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Monday, April 13, 2009


The unseen blockade of Gaza

To a small extent, the world sees and knows about the Israeli (and Egyptian and U.S. and British) blockades of Gaza at the Rafah crossing into Egypt and the various crossings into Israel. But the blockade at sea, the Israeli attempts to crush the Gazan fishing industry go largely unseen, except on the rare occasions they are witnessed by foreign solidarity activists.

After hearing from two of those activists, I wrote this:

A 1993 accord between Israel and the PLO gave Gaza a "fishing zone" extending 20 miles out to sea from the borders of Gaza. In 2002, Israel unilaterally abrogated that treaty, but signed an agreement with the U.N. committing themselves to allowing Gaza fishing rights out to 12 miles. Since then, subsequent unilateral declarations by Israel have moved that limit in to six miles and then to three miles.
Well, scratch that. It appears the new limit is...600 meters, less than four-tenths of a mile. A distance a fast runner can cover in less than two minutes. A distance a fast swimmer can cover in just six minutes. A distance which, when combined with the sewage problem which is also a direct result of the Israeli blockade combined with the Israeli destruction of Gaza, renders the very idea of fishing almost useless.

And when Palestinians dare to stick their toe across that unilaterally-drawn line?

Israeli forces have blown up a Palestinian fishing boat floating several hundred meters off the coast of Gaza City, Israeli media reported.

The boat was struck by Israeli artillery after it left the allowed area for fishing -- within 600 meters off the Gaza shore -- on Monday, Yediot Ahronot reported.

Israeli officials later claimed that the boat was heading towards north while carrying hundreds of kilograms of explosives.

Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi claimed later that the fishing boat was attempting to attack Israeli naval forces.
Think for a second about that excuse. If Israel really knew that this boat was carrying "hundreds of kilograms of explosives," would they have waited until it "left the allowed area for fishing" before blowing it up? Hardly. They routinely blow up cars carrying alleged "militants" in the middle of crowded intersections in Gaza City; they would hardly be waiting for a boat known to be carrying explosives to head towards them. No, this is just the latest in a long line of easily-made, impossible to disprove allegations (the boat, after all, is at the bottom of the sea, and the alleged "explosives" presumably destroyed).

What it really is, of course, is the latest tightening of the screws on the Palestinian economy, the latest war crime, the latest collective punishment of the Palestinian people. And, no doubt, the latest war crime which will go unrebuked, if not indeed unreported, by the "West."

Update: Ha'aretz has a very different story:

A booby-trapped fishing boat exploded on Monday near an Israel Navy vessel off the coast of the northern Gaza Strip.

No one was wounded in the blast, which occurred about 300 meters from the Gaza coast, near the border with Israel.

The Palestinian vessel was laden with explosives, but was unmanned.
First of all, notice we're now down to 300 meters off the coast. And we're supposed to believe militants just pushed a boat filled with explosives off shore, hoping it would just happen to drift into an Israeli Navy boat and explode. Or that the Israeli Navy, noticing a boat drifting just 300 meters (!) off the Gaza coast, would decide to come board it and rescue it, since they always have the best interests of Palestinian fishermen at heart. Yet another likely story.

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