Monday, June 7, 2010

Are blockade runners really about humanitarian aid?

By GARY BAUMGARTEN
Paltalk News Network


It's confusing - the situation regarding the Gaza. There's so much sand that's being tossed up by both sides that a clear picture has yet to emerge.

The prime minister of Turkey and the Iranian Red Cross are among the latest to pledge a blockade ramming attempt. Because, of course, the Israelis are not permitting humanitarian supplies to get into the Gaza.

But is that really true?

The Israelis say, absolutely not. When Joel Lion, the Israeli consulate in New York's spokesman, was on my show, News Talk Online on the Paltalk News Network, he said the Israelis permit humanitarian supplies to enter the Gaza by land.

Then why not by sea?

Lion says that's because it's easier to check for contraband - read weapons - at land-based checkpoints. It's much harder to check every ship that might enter by sea.

Fair enough. But then, in an interview at the United Nations, Saahir Lone, senior liaison officer for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency told me the Israelis are prohibiting the flow of construction equipment - like concrete - to rebuild the infrastructre following their last incursion.

So where does the truth lie?

Probably somewhere in between.

But here's the problem that comes up whenever you discuss the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Too often - each side or proponents for each side - are pointing fingers at the other. Assessing 100 percent of the blame elsewhere.

Lone was a case in point. He asserted during the interview that the Israelis are completely to blame for what happened during the interdiction of a Gaza relief flotilla that resulted in the deaths of nine people. There's no way, he says, that those on board the ships could even be minutely culpable.

That argument failed to fly with French UN Ambassador GĂ©rard Araud, who told me that at least some of those on board were members of a Turkish-based organization with terrorist connections. He also believes that those on the flotilla that was interdicted were more about making a political point than about delivering humanitarian aid. (You can see the full interviews with Lone and Araud at http://garybaumgarten.blogspot.com/2010/06/news-talk-online-june-4-2010-live-from.html.)

We've heard this claim before, from the Israelis. But this time it came from France, so it's more difficult to challenge its veracity,

The French, by the way, are not totally in Israel's corner. They say they are willing to be part of a multi-national group that would screen materials bound for the Gaza. But the blockade, France says, must first end.

Meanwhile, the Israelis continue to balk at an outside investigation into the flotilla incident. They say the IDF has a history of fair investigations into its own. Plus they don't trust the United Nations to conduct an impartial investigation.

Araud, in his interview with me, indicated he understands the Israel's sensitivities. He suggests an independent investigation conducted even by countries friendly to Israel, like the United States.

It's not a bad idea. Because any investigation by the IDF, no matter how thorough it may be, will be viewed with as much suspicion by those outside Israel as a UN probe would be by Israelis.

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