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Friday, August 20, 2010

Delayed And Controversial, Lebanese all-women Flotilla Ship To Sail For Gaza

It seems that the Lebanese flotilla ship, first announced in June, is finally going to get underway after contradictory reports and delays. While an Arab News headline claims Lebanese all-women aid ship to sail for Gaza Sunday, the actual article itself indicates that is not exactly true--and that is not the least of their problems:
A Lebanese ship carrying aid and women activists who want to break Israel’s Gaza blockade will set sail Sunday from Lebanon despite warnings that they will not be allowed to make it past Cyprus, organizers said Thursday.


The ship cannot travel directly to Gaza from Lebanon because Beirut is still technically at war with Israel, forcing the vessel to pass through a third country — in this case, Cyprus — before heading for the blockaded Palestinian territory.

But on Thursday, the Cypriot ambassador to Lebanon told The Associated Press that the boat, the Miriam, will be turned back when it reaches Cyprus.

“We decided that such a ship will not be allowed to enter Cyprus and if such a Gaza-bound ship docks in a Cypriot port the crew and the passengers will be deported to their country of origin,” Kyriacos Kouros said.

Kouros said Cyprus has a “moral and legal responsibility” to those allowed into its waters, and that a blockade-busting ship could endanger lives along with “regional peace and stability.” But organizer Samar Al-Hajj was undeterred Thursday, and said ship, named after the Virgin Mary, will set out with between 50-75 female activists on a mission to deliver cancer medication, books and toys.

“We are not children who can be told to stay home,” Al-Hajj told The AP after a chaotic news conference outside the port in Tripoli, where security forces prevented the group from speaking to the media from the ship.

She could not say how much cargo the ship would carry, but said it would be a “symbolic” amount.
So first of all, the boat really has nothing to do with bringing aid to Lebanon--the stated goal is to break the blockade.

Therefore, the aid they are bringing is merely 'symbolic'. It's not clear if symbolic means that there will be just a little, or if it will include old and expired medicines as has been the norm with such flotillas.

Thirdly, since Lebanon is technically at war with Israel, the ship has to first stop off at Cyprus--which wants no part of them.

The idea for the ship was announced by Hizbollah in early June, although Al-Hajj has denied Hezbollah involvement. Her husband is the former Hezbollah head of internal security services, and was held for 4 years with three other officers for being involved in the assassination of Rafik Hariri.

Like the pseudo-aid the ship is carrying, the mission of the boat is symbolic as well--one more media event to embarrass Israel that actually has nothing to do with helping the people of Gaza.

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