The year 2009 brought about a fresh wave of anti-Israel
rhetoric and accusations, including many that cited Israel’s supposed siege on Gaza. The international press frequently cited calls by human rights groups to “end Israel’s illegal blockade” and “liberate Gaza.” Such messages have been conceived to undermine Israel and present a very misleading angle of the actual Gaza conflict.
Most recently, the Gaza Freedom March illustrated the way in which pro-Palestinian organizations and left-wing groups were able to utilize the international press and media to communicate their Gaza narrative. Organized by US’ Code Pink’s co-founder, Medea Benjamin, who also happens to be Jewish, the Gaza Freedom March received worldwide media attention as protestors set to break the siege on Gaza.
The march was able to attract some well-known celebrities like Roger Walters of Pink Floyd and American novelist Alice Walker. But it was not the support of these two celebrities and others like them that attracted the attention of the press. The Gaza Freedom March organizers very cleverly had Hedy Epstein, an 85-year old Holocaust survivor and Palestinian activist, put in the spotlight for their cause. When Epstein declared a hunger strike to support the Gaza Freedom March, she became an instant international poster girl for the march and made headlines across the world.
In its reports about the Gaza Freedom March, the United State’s Huffington Post site quoted Epstein explaining her support for the Palestinians, as “…everything is due to the Holocaust. But Israel is not being persecuted now. Israel is now the persecutor.”
Unfortunately, those who support the Gaza Freedom March and Palestinian rights, like Hedy Epstein and Medea Benjamin, disregard the other side of the Mideast conflict - that Operation Cast Lead took place to stop the thousands of Gaza rockets striking Israeli schools, playgrounds, homes and communities each year. Even more absurd is the way such groups ignore Israeli policies that are set to ensure Palestinian access to humanitarian aid and goods, despite the fact that Palestinian terror attacks continue on the Israeli border crossings where these goods pass through.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website has reported that in the year 2009 alone, Israel allowed for 703, 224 tons of humanitarian aid and 105,600,128 liters of fuel to be delivered into the Gaza Strip following Operation Cast Lead.
“The IDF invested major resources to enable the flow of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip” stated Col. Moshe Levi, the head of the IDF’s Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration, in November 2009. According to Levi, humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip increased by 900% compared to the previous year. Over 22,893 humanitarian aid trucks entered into Gaza throughout 2009.
Indeed, in a typical blockade, no supplies would be allowed to enter into enemy territory, or any area of land where the controlling regime facilitates the terrorizing of a neighboring country’s citizens. Most English dictionaries define ‘siege’ as an “act or process of surrounding and attacking a fortified place in such a way as to isolate it from help and supplies…”
The original intention of the Gaza Freedom March protestors was to demonstrate that Israel was the sole factor behind the hardship of the Palestinians in Gaza. Inadvertently, the Gaza Freedom March actually brought to light the siege-like policies of Hamas, the extremist Islamic regime that took over Gaza in 2007
Haaretz reported in an article titled Pro-Gaza activists under siege-imposed by Egypt
(January 8, 2010) that the Hamas government prohibited Gaza residents from providing lodgings to several hundred international protestors. According to the article, “tough Hamas security men,” accompanied the peaceful activists during their visit to Gaza and blocked them from speaking with ordinary Gazan residents.
“The march turned into nothing more than a ritual, an opportunity for Hamas cabinet ministers to get decent media coverage in the company of Western demonstrators. Hamas hijacked the initiative and we gave in,” said one protestor in the article.
There were barely any Palestinians who took part in the Gaza Freedom March, and absolutely no Palestinian women. Italian photojournalist Anna Selini, who documented the march, stated that most of the marchers were international supporters. “Hamas did not encourage - even discouraged, local people from participating.” Activists got the impression that “non-Hamas residents live in fear, and are afraid to speak or identify themselves by name,” Haaertz’s article concluded.
Indeed, there may have been a few people among the 1,300 international protestors who realized that their message of freedom for Gaza - would have been more appropriately directed towards Hamas.
Anav Silverman is the international correspondent for Sderot Media Center
, a social media organization dedicated to bringing the voices of Sderot residents to the attention of the global community