Greek officials claim they received an ‘anonymous tip’ over the weekend that the US Boat to Gaza, part of the ten-boat Freedom Flotilla, was not seaworthy. The officials demanded that the boat be subjected to a rigorous inspection before leaving Greek waters, and issued a warning to all ship captains in Greece that they should avoid the area around the Gaza Strip.Some Israeli media sources have reported that Shurat Hadin, the ‘Israel Law Center’, has claimed credit for filing the complaint.
Although the Greek government would not reveal the source of the ‘anonymous tip’, participants in the Flotilla have speculated that it is just the latest in a series of measures taken by the Israeli government to try to prevent the boats from reaching the besieged Gaza Strip.
“The boat we are leasing for this journey has been worked on for months by qualified technicians and is ready to sail,” said organizer and passenger Ann Wright. “We do not believe it needs to be re-inspected, but we are open to the Greek authorities doing this quickly so that there will be no further delays.”
In an article by US Flotilla passenger Medea Benjamin, she writes, “The passengers speculate that Israel, which has extensive trade and investment ties with Greece, is callously taking advantage of the economic hardship the Greek people are experiencing right now to put the screws on the Greek government.”
She added, “The U.S. passengers speculate that the Obama Administration is using economic blackmail on the Greek government. Greece’s economic and political crisis is a result of extreme austerity measures imposed by the European Union and the largely U.S.-controlled International Monetary Fund (IMF). The United States may well be using its leverage at the IMF over the implementation of an ongoing bailout of European banks with massive Greek debts to compel the Greek government to block the U.S. Boat.”
The US and Israeli governments have both publicly threatened the participants in the Gaza flotilla with arrest or worse. Israel has declared its plan to attack the aid ships before they reach the Gaza coast, and has conducted extensive training exercises to that effect.
The flotilla, consisting of 500 humanitarian activists from 20 different countries, plans to sail to Gaza on Tuesday, breaking the siege that has been imposed by the Israeli government for the last four years and bringing much-needed humanitarian supplies to the civilian population of Gaza. Although Israel has claimed that there are “appropriate channels” to get aid to the Gaza Strip that would not entail breaking the siege (a claim that has been parroted by US officials), Israeli government documents and policies have revealed that there are no such “appropriate channels”, and the 1.5 million people in the Gaza Strip continue to suffer from a severe lack of many basic items.