Saturday, October 27, 2012

Ammunition Hill and the not theoretical occupation

Eighty years ago, the British Mandatory government founded a Police Academy near the Sheikh Jarrah Neighborhood in the eastern part of Jerusalem.

In the 1960's the Jordanian army established in the same location, then near the front line bisecting Jerusalem, a well-fortified military position.

In June 1967 this place, called "Ammunition Hill" by the fighting soldiers, was the scene of a harsh and bloody battle, around which an enduring myth of heroism was created – a battle which many military historianss consider to have been completely unnecessary. Of the famous song written about this battle, there remained in the Israeli collective memory especially the words "I don't know why I got a medal. I just wanted to get home safely. "

Every year, on the day known as "Jerusalem Day", there is held in this location a formal ceremony with the participation of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense and the senior generals of the Israeli armed. Always on this occasion, the Prime Minister makes a speech full of rhetoric and vows that  United Jerusalem will always be Eternal Capital of Israel. In the Sheikh Jarrah Neighborhood nearby, which was occupied by the Israel Defense Forces several hours after that titanic battle, settlers listen to the live broadcast of the PM's speech  in the Palestinian homes which they have seized.

A few years ago there was at Ammunition Hill a meeting between veteran Israeli and Jordanian soldiers who survived the battle (Thirty Six Israelis had been killed in it, and over seventy Jordanians). They talked to each other quite amicably and none of them used any nationalist cliches.

Morial Rothman had no particular intention to add another chapter to the history of Ammunition Hill. It was the military authorities who determined this as the point to which young Jerusalemites should report when their call-up orders come due.

Moriel Rothman was born in Israel 23 years ago, long after the famous battle on Ammunition Hill. As a child his family moved to the United States where he grew up. He returned to Israel at the age of eighteen, and soon became involved in political activism, meeting Palestinians and taking part in actions against the occupation. The Palestinians in the village of Susiya at the South Hebron Hills, persistently clinging to their piece of land and their miserable homes, seemed to him “more Jewish” then the settlers seeking to expel them and the soldiers aiding the settlers -  carrying the historical heritage of Jews striving to maintain their communal life during centuries and millennia of dispersal and persecution.

Moriel Rothman at Susia – a video

At just the time when Rothman saw more and more soldiers in their daily activities, shooting tear gas and stun grenades and sometimes live ammunition at Palestinians, the army found out that there was an Israeli citizen who had returned from the United States and reached the age of 23 and has not yet done military service. Thus Moriel Rothman duly got a call-up order instructing him to report to the memorial site at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem on Wednesday, October 24, 2012 at 8:00 am, and there board a military bus and embark on his term of military service.

Moriel Rothman arrived precisely at the time set, accompanied by a group of activists and friends - but not in order to don the IDF uniform. In his pocket was a letter he had prepared beforehand:

''It cannot be said lightly, the time has long passed for gentle language and “hear-able” rhetoric: The Occupation is cruelty and injustice manifest. The Occupation is anti-God, anti-Love and staggeringly, constantly violent. The Occupation is based on a system of racial/ethnic separation that does, in fact, resemble South African Apartheid and segregation in the Southern United States until the 1960s. And this “temporary” Occupation is not “on its way out,” but is rather growing in strength every single day. There is almost zero political will within Israel’s government to end it, and the Israeli public has largely accepted the status quo, in which the occupation is basically a theoretical question, and one of which many have grown tired. But the occupation can only be theoretical if you are not occupied, and thus my refusal to support the occupation by serving in the IDF is also an act of solidarity with Palestinians living under occupation."
At this moment when I am writing, Moriel Rothman is behind bars the Military Prison Six, contributing his modest part in the struggle to end the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.

So, is there an occupation? Are these territories under occupation? Anyone who follows events on the ground, who witnessed even once a confrontation of soldiers (and/or settlers) with Palestinians, cannot really doubt it. The International Court of Justice, established by the International Community as the authorized interpreter of controversial issues of International Law, stated unequivocally that the West Bank is indeed an Occupied Territory. Therefore, it is subject to the Fourth Geneva Convention which forbids an Occupying Power from settling its citizens in the Occupied Territory.

In Israel, however, there are those who think differently. The fact is that a committee of distinguished Israeli jurists, headed by former Supreme Court judge Edmond Levy, had sat down and composed a detailed report stating that this territory is not occupied at all. In a burst of creative energy, Justice Levy and his fellows composed their own unique brand of International Law which would have seemed completely incomprehensible to International Court of Justice. In International Law according to Edmond Levy the territory is not occupied at all, but is an exclusive hereditary property of the Jewish People, and therefore Israeli settlement there is legal and strictly kosher. Accordingly, the Government of Israel should remove every remaining obstacle on the expansion and intensification of the settlement enterprise, and block as much as possible the access of Palestinian upstarts who dare to turn to the courts after their land was robbed in broad daylight.

