The Provocation Flotilla

By: /
28 June, 2011
By: André Pratte
Editorial Pages Editor (Éditorialiste en chef) at La Presse

Hundreds of pro-Palestinian militants will set sail this week for Gaza on board 7 to 10 ships. The Freedom Flotilla II is supposed to bring aid to the Gaza Palestinians but it is clear to all but a few that the mission is one of provocation. If the goal was really to deliver needed goods, the participants would have agreed to unload the merchandise in Israeli and Egyptian ports, as proposed by Jerusalem and Cairo. It should be noted that the governments of Turkey and of France, usually sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, have disapproved of this second flotilla.

When I read the participants’ statements, I am struck by how certain these militants and artists are that Israel is the one to blame here and that the Palestinians’ situation is the most pressing of all humanitarian problems in the world. Why don’t they steer towards Syria?

Although far from being an expert on the subject, I have closely followed the Israel-Palestine conflict over the years. I have come to think that the issue is very far from black and white, that the only sure thing is that both peoples have a right to an independent, free and safe country. Both sides are too uncompromising, both have suffered tremendously, both have been poorly governed. I despair that a peaceful solution will ever be found, so deeply convinced each side is of speaking the truth.

Each time I’ve written an editorial about the situation in the Middle East, I’ve taken a moderate position, trying to be fair to both the Israelis and the Palestinians. Each time, I’ve received angry reactions from supporters of BOTH sides, each certain that there is no middle ground, that THEY are right and that the ENNEMY is wrong.

How can foreign observers be so sure of their opinion on that matter?

How can one be absolutely convinced that the blockade of Gaza is not, at least partly, justified by security concerns?

Couldn’t Israel prevent the delivery of weapons to Palestinian terrorists without limiting the import of such needed material as cement and steel?

What is Hamas’ share of responsibility for the dire economic situation in the Strip?

Why does the Netanyahu government authorize the building of new houses in the occupied territories, knowing full well that each expansion of the colonies makes peace more difficult?

Why do Palestinians in the Gaza Strip support Hamas instead of Fatah, which government has done much better on the West Bank than the Islamists in Gaza?

There are no simple answers to these and many other questions. I fail to understand how intelligent and well-intentioned people come to see things so clearly that they are willing to risk their lives to provoke Israel in the hope that this will lead to better living conditions for Palestinians. I would find their action more credible if they also pressured Hamas to rule the Gaza Strip in a more democratic way.

How can Stephen Harper be so certain that the Israeli government is always right ? Seems to me approving each and every decision of the Netanyahu government does not help the cause of peace in the region.

We all know what will happen if the so-called Freedom Flotilla approaches the coast of Gaza. The Israeli armed forces will intercept the boats. In the optimistic scenario, the passengers will be arrested and sent back to where they came from. In the worse case scenario, some will be killed. In any case, whatever the photos and films show, whatever the inquiries conclude, pro-Palestinian commentators will accuse Israel, pro-Israeli ones will put the blame on the militants. All will be set for Freedom Flotilla III. And the search for peace will become even more problematic.

Photo courtesy of Reuters.

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