Monday, May 24, 2010

Does Per Gahrton Want to Defy International Law?

The Swedish Social Democrat  organ, the daily Aftonbladet, reports in a recent article  that certain Swedish individuals are going to “risk their lives for the Palestinians” by sailing as part of the project known as “Ship to Gaza”.  As Israel has decided to stop the “humanitarian” convoy, Swedish politician Per Gahrton has determined that the Swedes onboard should fear for their lives.  Gahrton is a veteran Swedish parliamentarian who served as a member of both the Liberal and Green parties, and was also a representative for Sweden in the European Parliament.

 In the article Gahrton recalls an event that happened some 20 years ago when 3 Fatah members were killed in a car bombing—according  to Gahrton this was due to their purchase of a ship that would transport some 130 Palestinians illegally back to the Palestinian territories. The ship in question was later sunk, although it is unclear who was responsible for this. Based on these facts Gahrton goes on to make his dramatic claim that the Swedes onboard the ship are, therefore, traveling in peril of their lives for the Palestinian cause.  This is the “truth” Gahrton has extrapolated from one indeterminate sinking and Israel’s statement saying that they will prevent any future shipments initiated by the organization “Ship to Gaza”.

Gahrton (conveniently enough) leaves out the fact that “Ship to Gaza” recently transported former convicts and demonstrators to the Palestinian territories, including a retired archbishop of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, Hilarion Capucci. Capucci is a very long-term PLO sympathizer who was arrested in Israel 1974 and sentenced to 12 years in prison for using diplomatic immunity to smuggle weapons—hence a man of both the cloth and the bullet.  Although a key condition of his early release, negotiated by the Vatican, was that Capucci not return to the Middle East, this was a promise which was broken repeatedly.

Gahrton also forgets to mention that most countries in the world choose to send aid to the Palestinian territories through the UN over the Israeli borders. This humanitarian aid exceeds by far the quality and quantities of aid shipments that have arrived by boat illegally--such as the bits and pieces delivered by the February 2009  “Ship to Gaza”, also with Capucci on board.  That cargo contained besides donated blood, a minimum of humanitarian aid (a few dozen boxes of food and some bottled water). [Pictured below]

 In comparison, Israel alone transfers and facilitates the transfer of tons of food and medicine to Gaza, as well as fuel for domestic use, and provides numerous Gazans with state-of-the-art medical care in Israeli hospitals.  Even during the Gaza War while Israel’s southern towns were being attacked by Hamas rocket fire Israel sent over 37,000 tons of humanitarian aid on more than 1,500 trucks into Gaza, including food, medication and medical supplies.

It seems that Gahrton is also oblivious to the fact that the Palestinian Authority and Israel, in the Oslo agreement from 1995, jointly agreed and signed that Israel will be responsible for the waters outside the Gaza Strip and that foreign ships will be prohibited (by law) from coming within 12 nautical miles of the area. This was decided on by the two parties in order to limit hostilities in the region. The Palestinian Authority failed to uphold the agreement, most notably by acquiring arms via shipments such the infamous Karina A cargo transport of 50 tons of advanced weaponry including Katyusha rockets, rifles, mortar shells, mines and a variety of anti-tank missiles.

This materiel was later used against innocent civilians in Israel.

The real question is not whether the sailing Swedes en route to Gaza should fear for their lives. The question is why a leading Swedish politician is supporting this questionable mission. The UN, the world’s leading humanitarian watchdog, does not support the initiative by the organization “Ship to Gaza” but rather chooses to send its aid via Israel. This should be a clear enough sign for Per Gahrton and everyone else that the “Ship to Gaza” organization is not motivated by purely humanitarian interests.  Shipments which contravene the Oslo agreements signed by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority are internationally illegal. 
More importantly, as Per Gahrton should know, these “aid shipments” constitute a clear provocation for conflict. It seems evident that Gahrton is not promoting world peace, but prefers flaunting peace agreements in the interest of international publicity, while linking himself and Sweden to notorious and aggressive adventurers, such as the liar and convicted arms-smuggler Capucci.

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