Israeli activists hold signs against the siege on Gaza as they stand on a beach near the Ashdod Port, waiting for the Israeli navy to escort the Finnish ship SV Estelle into the port. Read more here.
On October 21, Israeli naval forces boarded a humanitarian ship bound for Palestine’s Gaza Strip, after it ignored orders to defer. The SV Estelle bore the Finnish flag and carried only humanitarian supplies and 30 passengers and crew, including political dignitaries from Canada, Finland, Greece, Israel, Italy, Norway, Spain and Sweden, as well as a journalist (read the full passenger list here).
Let’s not be general here however. ‘Humanitarian supplies’ - what is that exactly? It included books, medical equipment such as wheel chairs, crutches, stethoscopes, musical equipment, footballs, theatrical equipment, two olive trees and 41 tonnes of cement. Most importantly however, was the unified effort of activists representing the dissent of eight different countries against the illegal Israeli blockade of Palestine’s Gaza Strip.
In nothing short of a farcical response, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu issued a statement praising the interception of the ship, claiming absurdly that the aim of the ship was to ‘delegitimise Israel’ and furthermore, that ‘there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza’.
This comes just days after a document leaked form the Israeli government shows that officials have calculated the amount of food necessary to keep every person in the Gaza Strip - even children - on a 1200 calorie diet. Not only is this method of blockade a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, of which Israel is a signatory, but it is a further violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which Israel is also bound by.
The Hamas government of Gaza proclaimed the situation ‘an act of piracy’, and indeed it very much seems that way. If indeed there was no crisis in Gaza, then why not simply let the ship through? What could 30 unarmed diplomats do to a city not in crisis? Unless the city is in crisis, and the motivation behind the blockade and seizure of the ship was to literally starve the inhabitants of aid and prevent international intervention in the area?
The political situation surrounding Israel is sensitive, not in the least because fears of anti-semitism make criticism of Israel difficult. However, let me very clear: Israel is in the wrong here. Completely disregarding for a moment the rest of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israel has no right as a state, and no legitimacy, to deny humanitarian aid to anyone. Furthermore, to pretend that the seizure of the SV Estelle was to curb weapons smuggling is frankly ridiculous, and so obviously a falsehood.
If Israel wishes to be considered a legitimate state, then it might start by ceasing the blockade and allowing humanitarian assistance to those who need it, rather than starving an entire population.