31 May 2010
Avrom Krengel, Chairman of the South African Zionist Federation
The seizure of the Gaza Flotilla has resulted in widespread accusations against Israel which have absolutely no foundation but which are instead based only on sensationalism and propaganda aimed at delegitimizing Israel in the basest manner.
The Hamas regime controlling Gaza is determined to continue attacking Israel with whatever means it has at its disposal. Under international law Israel has the right to defend and protect her citizens from Hamas attacks, and has thus imposed a maritime blockade to curb further Hamas aggression. Under international maritime law, when a maritime blockade is in effect, no vessels can enter the blockaded area.
Israel fulfilled the tenets of international law by warning these ships repeatedly of the existence of this maritime blockade off the coast of Gaza. At the same time, based on the assumption that the boats in the flotilla were carrying humanitarian aid for the citizens of Gaza, Israel offered them the opportunity to land in the Israeli port of Ashdod and to offload the aid, under their scrutiny, which would then be transferred to Gaza through the existing overland crossings.
However on 27 May, Greta Berlin, one of the flotilla organizers, made the following statement to AFP: "This mission is not about delivering humanitarian supplies, it's about breaking Israel's siege."
The organizers claim to want to bring humanitarian assistance to Gaza; yet at no time has any such offer been made to or about Gilad Shalit, the young Israeli soldier captured 4 years ago by Hamas and since then denied every opportunity either to be visited by the Red Cross or to be in contact with his family.
When it became clear that the organizers refused to change direction towards Ashdod, thus violating the Israeli blockade, Israeli naval personnel had no option but to board the illegally sited vessels. A helicopter landed on the deck of one of the boats, and the Israelis who disembarked were immediately attacked and their weapons forcibly removed. Confronted by protestors with weapons as well as by a man carrying an infant in his arms - in what he called a "message" to any Israelis planning to act against the flotilla but which cannot but be construed as anything other than child abuse - the Israeli naval personnel were well within their rights to take action against their attackers. 10 Israeli soldiers were injured in the incident, of whom one suffered a serious head injury, two others were injured by gunshots and another was stabbed.
The vessels have now been redirected to Ashdod, where the humanitarian aid will be transferred to Gaza according to standard operating procedures.
The SA Zionist Federation strongly condemns the distorted and overt media bias which yet again has ignored the role of terrorist group Hamas and its supporters who promote violence and aggression under the guise of humanitarian activity in favour of damning Israel based solely on one-sided, prejudicial and fallacious information.