Israel's Embassy Claims IHH Freedom Flotilla Has Terrorist Links
Report – By Selwyn Manning.
Israel's Ambassador to New Zealand, Shemi Tzur has claimed the IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation is an organisation with terrorist links and is using Freedom Flotilla-2 for political, rather than humanitarian, purposes.
In a response to questions from Scoop, the Ambassador through the Israel Embassy in Wellington replied: “Kiwis who plan to take part in Gaza-bound sea convoys instigated by the IHH, an organization with documented terrorist links, are naïve if they believe they are involved with a humanitarian mission set up only to deliver supplies to Gaza.”
The response follows publicity that two New Zealand citizens, Harmeet Sooden and Vivienne Porzsolt, are now in transit to the Mediterranean region intent on being on board a Canadian vessel that will be a part of the Freedom Flotilla-2 aid mission to Gaza.
In correspondence with Scoop, the Israel Embassy stated there is no need for humanitarian aid organisations to breach Israel's blockade of Gaza: “Indeed, humanitarian aid of all kinds, including medical supplies, already enters Gaza and has done so since June 20, 2010, when the Israeli government eased restrictions on the quantity and type of merchandise allowed into the territory.”
Aid organisations disagree.
They say, with up to 45 percent of people in Gaza being unemployed, and with the territory being unable to create opportunities for its people, humanitarian aid organisations and peace activists have been attempting to breach the blockade and deliver food, clothing, and medical supplies to the Gaza Strip.
Information emerging from Gaza suggests it is the sixth most densely populated place on earth, where 1.6 million Palestinians live – most live in poverty, and 70% rely on humanitarian aid to survive.
In May, Harmeet Sooden wrote to New Zealand's foreign minister Murray McCully with a series of requests, including: “To urge Israel’s Ambassador to New Zealand, His Excellency Mr Shemi Tzur, to guarantee that New Zealand citizens on board the flotilla vessels will not be harmed and their passage to Gaza will not be impeded by the Israel Defense Forces.”
In a letter acquired by Scoop, McCully wrote in reply stating he had corresponded with Israel's Ambassador but the substance of the exchange would remain confidential. McCully added however: “New Zealand is prepared to speak out against actions by any party that are likely to have contravened international law.”
Sooden felt that rather than act on his requests, the Government simply “advised the Israeli Ambassador that New Zealand citizens may be participating in the flotilla and [the Government’s] expectation that, if New Zealand citizens breach any Israeli laws, or are detained for any reason, they will be treated appropriately in accordance with international obligations.”
In the letter to Sooden, McCully added: “New Zealad has consistently called, in the United Nations and bilaterally, on Israel to meet its obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law to the Palestinian population in the occupied Palestinian territory.”
He said New Zealand has however “welcomed moves” by Israel and Egypt to relax restrictions on the flow of humanitarian aid via land to Gaza, and has called on “the Palestinians to dismantle terrorist infrastructure and end rocket attacks”.
In reply to Scoop, Israel's Embassy stated: “Genuine well-wishers are free to send goods and assistance destined to Gaza by way of legitimate crossings as the Israeli port of Ashdod or the Egyptian port of El Arish, a point made only the other week by the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon.”
It added: "If the organisers of the sea convoy really wish to help suffering people in the Middle East, they might be better advised to concentrate at this time on the thousands of Syrian refugees attempting to flee into Turkey."
In a statement to Scoop, Sooden stated, “Israel like New Zealand has a duty to defend its citizens, but it has no right to raid our ships to enforce an unlawful blockade...
“The success of the upcoming flotilla and those to follow will be measured not by whether we reach Gaza, but by civil society’s actions to resist Western-backed Israeli crimes and to stand in solidarity with Palestinians,” Harmeet Sooden said.
Harmeet Sooden and Vivienne Porzsolt left Auckland International Airport on Monday night (June 20 2011) and are currently in transit destined for Greece where they will board a Canadian vessel and take part in Freedom Flotilla-2.
On June 16
2011, Scoop corresponded with Israel's Embassy in
New Zealand and asked:
- * what was the substance of
any reply by Israel's Ambassador to correspondence from New
Zealand's foreign minister Murray McCully over New Zealand
citizens taking part in Freedom Flotilla-2;
* what advice the Ambassador may have to any New Zealand citizens
planning on taking part in the flotilla;
* what actions by those aboard the flotilla would lead the Government of
Israel to consider a breach of its security or requiring a retaliatory
Israel's Embassy responded:
- 1) Kiwis who plan to take part
in Gaza-bound sea convoys instigated by the IHH, an
organization with documented terrorist links, are naïve if
they believe they are involved with a humanitarian mission
set up only to deliver supplies to Gaza.
humanitarian aid of all kinds, including medical supplies,
already enters Gaza and has done so since June 20, 2010,
when the Israeli government eased restrictions on the
quantity and type of merchandise allowed into the territory.
No shortages of any such merchandise and supplies currently
exists, an example of which would be the mega-mall- located
near the Haidar Abdel Shafi Square, west of Gaza City -that
is scheduled to open in Gaza only days before the planned
"aid" flotilla passes the region. For the weekly crossing
reports, please see here:
3) Genuine well-wishers are free to send goods and assistance destined to Gaza by way of legitimate crossings as the Israeli port of Ashdod or the Egyptian port of El Arish, a point made only the other week by the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon.
4) If the organisers of the sea convoy really wish to help suffering people in the Middle East, they might be better advised to concentrate at this time on the thousands of Syrian refugees attempting to flee into Turkey.
5) Israel's existing maritime blockade of Gaza is justified under international law. The extremist Hamas regime has repeatedly bombed civilian targets in Israel with weapons that were smuggled into Gaza. The cases of both the 'Victoria' incident on March 2011 and the 'Karin A' incident in December 2001, clearly demonstrate the need for this blockade to be enforced. Any vessel approaching these blockades must therefore adhere to security personnel instructions.
6) Finally, as we have said in the past, if local so-called humanitarian aid groups and interlopers are adamant on joining the international convoy, it is our sincere wish that, in the spirit of New Zealand's stand for human rights in many areas, they show the consistency and courage to speak on behalf of Gilad Schalit, the young Israeli held hostage in Gaza. Gilad was kidnapped from Israeli soil by Hamas on June 25, 2006, and has been held captive in Gaza for the last five years - one fifth of his life - without having been allowed a single visit by the Red Cross or any other International organisation.
- Letter - NZ Foreign Minister Murray McCully to Harmeet Sooden
- Harmeet Sooden - NZ Govt Misrepresents Peaceful Humanitarian Flotilla
- Eye On The World: - Glenn Williams & Selwyn Manning On Freedom Flotilla-2 - Gaza Special (video)
- Julie Webb-Pullman - NEWSFLASH: Under Fire - Bombs, Rockets In Gaza Moments Ago
- John Minto - To The Front: Joining The ‘Freedom Ride’ Of Our Generation
- Harmeet Sooden - NZ Govt Misrepresents Peaceful Humanitarian Flotilla
- Harmeet Sooden - Govt Ignores Israel’s Threats against NZers on Gaza Flotilla
- Scoop News - McCully Receives Letter From Sooden Seeking Assistance
- Harmeet Sooden - New Zealanders to join second aid flotilla to Gaza