Israel blocks flotilla from Gaza

Gaza’s fishing port, this morning. Photo by Gisha

Gaza’s fishing port, this morning. Photo by Gisha

May 29, 2018. This morning a festive crowd gathered at Gaza’s fishing port to send off a boat destined for Europe. Aboard it were wounded residents of Gaza in need of medical treatment. The boat’s first planned port of call was Cyprus, but the Israeli navy stopped it from reaching its destination. Israel currently restricts Gaza’s “fishing zone” to nine nautical miles off the coast, and usually limits it to no more than six. In the last few days, the Israeli military bombed ships slated to take part in the flotilla. It told the few media outlets that showed interest that this was intended to “protect the country’s borders and security,” though this was neither an issue related to borders, nor a national security threat.

In recent weeks Gaza residents have managed to draw the world’s attention to their plight, at a great cost to life and limb. This morning’s flotilla is a direct continuation of these efforts to be seen and considered. The people that were on board the boat need medical treatments that are unavailable in Gaza, and which Israel, and usually Egypt, deny them access to. Israel’s insistence on refusing to allow the wounded access to a third country by sea is yet another example of the control it continuously exerts in Gaza without acknowledging its responsibilities for the lives of its residents.

The closure on Gaza is politically driven. The resultant degradation of its economy and civilian infrastructure, including its hospitals, are not an unforeseen natural disaster; they are the direct outcomes of the policy of closure. For Gaza, time does not heal all, it only makes things worse. This morning’s flotilla again proves that more than a decade of closure on Gaza has failed to improve Israelis’ sense of security, or break the resilient spirit of Gaza’s residents.

The two million Palestinians living in Gaza will continue to rightfully demand the fundamental human rights they deserve, many of which, such as the right to health, depend on freedom of movement. The only conclusion is that all political actors in the region must work to promote a sustainable political solution. For this to happen, Israel must stop regarding Gaza solely as a security issue, and start recognizing its responsibility for allowing its residents to live life with dignity.