[News] Why is Israel Terrified of a Ship Full of Women?

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Aug 27 12:17:27 EDT 2010


August 27-29, 2010

The Stalled Voyage of St. Mariam

Why is Israel Terrified of a Ship Full of Women?


“We will not even bring cooking knives.”

– Samar al-Hajj, coordinator of the all-women Lebanese aid vessel Mariam

The bloody wake left by the Mavi Marmara after 
the May 31 Israeli commando raid has not deterred 
50 female activists from trying to break the 
four-year-old siege of Gaza. To hear Israeli 
Defense Minister Ehud Barak speak of their 
planned relief effort, one would think the very 
existence of Israel was at stake.

The women plan to set sail aboard the Saint 
Mariam, a Bolivian-flagged cargo ship named in 
honor of the Virgin Mary, a figure sacred to both 
Christians and Muslims. Although they intend to 
depart from Tripoli, Lebanon, the crew is not 
only composed of multi-faith Lebanese but foreign 
nationals as well, including a group of nuns from 
the United States. So as not to give Israel 
pretext to attack, Hezbollah deliberately did not 
sponsor the mission nor were any members allowed to participate.

Its cargo? Books, toys, medical instruments and 
supplies, and most importantly, anticancer medication.

The ship cannot sail directly from Tripoli to 
Gaza since Lebanon and Israel remain technically 
at war (and Israel controls Gaza’s territorial 
waters) and thus must pass through a third 
country first. The Mariam was scheduled to leave 
for Cyprus last Sunday but authorities in 
Nicosia, capitulating to Israeli pressure, 
prohibited use of its ports for vessels departing 
to Gaza. Without the green light from Cyprus, 
Lebanon’s Transport and Public Works Minister 
Ghazi Aridi was forced to cancel the voyage until 
another country with whom Lebanon enjoys maritime 
relations could be found. Negotiations with Greece are now under way.

Barak, however, was outraged at the very notion 
that Lebanon would even consider allowing the 
Mariam to sail, characterizing its mission as “
a provocation intended to aid a terror organization.”

He went on: “The ship that is preparing to sail 
from Lebanon has nothing to do with 
 If the ship insists on 
arriving, in opposition to the current blockade, 
Israel will be forced to stop it and bring it to the port of Ashdod.”

The Israeli delegation to the United Nations 
submitted a formal complaint to both the 
Secretary-General and the Security Council, 
indicating Israel reserves the right to use “all 
necessary measures” to prevent the Mariam­and the 
toys and medications it carries­from docking in Gaza.

No rational person believes the all-women crew 
presents a physical or armed threat to Israel, 
either by their persons or cargo.

So why is Israel so terrified of the Mariam?

It has nothing to do with the activists, 
Hezbollah or even Hamas. What it does involve is 
ensuring the continuation of collective 
punishment of Gazans, who continue to wither 
under a four-year material and economic embargo.

It is why innocuous items like wheelchairs, 
crutches, books, crayons, or even chemotherapy 
pose such a threat; any relief provided to 
Palestinians not under the direct jurisdiction of 
Israel jeopardizes its role as sole arbiter of 
deciding whether to enforce or relax punishment 
of civilians. Only the occupying power has this right.

Collective punishment is an illegal and heinous 
form of warfare, and Gaza’s Palestinians have 
suffered from it as retribution for 
overwhelmingly electing Hamas to govern in the 
January 2006 parliamentary elections.

If the Mariam is allowed to sail and Israel 
cannot find justification to stop the nuns, 
doctors, lawyers, journalists, human rights 
workers and a pop star aboard from landing­if 
they are permitted to break the siege­then the 
Gaza shore could soon become inundated with 
ships, vessels and relief flotillas from the 
world over. And the myth of Israel as invincible 
regional superpower would, yet again, be shattered.

This is why Israel is terrified of a ship full of 
women, and why they are being demonized.

Rannie Amiri is an independent Middle East 
commentator. He may be reached at: rbamiri at yahoo.com

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