about Gaza yesterday, the Washington Post said “Food and daily goods are plentiful. . . if you walk down Gaza City’s main thoroughfare — Salah al-Din Street — grocery stores are stocked wall-to-wall with everything from fresh Israeli yogurts and hummus to Cocoa Puffs smuggled in from Egypt. Pharmacies look as well-supplied as a typical Rite Aid in the United States.”
Both Egypt, who runs the blockade with Israel, and the Jewish State offered to inspect the cargo and ship it to Gaza themselves. The flotilla refused them both. Subsequently Hamas has refused to let the Israelis bring the aid to Gaza for political reasons. For three years the blackade has stood uncontested and weapons into Gaza have been slowed. Prior to the blockade, hundreds of Kassam rockets and other weapons were shipped to Gaza, primarily from Iran. As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu noted, “This was no Love Boat. It was a hate boat.”
Numerous lawmakers in both parties immediately jumped to Israel’s defense by noting that humanitarian shipments have never been restricted, Gaza is not suffering from a lack of supplies and no one is starving. Every week over 10,000 tons of humanitarian supplies are sent into Gaza, but that is not good enough for the Free Gaza Movement. They want all cargo inspections to end.
Harsh attacks on the Jewish State were also heard from Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Minnesota Democrats Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison, who is the first Muslim elected to Congress. They believe Turkey was correct in cutting economic and defense cooperation with Israel.
Turkey’s Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is an unabashed supporter of Hamas. Reps. Lee and Ellison also want the UN to investigate the incident. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), the Chairman of the Banking Committee, originally said he was “ashamed of Israel” but hours later he largely backtracked from that statement.
Congressman Kucinich has circulated an open letter to President Obama which says Israel’s “violent commando raid constitutes an act of belligerence,” and “the government of Israel showed no concern as to how its conduct may affect the lives of defenseless, innocent people.” He says Israel engaged in “reckless, pre-meditated violence.” The Kucinich letter also urges President Obama to tell Israel that “It is not acceptable to shoot and kill innocent civilians, commit an act of aggression against another U.S. ally, continue a blockade which denies humanitarian relief.”
Hamas defeated the Palestinian Authority (PA) and took over Gaza in June 2007. They executed many PA supporters, and they have established an extreme fundamentalist regime which wages war against secular lifestyles. They have instituted honor killings.
Congressmen Kucinich and Paul are in a distinct minority. Rep. John Boehner (OH), the House Republican Leader, says those on board the ship Mavi Marmara were clearly bent on a violent confrontation. According to Boehner, the protesters chose this path despite two week’s of repeated warnings from Israel that the ship would not be allowed to come ashore, and despite Israel’s offer to receive the humanitarian goods at Ashdod, inspect them there for weapons, and ensure their distribution to Palestinians in Gaza.
Rep. Steny Hoyer (MD), the House Democratic Leader, says “Let’s be clear: Hamas could end the blockade at any time by recognizing Israel’s right to exist, renouncing violence, and releasing IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.”
All of the lawmakers criticizing Israel claim the Jewish State is not sincere in its efforts to advance the peace process. Abraham Foxman, the executive director or the Anti-Defamation League, responded by noting that Israel left south Lebanon in 2000 and the same year at Camp David they offered to withdraw from 90 percent of the territories and to eliminate the majority of settlements:
They got a big no and suicide bombs. In 2005, they withdrew unilaterally from Gaza with the intent to do likewise in the West Bank because they saw no partner for peace. They got Hamas and rockets against their civilians. In 2008, with a different Palestinian interlocutor, they went back to a full and better offer for a Palestinian state and got nothing again. So after all that, is it surprising that the public in the last election said, nothing works, let’s hold on until there’s real change on the other side?
IDF navy forces have boarded and taken control of the ship Rachel Corrie. The troops did not meet any resistance on the 1,200-ton cargo ship. The vessel is being taken to the port at Ashdod. Prior to the takeover, three navy ships tailed the aid boat for several hours and the army said it had contacted the boat four times and urged its passengers to divert to Ashdod, but the activists had repeatedly refused.
The navy had told the Rachel Corrie that “The Israeli government supports delivery of humanitarian supplies to the civilian population in the Gaza Strip and invites you to enter the Ashdod port. Delivery of the supplies … will be done via the formal land crossings and under your observation.”