Pro-Palestinian activists aboard a Swedish vessel tried and failed to punch through Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza this week. Israeli commandos boarded the vessel, searched the ship and brought it to an Israeli port.
In the scope of Middle East confrontations, it was a minor, though publicized, affair.
Afterwards, Israel’s defense minister Moshe Yaalon said, “there was no aid on board” the activist ship.
Not necessarily so -- but pretty close. We checked. You decide.
Members of the Gaza flotilla organization -- which sent four boats, three of which turned around before arriving in the vicinity of Israel -- have repeatedly said the vessel that was stopped, Marianne, was carrying humanitarian aid for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
Asked to provide some evidence of the humanitarian aid, Ann Ighe, a member of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition sent this photograph:
The Gaza activitists said the larger cardboard box contains a solar panel, donated by a Swedish magazine, ETC, which also runs an “environmentally-friendly electricity company.” The panel was bound for Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City.
Ighe said the Swedish Association of Midwives also donated a nebulizer, a machine used to inhale medicines, often used to calm asthma attacks. That is the small cardboard box.
“Last but not least,” Ighe said, “the boat is cargo in herself, bound to be donated to a fishermen’s organization in Gaza.”
“We bring means of production, not means of destruction,” she added.
Israel points out that these days more than 500 trucks a day are entering Gaza through its Kerem Shalom crossing, and that Israel provides Gaza with water and electricity.
Israel maintains a complete maritime and aerial blockade against the coastal enclave and controls who and what comes in and out of Gaza through two land crossings. Egypt also maintains a land crossing, which has been closed most of last year. Israel restricts movement and trade because it says that Hamas, the Islamist militant movement that controls the strip, smuggles contraband to construct attack tunnels and build rockets to fire at Israeli civilians. Palestinians call the partial blockage collective punishment.
Gaza has been struggling to rebuild after the devastating war last summer between Hamas and Israel.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office wrote a letter to the activists, suggesting they would have been better off going to Syria and not Gaza.
“There is no blockade on the Gaza Strip,” the letter read.
“There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza,” Yaalon told Israeli diplomatic reporters.
The situation in Gaza "isn't pleasant," Yaalon conceded, but added that "if they were to decide to export strawberries from Gaza instead of rockets, the situation would be entirely different.”