First it was unidentified men fiddling around in one vessel’s engineering space, as it sat in an unidentified Greek port. Now (Monday 27 June), flotilla participants have reported that the “propeller axle [sic]” of one of their ships – also in a Greek port – has been cut.
Greek coast guard authorities detained six of the flotilla ships over the weekend, presumably citing maritime documentation or safety/navigation discrepancies. (Specific reasons for the detentions were not reported, but the discretion of maritime authorities is generally related to such issues.)
The weekend started bravely enough, with the French ship M/V Dignite/Al-Karama getting underway from a port in Corsica to meet up with the other participants in the Eastern Mediterranean. (The previously reported drop-out of a French ship appears to have been related to one vessel.)
But the underway date set for the majority of the flotilla – Tuesday, 28 June – may be hard to meet.
The flotilla remains shrouded in threats, lawsuits, warnings, and nonsense. The US State Department warned American flotilla participants (in oblique terms the American activists call “harsh”) that they may be violating US law. The US Boat to Gaza organization issued the following helpful quote in response:
“Apparently, the State Department subscribes to the view that Israel’s anticipated violence against unarmed protesters is an immutable act of nature,” said Hagit Borer, a professor of Linguistics at the University of Southern California and a passenger on the U.S. boat. “This is a remarkable attitude, coming from a government that provides the Israeli government with billions of dollars in military aid and routinely uses its veto to protect the Israeli government from censure of its occupation policies by the UN Security Council.”
An Israeli legal activist organization, Shurat HaDin, filed a complaint with Greek authorities against M/V Audacity of Hope, citing probable insurance and other discrepancies. For the moment, AOH is being held in port. (Code Pink thinks the US government is “using its leverage at the IMF” to blackmail Greece.) Shurat HaDin succeeded earlier in getting at least two maritime insurers (including Lloyds) to drop the flotilla participants, although its threat of litigation against the satellite communications provider Inmarsat went unheeded.
But a Jordanian boat to Gaza has just announced its presence with authority, lending a little Arab flavor to the otherwise all-American/European-flagged flotilla project. The Jordanian ship will be named Noor (light). The mystery saboteurs will have to play catch-up to identify and locate Noor quickly.
The flotilla reportedly includes two cargo ships carrying nearly 3000 tons of humanitarian aid. Of course, Israel transfers 5000-6000 tons of humanitarian supplies per day to Gaza. As Elder of Ziyon reported last year (see here as well), the “10,000 tons” of supplies supposedly carried by the 2010 flotilla was a wild exaggeration; the actual amount, which was eventually trucked to Gaza after being offloaded in Ashdod, was somewhat less than 2000 tons.
But the US Boat to Gaza has made a point of not carrying any humanitarian goods. It is carrying only letters of support for the people of Gaza. Gratifying as that must be for the Gazans, it seems likely that the sponsors of AOH have deemed it wise to avoid any hint of supplying Hamas, which would be a felony under US law and would violate UN Security Council Resolution 1373. And we already knew, of course, that the flotilla wasn’t about aid anyway, but about breaking the blockade (which also makes it actionable under US criminal law).
Flotilla participants are getting briefed in Athens on the “violence” they will endure at the hands of the IDF. Meanwhile, they are planning some artful “non-violence” of their own. According to Le Figaro, the flotilla planners anticipate a rendezvous in the vicinity of Crete Thursday or Friday this week. “We are coming! We are coming!” they are reported to have shouted at their press conference in Athens on Monday.
But they have to get underway first. With any luck (and enough of that mystery sabotage), the flotilla will amount to a big nothingburger.
It would be even better if the flag states of the flotilla ships, include the United States, used their own authority to prevent the ships from getting underway, something they are entitled to do on any number of pretexts, from safety, navigation, and crew performance to insurance and registration discrepancies – and even the often-articulated intention of the flotilla participants to commit a belligerent act. That use of authority would be consonant with prudent and responsible statesmanship. The more Cirques de la Flotilla we tolerate, the more there will be – and Israel is unlikely to be the only target.
**UPDATE** The major Israeli news outlets have all just picked up the story from Israeli intelligence that Hamas and IHH terrorists participating in the flotilla have threatened violence against the IDF. (See here and here.) They are quoted as speaking specifically of “shedding the blood of IDF soldiers” and of pouring sulfur over soldiers and setting them on fire. (H/t: Challah Hu Akbar)
There can be no excuse for participating with these terrorists in the flotilla, but this is just another excellent reason for Western governments to ensure the ships under their flags are detained in port — openly, and without apology or temporizing.