An international flotilla of nine ships and hundreds of crew and passengers is a huge undertaking, in Gaza as much as anywhere. Mahmoud Elmadhoun knows this better than most. A member of Gaza’s Higher Government Committee, as well as the Governmental Committee for Breaking the Siege and Receiving Delegations (GCBS), which is tasked with welcoming solidarity missions to Gaza, he just finished hosting the Miles of Smiles convoy of 55 European dentists. Now he could face one of the most daunting challenges in the GCBS’ history: Freedom Flotilla – Stay Human.
“The main issue is whether the Israelis will let the Flotilla come,” Elmadhoun told me last Monday in his office in the Foreign Ministry. Their reception in Gaza, he assured me, was not a question. “We are ready to receive those people. Don’t worry; within 24 hours’ notice of their departure from Athens, everything will be in place.”
He quickly rattled off the GCBS’ responsibilities in the Flotilla effort. “Our main tasks are logistical: hotels, transportation, security, and of course activities,” he said. “Wherever they want to go in Gaza, they will be welcomed.”
As the launch of the Freedom Flotilla – Stay Human approaches, increasing numbers of Zionist officials and commentators illuminate the depths of their moral and intellectual bankruptcy by arguing that it is a political – not humanitarian – project.
Ran Curiel, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, offers an example as good as any other. On May 10, he actually went to the trouble of calling a press conference in Strasbourg to offer this conclusion. “In our view, the flotilla is clearly a political provocation … since there’s no need for a flotilla to aid Gaza,” he said. “You can pass whatever you want to Gaza through normal channels.”
Curiel’s reasoning leaves much to be desired. Nobody seems entirely clear on what can enter Gaza through his “normal channels,” namely the Erez Crossing, and a large majority of its necessities continue to arrive at a high premium via tunnels from Egypt. And humanitarian opposition to the siege has always had more to do with its crippling effect on Gaza’s economy than its obstruction of aid. Due to the impossibility of legally importing most goods, or exporting nearly anything, unemployment now reaches 45%, and 300,000 people survive on a dollar a day.