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Harmeet Sooden Responds To Israel Embassy Allegations

Response to the reaction of the Israeli Embassy to New Zealand participation in Freedom Flotilla 2

Response – By Harmeet Sooden.

In responding to the Israeli Embassy’s comments on TVNZ and in Scoop (see, Israel Embassy Says IHH Freedom Flotilla Linked To Terrorism), it is important to point out that a blockade is an act of war, as Israel more than any other country insists: Israel initiated two wars, in 1956 and 1967, charging that it was defending itself from a very limited blockade, nothing remotely like the cruel and savage blockade of Gaza, initiated when Palestinians committed the ‘crime’ of voting “the wrong way” in a free election in January 2006.

Israel Embassy in New Zealand stated - 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.

Harmeet Sooden, Freedom Flotilla-2, replies - The Embassy has not provided any evidence for its allegations against IHH. Even if the allegations were true, IHH has served only a minor role in the sea initiatives: it played no part in the first eight sea missions, and was only one of six organisations involved in the ninth mission (the first flotilla).

[EDITOR'S NOTE: The Mavi Marmara has pulled out of the flotilla, but the IHH is still playing an organising role. The mainstream media was implying at the time that IHH had pulled out for political reasons, which according to Free Gaza was not the case.]

The New Zealanders participating in FF2 are on a boat organised by the Canada Boat to Gaza which is dedicated to bringing humanitarian aid by non-violent means to a population that suffers daily from the Israeli blockade and occupation.

Israel Embassy in New Zealand stated - 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. 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...

Harmeet Sooden, Freedom Flotilla-2, replies - In November 2010, a coalition of 21 international aid and human rights groups released a report on the Israeli claims to have relaxed the blockade. The report concluded that almost nothing had been done. One example is construction materials, which are required to rebuild part of what Israel destroyed in its December 2008-January 2009 act of aggression. The coalition reported that imports of construction materials are still only 11% of 2007 pre-blockade levels, and only 7% of the UN relief agency’s rebuilding plan for Gaza. Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said: “The so-called ‘easing’ of the Gaza blockade does not change the fact that there’s still a cruel and illegal blockade collectively punishing the entire civilian population. The only real easing has been the easing of pressure on the Israeli authorities to end this cruel and illegal practice.”

Interestingly, the Israeli Government further eased its blockade earlier this week, while continuing to claim there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Israel Embassy in New Zealand 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.

Harmeet Sooden, Freedom Flotilla-2, replies - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs Hon. Murray McCully know full well the blockade is illegal.

Israel Embassy in New Zealand stated - 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.

Harmeet Sooden, Freedom Flotilla-2, replies - There are many causes in the world worth fighting for. The New Zealand Government does not support the crimes of the Syrian Government to the degree it supports those of the Israeli Government. Earlier this month, Israel shot dead several demonstrators, mainly Palestinians from refugee camps in Syria, who were attempting to enter the Golan Heights—Syrian territory occupied by Israel.

Israel Embassy in New Zealand stated - 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.

Harmeet Sooden, Freedom Flotilla-2, replies - Israel’s maritime blockade is a crime, with no justification whatsoever. Not only do Israeli attacks on Gaza vastly exceed the Hamas rockets, Israel knows exactly how to stop them. Israel and Hamas negotiated a truce in 2008, during which Israel concedes that not a single Hamas rocket was fired. Israel violated the truce. Hamas has since offered to renew the truce, but Israel has refused.

Israel Embassy in New Zealand stated - 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.

Harmeet Sooden, Freedom Flotilla-2, replies - As I have relayed to his father privately some time ago, I believe Gilad Shalit should be freed. The day before he was captured, Israeli troops entered Gaza City and kidnapped two civilians, the Muammar brothers, and interred them in Israel’s prison system where they continue to languish without charge. Kidnapping civilians is a far worse crime than capturing a soldier of an attacking army. This is just one example of what is a standard IDF practice.

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