Already in June this year, Justice Levy and his colleagues submitted their conclusions to Prime Minister Netanyahu. And though it was Netanyahu who appointed them, he seemed a bit scared of the conclusions and of what might happen if they are formally adopted. For, after all, if this territory is not occupied, that what is it? Is it part of Israel? And if it is part of the State of Israel, and if Israel is a democratic country, then where are the Knesset Members representing in Israel's parliament the residents of Nablus and Ramallah and Hebron? And if it is not Israeli territory and also not occupied, what is it? All sorts of questions would immediately pop up to which no Israeli government since 1967 tried or wanted to give a clear answer, nor did Judge Levy provide such an answer.

So, since June the Levy Report lay unopened in the archives. The settlers and their political friends protested and demanded that it be adopted forthwith. But last month Netanyahu decided to call early election and immediately tremendous power struggles entered the fray. Within the Likud Party the settlers have gained significant power, and have an impact on the result if internal party elections. So, Netanyahu suddenly announced that he would soon bring the Levy Report to government approval. No, not the fundamental assertion that the territory is not occupied. Only the practical conclusions helping and facilitating the settlement enterprise. But it turned out that also this could  create too many political and judicial complications.

And so the idea of adopting the Levy Report was again shelved. Instead, the Prime Minister got a brilliant political idea and made the dramatic announcement which captured the headlines in our country over the past few days – the joint electoral slate between the ruling Likud Party and the party of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman - the nearest in the Israeli political scene to meet the criteria set by Political Science for a Fascist party. No, Lieberman does not really care about Judge Levy's report. International law in all its forms is not really interesting to the Foreign Minister of the State of Israel. In a TV interview celebrating his intimate new partnership with the Prime Minister,  Lieberman announced that it was just no use talking about and deal with the Palestinian question. We know that we have no Palestinian partner and probably never will have such a partner, so for the foreseeable future we can do in these territories as we please and not bother too much about legal theories and legal niceties. Plain and simple.

In the meantime, what of the Palestinians themselves? Last week, Israeli drivers were surprised when traveling on Highway 443 from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, when suddenly dozens of Palestinian protesters burst in, carrying banners and placards and blocking the highway. Palestinians? Why should they appear there?

Those who know the issue are aware that this highway is passing through the West Bank, that it was built on land expropriated from Palestinian villagers living nearby,  that these people were denied the possibility of travelling on the highway which was built on their land, and that when the Supreme Court ruled that they should be allowed to travel on it a ploy was soon found to deny it in practice. But ordinary Israeli citizens got the impression that this was just an Israeli highway connecting two Israel cities. Especially since along the highway were built walls concealing the nearby Arab villages, and on them were painted for the benefit of the Israeli drivers pastoral landscapes with no Arabs in them. Suddenly, the reality behind the walls burst out onto the highway for a  while, until soldiers arrived with their stun grenades and tear gas canisters.

And a week later - another unpleasant surprise. Palestinians carrying flags, together with international volunteers, penetrated into the shop established by the Rami Levi supermarket chain at the settlement of Sha'ar Binyamin, and raised inside the store their placards: 'Boycott of settlement products" and "As long as  Palestinians get no justice, settlers and Israelis will not have a normal life" . And again the soldiers came quickly with stun grenades and tear gas.

Both times, at the studio of Israel's State TV, commentators admitted that the Palestinians have managed to "gain the element of surprise" and that this was a grave failure of the Israeli Intelligence Services. This phenomenon seems to have aroused concern among commentators and the military high command. In some ways they find it even more worrying than the repeated rounds of shooting along the Gaza Strip border. Precisely because the demonstrators on Route 443 and at Rami Levy  supermarket did not use violence and it would be  quite hard to accuse them of terrorism.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Yishai and Deri and the Eritrean hunger strikers

This week, hundreds of members of the exile Eritrean community Israel demonstrated outside the government compound in Tel Aviv. Asylum seekers, people who at great personal risk opposed the cruel tyrannical regime in their homeland and were forced into exile and came to us by a tortuous route, they now face a grim reality and very uncertain future.

