This years flotilla effort should be titled Ships of Fools

There was more to the story of this year’s Gaza flotilla than friends of Hamas going for another Mediterranean cruise just to poke their fingers in Israel’s eyes.

Douglas M. Bloomfield

As this was being written, ships were still bottled up in Greek harbors, stopped not by Israeli commandos repelling from helicopters but by something even more intimidating: squads of Jewish lawyers and diplomats.

Israel also had help from international leaders who did not want to appear to be backing an international terrorist organization. The humanitarian situation in Gaza that was much talked about in last year’s flotilla fiasco has greatly improved. There are no restrictions on shipments of food, medicine and humanitarian aid to Gaza, and since Egypt has opened its borders, no excuses.

But there remains a problem of smuggling weapons, drugs, munitions and terrorists.

Mathilde Redmatn, a senior Red Cross official in Gaza, has been quoted in Israeli media saying, “There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. If you go to the supermarket, there are products. There are restaurants and a nice beach.”

Israel wanted to avoid a repeat of the 2010 Mavi Marmara fiasco which gave Israel a PR black eye and nearly led to a full break in already-strained relations with Turkey. The Hamas-linked sponsors of the flotilla and their friends in Gaza were delighted, and no doubt looking for another victory this year.

Facing the loss of its Turkish ally, which had already decided to shift its focus from West to East by embracing Syria and Iran — and trashing Israel to establish its bonafides with its new friends — Israel turned to improving relations with Greece, Turkey’s historic rival.

It paid off when Greek officials prevented the flotilla from leaving its waters, even arresting the American captain of one ship when he tried to sneak out of harbor.

Shurat HaDin–Israel Law Center — an Israeli-based advocacy group dedicated to fighting terrorism “one lawsuit at a time” — wrote to maritime insurance firms and satellite communications companies warning that providing services to blockade runners could land them in U.S. courts. The group threatened to sue them for aiding an international terrorist group.

The world’s largest maritime insurer, Lloyd’s of London, said it would not insure ships participating in the flotilla. Britain, like the United States, considers Hamas an international terrorist organization.

Sponsors of the flotilla had the chutzpah to name one of their ships the “Audacity of Hope,” the title of a book by President Barack Obama, but that didn’t stop the Obama administration from rallying opposition to the venture.

The administration called the flotilla “unnecessary”

and endorsed Israel’s efforts to “curb the illicit shipment of weapons” to Hamas-controlled Gaza. It also warned Americans aboard the ships that delivering material support to Hamas could result in prosecution.

The activists insist they have no ties to Hamas and are just concerned about the well-being of the people of Gaza. If that were true, why their silence about the absence of the rule of law, the lack of civil liberties, the brutality of security forces and the harsh imposition of religious doctrine on the people of Gaza?

If the flotilla organizers were serious about helping the people — and not the rulers — of Gaza, they could take up Greece’s offer to deliver their goods to the Israeli port of Ashdod or the Egyptian port of El Arish for transport by land.

Even Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a friend of Hamas and visceral critic of Israel, refused backing for the flotilla. In fact, his diplomats were in New York trying to work with their Israeli counterparts on patching relations and agreeing on wording for a U.N. report on the Mavi Marmara incident.

This year’s flotilla was never a relief mission to ease conditions in Gaza. It was a purely political ploy to give aid and comfort to a notorious terrorist organization whose avowed goal is the destruction of the Jewish state. It matters not if a few Jews and fringe Israelis are on board; that does not give the project a seal of kashrut.

The campaign isn’t over. With their ships dead in the water, organizers announced organize a fly-in beginning Friday, July 8. They say they intend to send hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists to Ben Gurion International Airport to protest the Gaza blockade and disrupt airport operations.

If they thought dealing with all those lawyers was tough, wait until they get to Israeli airport security. Start with the usual question: “What is the purpose of your visit?”

That’s not your granny’s TSA that will search a 95-year-old cancer patient’s soiled diaper while letting through a 24-year-old native of Nigeria with a pocketful of expired boarding passes in assorted names.

Even if they manage to board their flights to Israel, they will have get past immigration and out of the airport. And there won’t be any sherut waiting to drive them to Gaza.

Douglas M. Bloomfield is the president of Bloomfield Associates Inc., a Washington, D.C., lobbying and consulting firm. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.

Douglas M. Bloomfield

Douglas M. Bloomfield is the president of Bloomfield Associates Inc., a Washington, D.C., lobbying and consulting firm. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.