After the Gaza flotilla, what next for Palestine?

After the Gaza flotilla, what next for Palestine?

Liberty, Vol 10 #6, July 2011

The Greek government stopped this year’s Gaza Freedom Flotilla dead in the water, refusing to allow the ships set sail on their humanitarian voyage to the illegally blockaded Palestinian area. Flotilla organisers say Greece took this decision after coming under intense diplomatic and economic pressure from the US and Israel. The Greek ban on departures came after two boats, including the Irish MV Saoirse – on which SIPTU official Mags O’Brien was a passenger – were sabotaged while still in port. Almost identical sabotage was discovered on the Greek-Scandinavian Juliano, docked hundreds of miles away, which Irish Ship To Gaza (ISTG) spokesperson Laurence Davis described as “beyond coincidence”.

Despite this serious setback, flotilla organisers vowed to continue their activities until the siege of Gaza has ended and Palestinians are granted unimpeded access to international waters and airspace, in conformity with international law. ISTG coordinator Fintan Lane told a packed meeting in Liberty Hall that “the Saoirse will sail to Gaza”, and that despite the failure to embark, the Flotilla movement had scored “important public opinion victories”.

Indeed, while Israel may have scored a pyrrhic victory in preventing the flotilla’s departure, the media war was emphatically won by the Palestine solidarity movement. Without even reaching international waters, the flotilla succeeded in highlighting the ongoing siege of Gaza, which – according to Amnesty – despite a very limited easing, has shown “few signs of real improvement on the ground,” while “the foundations of the illegal blockade [remain] intact”.

However, it is not just in Gaza that the situation remains appalling. Evictions of Palestinians, home demolitions, mass arrests, military brutality and continued building of illegal settlements continue apace in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. Indeed, the blockade seems to have extended to the West Bank, with hundreds of activists taking part in the Welcome to Palestine ‘flytilla’ prevented from entering Palestine via Tel Aviv airport (to visit the West Bank, one must enter via Israel). Scandalously, many were even prevented from leaving their home airports after airlines bowed to Israeli pressure.

These actions – along with the recent killings of scores of unarmed protesters on Israel’s Syrian, Lebanese and Gazan borders, and increasingly racist and repressive laws being passed by the Knesset – are serving only to show the desperation of the Israeli state as it attempts subdue Palestinian and international civil society resistance to its apartheid policies. While EU and other Western governments – including our own – appear happy to lend both overt and tacit legitimacy to this serial human rights abusing state, ordinary people from every corner of the globe have are showing they will not stand idly by while atrocities and absurdities are committed.

The political elites of the international community will have a chance to support to the creation of a Palestinian state in September, as the UN votes on the PLO “statehood recognition” plan. This plan – anathema to Israel, which is lobbying fiercely against it – aims at achieving UN recognition of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with Israel. Yet it remains unclear if this plan will succeed, or indeed, if it will even get to the UN, as the US and Israel work against it.

Regarding statehood, it is important to remember the words of the Palestinian Boycott National Committee (representing over 180 civil society groups), who have stated that “recognition of Palestinian statehood is insufficient, on its own, for ending Israel’s occupation and colonial rule. It will not end Israel’s system of legalised discrimination, which fits the UN definition of apartheid, or allow the millions of Palestinian refugees return home”.

In this regard, SIPTU official Mags O’Brien told Liberty, “just like with South African apartheid, it is vital that Irish people, not least trade unionists, work to build the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement as a way of applying pressure on the Israeli state to end its occupation and comply with international law.”

Explore posts in the same categories: apartheid, apartheid israel, bds, boycott, Flotilla, gaza, Ireland, Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, israel, palestine, sanctions, Trade Unions, west bank, zionism

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