Israel announces easing of ban on some exports from Gaza
Israel announces easing of ban on some exports from Gaza, says it will cooperate in transferring medical aid from Tahrir to Gaza
Less than 6 days after Israel’s November 4th attack and capture of the latest flotilla to Gaza, Israel announced yesterday that it is easing its restrictions on exports from Gaza. (see link below) Although Israel clearly has the military might to stop any ships from entering Gaza , the Israeli government apparently does not have the stomach for the negative publicity its policy of blockading Gaza brings. In a separate development, Israeli officials are said to have contacted the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East (UNSCO) to arrange for the shipment of medical aid from the cargo of the Canadian ship Tahrir to Gaza. Israel initially denied finding any humanitarian cargo aboard.
In June 2010, days after the deadly attack by Israeli commandos on the Turkish aid ship Mavi Marmara that took the lives of eight Turkish and one young American activist, the Israeli government announced that it was easing its prohibition on goods entering Gaza. Up to that time, Israel had been using a list of limited goods to be allowed in, with everything not on the list excluded. As of June 2010, Israel published a list of prohibited goods instead. Under a freedom of information request by an Israeli Human Rights group, it has since been revealed that the previous Israel authorized goods list was based on calorie counts calculated to avoid starvation only. The publication of this calorie information was seen as highly embarrassing to the Israeli government and its supporters around the world.
From the standpoint of Israel’s government, last Friday’s FreeWaves flotilla was particularly problematic, notably in terms of so-called Social Media. While mainstream media’s coverage was mostly muted, CBC News coverage being mostly limited to one brief segment on the day of the ships’ capture by Israeli commandos, the same cannot be said for Twitter where, for the first time in Twitter’s history, the subject of Palestine became a coveted trending topic (viewed by all twitter users). The rapid spread of news of the flotilla on Twitter this time can be explained by several factors. Flotilla organizers had maintained a media embargo on all information, releasing media alerts only on November 2nd when the two ships, the Canadian Tahrir and the Irish Saoirse, were already in international waters on their way to Gaza. The secrecy, combined with the use a new Twitter Hash tag, #FreedomWaves, chosen at the eleventh hour by the organizers, lead to an explosion of Twitter traffic on the day the boats were captured. #FreedomWaves quickly became a top-10 trending topic with Twitter’s 21 million active account users (Twitter has between 200 and 300 million registered accounts but only about 10% are thought to be used daily).
Critically for the organizers, flotilla news also quickly spread beyond Palestine solidarity Twitter users, reaching audiences who do not normally follow developments in Gaza. In a major development, a tweet on the day of the attack by a member of Occupy Wall Street movement, indicating OWS support for the flotilla, was relayed to the large audience of Twitter users following OWS and spread from there. On Saturday, Occupy Wall Street mysteriously removed the pro-flotilla tweet. However, by then it was too late. (see link below, 2.).
At the time of writing, the last two Canadians activists, Ehab Lotayet and David Heap have arrived back in Canada. The third Canadian delegate, Karen Devito is presently in Turkey anxiously awaiting the release by Israel of the last remaining journalist still in custody, Press TV’s Hassan Ghani.
Fourteen Irish delegates remain in custody at this hour. Seven of them were told yesterday they would be allowed to leave on a morning flight to London. However, just before boarding the plane, they were told they would remain in custody and were driven back to the Israeli prison of Givon. While no official reason was given for the about-face, it is widely assumed that the move is designed to apply psychological pressure on the delegates and their family and force the remaining seven Irish delegates still in Israeli custody, including a member of the European Parliament who are still refusing to sign papers saying that they acknowledge trying to enter Israel illegally on November 4th.
Israel and its supporters are continuing to maintain that its blockade of Gaza is legal under international law. National Post columnist Jonathan Kay earlier this week going as far as saying that the blockade of Gaza was “a forgotten issue”. These latest moves by Israel strongly suggest otherwise. Public pressure and bad publicity seem to be getting more results than months of, notably European, government-to-government efforts.
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