Israel has halted a small boat of Jewish activists, including a Holocaust survivor, attempting to run the blockade of Gaza. The uneventful interception comes four months after Israel's botched raid on a much larger Gaza-bound aid flotilla resulted in the deaths of nine activists, including one American. That incident led to a slight but politically significant easing of the controversial blockade of the Palestinian territory. Israel's treatment of Palestinians remains a central issue in the ongoing, U.S.-led peace talks. Here's what's significant about this incident.
- The 'Jewish Boat' Team and Mission The BBC reports, "The boat set sail from northern Cyprus on Sunday, carrying medical equipment, textbooks, fishing nets and children's toys. The voyage was organised by the London-based Jews for Justice for Palestinians. On board were 82-year-old Holocaust survivor Reuven Moskovitz and Rami Elhanan, an Israeli whose daughter Smadar was killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber in Jerusalem in 1997. Others included a German nurse, British and US peace activists, and an Israeli reporter."
- Boat Initially Defied Boarding The New York Times' Dina Kraft writes, "The 10 activists, from Israel, the United States, Britain and Germany, among them an Israeli 82-year-old Holocaust survivor, responded defiantly to the Israeli navy when it hailed to them from a frigate demanding they identify themselves and give their destination. 'We are going to Gaza,' the group responded from the deck of the 30-foot catamaran, Irene, festooned with peace flags and carrying humanitarian aid, according to a Twitter update posted on its Web site. The Israeli military said in a statement that the vessel was boarded without incident and that 'no violence of any kind was used by neither the passengers onboard nor the Israel naval forces.'"
- Gesture from European Liberal Jewish Groups Al Jazeera analyzes, "The 10-metre catamaran was tiny in comparison with the six-ship May 31 aid convoy that contained 10,000 tonnes of aid and over 700 activists. But the voyage was a gesture by left-leaning European Jewish groups to highlight what they see as a flawed Israeli policy of collective punishment against 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza. ... Kate Katzenstein-Leiterer, a leader of the German Jewish Voice, was quoted in June as saying, 'We want Israel to behave in a way that it can be recognised as a democratic state. Now it is recognised as a criminal state. That is not what we want.'"
- Israel: A Distraction From Protecting Our Citizens The official Israeli military blog, after describing the incident, added, "The IDF regrets that it must divert the Israel Navy’s attention from its regular operational activity defending Israel and its citizens because of acts of provocation such as this." They posted an annotated video of the boarding:
- Boat Organizers: Symbolic of Israel Stifling Peace A press release from the mission's organizers read, "Speaking from London, a member of the organizing group, Richard Kuper of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, has condemned the Israeli army's apparent action and said that this boat and its fate are a symbol of the chances for peace in the region. The way it is being treated by Israeli authorities indicates that they have no real intentions of reaching peace, he said. He called for worldwide support for the boat and its message of protest against the siege of Gaza and the occupation."