Israeli-Arab parliamentarian Basel Ghattas of the United Arab Party is joining an anti-Israel group on an illegal ship to Gaza to protest the maritime blockade on the Hamas-ruled, terror-ridden Strip, even though Israel already facilitates the transfer of food and medicine to Gaza via the port of Ashdod.
By: Aryeh Savir, World Israel News
Arab Member of Knesset (MK) Basel Ghattas will board the Marianne of Gothenburg in Athens in the coming days, a ship sailing from Sweden to Gaza together with other boats in an attempt to break the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip.
An anti-Israel group organized the flotilla to protest the Israeli “occupation of Gaza” and to “break the illegal and inhumane blockade of the Gaza Strip.”
Ghattas, of the United Arab Party, was harshly criticized for his actions, with other parliamentarians pointing out that his actions are undermining the sovereignty he supposedly represents.
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said that Ghattas’ actions constitute “a service to the enemy” while exploiting parliamentarian immunity. “In contrast to the picture that the Palestinians are trying to paint, Israel allows goods, food, and construction materials into Gaza. The flotilla is the fruit of the efforts of provocateurs who only want to blacken Israel’s name,” she stated.
The left-wing Zionist Union party said that Ghattas was exacerbating an already flammable situation. “Just as the flotilla to Gaza isn’t humanitarian, but a political act that gives legitimacy to Hamas rule and will increase the terror against Israel, so, too, MK Basel Ghattas’s joining it is unfortunate, and not humanitarian, but political,” the party stated.
Ghattas rejected the criticism, claiming that his actions constituted “legitimate, non-violent political activity.”
He sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Moshe Ya’alon on Sunday from Athens, demanding that the ship be allowed to dock in Gaza, but the IDF announced they had no intention of enabling the protesting convoy to do so.
“There is no reason to prevent us from reaching Gaza and delivering the assistance that we are bringing with us,” Ghattas said. “I call on you to instruct the Israel security forces to stay away from the flotilla and to let it continue on its way.”
Ghattas claimed in an interview with IDF Radio on Monday that if boarded by the IDF, the passengers would not respond with violence, as they have in previous incidents, but would try to persuade the soldiers to allow them to continue with their voyage.
Israel imposed a maritime blockade on Gaza after the Hamas terror organization took control of the Strip in 2007. The blockade is intended to prevent Hamas from importing weapons and materials used to build its terror infrastructure. As for humanitarian aid, Israel allows its delivery via the port of Ashdod.
There have been other attempts by pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel organizations to breach the naval blockade on Gaza’s shores. The most famous occurred in May 2010, when the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship from the socalled Gaza Freedom Flotilla was boarded by Israeli Navy commandos trying to force the ship into the port of Ashdod and away from Gaza, in compliance with the blockade. The ship’s passengers assaulted the IDF soldiers with metal bars and knives, and nine of the anti-Israel activists died in the struggle; many others were wounded. Arab-Israeli MK Hanin Zoabi was among the anti-Israel activists on board. Ten Israeli Navy commandos were injured as well, one seriously, and some were taken captive during the clash. Five other “Gaza Freedom Flotilla” ships were nearby at the time, which employed passive resistance. All of the ships were towed to Israel, where all those on board were arrested and deported.
Speaking at a conference of the Jewish Agency in Tel Aviv on Monday, Netanyahu pointed to the hypocrisy of the flotilla organizers. He called supporting the flotilla “a travesty of justice” and the “rape of truth” and questioned why supporters of the flotilla “aren’t sending flotillas to Syria.”
“Israel is one of the only forces that is actually allowing reconstruction of Gaza,” he said in his address.