The arrival on Saturday of the two freedom ships, the SS Free Gaza and the SS Liberty, has lifted the spirits of the Gazan people immensely judging by the reception they received as they appeared in Gazan waters. More importantly, however, their safe arrival into Gaza without interference from the Israelis has set a precedent that would now be difficult for the Israelis to reverse.
The Israelis had thought long and hard about how to deal with this clear challenge to their authority over the lives of the Palestinian people in the Gaza. In the end, considering the amount of publicity that the Israelis were unable to keep a lid on through their supporter’s control of the mainstream media, coupled with the high profile and multi-ethnic and multi-cultural nature of the crew and participants which included a holocaust survivor, an Israeli academic and a sister-in-law of ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair, among others, the Israeli authorities had little option but to let the ships through and complete what the Israelis thought was their symbolic business hoping then that it will all be quickly forgotten as it becomes yesterday’s news. However, the Israelis have seriously miscalculated both the motives and the determination of the organisers who the Israelis believed were out merely for the publicity of a one-off venture to test the will of the Israelis and to propagandise the plight of the Palestinian people in the Gaza.
It is true that the Free Gaza project has highlighted the plight of the Palestinian people in the Gaza, but it is a reflection on the Israeli rightwing’s own considerations about humanitarian priorities if they believe that the Free Gaza project was simply about publicity. On the odd occasion that the Israelis do make some concession to Palestinian suffering like allowing the occasional child to get urgent medical treatment in Israel, it is always only for the purposes of publicity; never mind that the child more than likely needed the urgent treatment because the Israelis had denied the facilities to Gazan doctors and specialists in the first place.
The Israelis haven’t entirely ignored the possibilities of further attempts to break the blockade and, indeed, have already warned that further attempts will not necessarily get the same reaction. It would be difficult, though, for the Israelis to justify turning back or, worse, using violence against, ships that are so clearly bringing only much needed aid to the Palestinian people.
Now that the project has received the mainstream media attention that it deserves, it is now up to everyone to ensure that future blockade-busting activities from the Free Gaza Project also get all the attention and bi-partisan support it deserves.