It is now five days since the attempt by the Mavi Marmara to run the Israeli arms blockade of Gaza. You are all aware of the boarding of the ship by Israeli naval forces, the assault on the soldiers by Islamist agitators on board the ship, and the tragic injury and loss of life that resulted.
The reaction of the Canadian government, the Liberal party, the NDP (with the exception of Libby Davies), and the Bloc (with the exception of Maria Mourani) has been cautious to date, calling for a credible and independent inquiry and urging people not to rush to judgment. This reaction stands in contrast to that of the UN Human Rights Council, which has condemned Israel AND called for an international investigation – in effect, the "Goldstoning" of Israel.
Additional ships, notably the "Rachel Corrie", are now approaching the waters near Gaza, and we expect that there will be further coverage in the media in the coming days.
However, we note with satisfaction that the voluminous amount of video footage made available by the IDF in the hours following the boarding of the Mavi Marmara have provided incontrovertible evidence of the sequence of events. This material, as well as information regarding IHH – the Turkish group that sponsored the Mavi Marmara – and its links to international terrorism, has been widely disseminated through the internet and subsequently picked up by mainstream media.
The Canadian pro-Israel community is working together on a number of fronts, including government and media relations and public information. We take this opportunity to provide you with updated messaging, responding to the shift in public debate from the immediate question of the events of Monday morning to a broader discussion about the reasons for the arms blockade.
- A naval arms blockade is an absolutely necessary component of Israel's defensive strategy. Israel is in a state of conflict with Hamas, an internationally recognized terrorist organization with an ongoing history of unprovoked attacks on Israeli population centers. Hamas has attempted to smuggle significant amounts of Iranian munitions into Gaza by sea, most notably on a ship called the Karine A. Enabling these types of shipments would open the floodgates to Hamas procuring significantly more weapons with significantly greater reach, putting even more Israeli civilians in mortal danger.
- It is a simple rule of maritime law that when there is a blockade as a result of conflict, the party that has imposed a blockade can approach the ship in international waters once the ship indicates it plans to violate blockade. This is precisely what took place in this instance: the ship was warned to stop as it was approaching a blockaded area, and the crew refused to comply with the directives of the Israeli navy.
- The arms blockade of Gaza is targeted at specific dual-use materials that can be used for weapons and for other military purpose like the construction of reinforced bunkers and arms smuggling tunnels. This is done in order to reduce the danger to Israelis, and also reduces the danger to the residents of Gaza who are hostage to Hamas' well established technique of provoking military response by the IDF and cynically using the civilian population as human shields.
- The residents of Gaza are absolutely entitled to international aid. Nobody, including Israel, should be standing in the way of them receiving it; indeed, some 15,000 tons a week of aid is transferred by Israel to Gaza through land crossings after being screened for weaponry.
- The Government of Canada has so far been very careful not to call for the "Goldstoning" of Israel, instead calling on Israel to undertake its own inquiry that would meet the standards of impartiality and transparency. Israel has effectively conducted such inquiries in the past.
- As was the case in the Iranian uprising last Spring, the internet has been a critical vector for sharing information on this situation, and has driven the mainstream media in a significant way. Activists are making a huge difference by sharing source material. A list of useful links appears below: