Gaza aid flotilla: Why Israel expects to lose the PR war
As a Gaza humanitarian flotilla carrying some 800 demonstrators and 10,000 tons of goods approaches its destination, Israeli officials are applying lessons learned from the previous eight Palestinian aid flotillas. But officials don't expect the Israeli message to win the media campaign.
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If the protesters really want to deliver humanitarian aid, they should do it through Israeli-controlled crossings, say officials.Skip to next paragraph
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Flotilla organizers say they have no connections to Hamas, and that there is no evidence that weapons have been delivered by humanitarian aid convoys in the past few years.
Fears of weapons smuggling
Israel's three-week offensive against Hamas in early 2009, designed to stop Gaza rocket attacks on southern Israel, both strengthened Israel's perception of the strip as a "hostile entity'' and placed the Jewish state under growing international scrutiny for its treatment of the civilian population of about 1.5 million.
The violence drew accusations of Israeli war crimes and stirred up criticism that the blockade of Gaza was a form of collective punishment and risked a humanitarian crisis. At the beginning of the war, one protest boat was turned away, and one shortly after was commandeered by the Israeli navy and forced to dock in Ashdod.
Mr. Dror says that the military concluded that if it continued to allow boats into Gaza, the aid shipments would eventually be used for weapons smuggling.
Israel hopes to deport activists by plane
Over the weekend, Israel is hoping for a swift interrogation of the flotilla participants at the port city of Ashdod and eventual deportation by air. The protesters could keep the story prominent in the international media if they fight deportation.
"It really does put the Israelis in a difficult position,'' says Marcus Sheff, the local director of the Israel Project, a pro-Israel advocacy group. "This is the last thing that the IDF needs to spend time doing, chasing after Hamas-organized boats sailing under a humanitarian flags. It focuses attention on the wrong thing, this word, 'blockade.' ''
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