This grim reality was prepared last year. Very quietly, without any real public debate, Israel's Knesset enacted the bill presented by Interior Minister Eli Yishai, culminating in the law which makes it possible to lock up "infiltrators" without trial for up to three years. No charges, no lawyers, no judges. The signature of an unknown official at the Interior Ministry is sufficient to get men and women and children behind bars for three years. This is now the law of the land in enlightened Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East. It was enacted by a large majority some days before our Prime Minister delivered one of his keynote speeches in his excellent English.

The asylum seekers did not know it when the Knesset enacted such a law. How could they, when Israeli media hardly reported it and even among Hebrew speakers it became known only to those who read the paper very carefully and noticed even the minor news items on the bottom of the page. The asylum seekers only found out when the Interior Minister's emissaries took them out of their miserable dwellings and the gates of the Sharonim Prison in the Negev closed behind them and then their captors informed them: "Get used to it, this is going to be your home for the coming three years." And at getting these news the detained Eritrean women began a hunger strike, and the men then joined them.

A hunger strike? In prison? By Eritrean women? Whoever heard of that? Those who get their news from the usual media outlets would search in vain for this piece of news. Only Sharon Livneh of the independent online paper "Megaphone" managed to hear about it and talk to one of the detained Eritreans via a mobile phone smuggled into the prison.

So far, there are still many Eritreans walking free on the streets of Tel Aviv, as are Sudanese and other asylum seekers. The Civil Rights Association went to court and got an injunction stopping the detentions, at least temporarily (but not freeing those who had already been arrested). Anyway, the Saharonim Prison is small and overcrowded and does not have cell space for all the tens of thousands of Eritreans and Sudanese and other black skinned people who are unwanted on the streets of south Tel Aviv. The "Holding Facility" is being built at an accelerated pace, over there in the Negev desert.

Indeed, some unexpected difficulties and obstacles had been placed by the government's own Ministry of Welfare. The officials there object  to detainees being held in tents for the duration of their three years' detention. They demand that rigid structures be erected to house them.  Don’t these officious busy bodies at the Ministry of Welfare understand that it is a vital national mission to remove the black infiltrators from the streets of our cities as soon as possible, and if they have to be put in tents, then so be it?

In short, there is still a lot of Eritreans who still go free and can organize and protest and hold a demonstration in front of the government offices in Tel Aviv, together with the Israeli activists who stand by them such as the indefatigable Yigal Shtayim. "Refugees are not criminals" read the banners which were waved there, and also "Blacks are not criminals", and 'No to imprisonment without trial" and "Yes to freedom, no to jail" and "We asked for asylum - and here is what we got" next to a photo of the high fences surrounding the "Holding Facility" under construction. And there was also a sign bearing a verse from the Bible, still very topical: "I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. A new heart" (Ezekiel 36:26).

Another sign addressed the press directly: "Israeli media, do not hide the truth!" Not that this admonition really helped. Reporters and photographers, focusing on the elections fever, did not show much of an interest in Eritrean protesters. On the other hand, the forensic department of the Israeli National  Police did send its team which proceeded to systematically photograph the   protesters' faces, one by one, to be filed away in the police computers.

But,  after all, it touches the elections campaign – even if editors failed to notice the connection. It appears in the report in Yediot Ahronot of the leadership struggle in the Oriental Ultra-Orthodox Shas Party. The above-mentioned Interior Minister Yishai who led the party in the past twelve years  now has to share power with his predecessor Aryeh Deri, who came back after a prolonged term of imprisonment on corruption charges.

So reports the veteran correspondent Akiva Novick:

"Until Deri's return to the party fold, [[Interior Minister]] Yishai dreamed of an aggressive elections campaign focusing on his war against the African infiltrators. 'We had counted on sweeping many votes on this' a party source told this week. 'we made some checks and found that this issue holds a considerable appeal to our potential voters'. However, the arrival of Aryeh Deri reshuffled the cards. 'Aryeh shudders to even think about this' says a confidant of Deri, who already in his first day embarked on steering the party's elections campaign. 'We are not against anything. As far as Aryeh is concerned, there will not be one word against the Sudanese. Our campaign will concentrate purely on social issues".

Really, it's not fair. For more than a year, Eli Yishai had worked hard at transforming himself into yet another Israeli Le Pen, an Israeli Geert Wilders. What did he not do? Fiery speeches on the existential threat which the Africans pose to the Jewish white (sic!) State of Israel. Speaking on the Knesset floor and making proposals in the cabinet and making sure that his proposals be actually implemented and sending police and inspectors to catch Black infiltrators and coming personally to the airport to make sure  they are all really placed on the aircraft to South Sudan, the men and the women and the children, to the very last. Nor did Yishai hesitate to leave his bureau and go down into the streets and meet personally with racist rabble rousers; talk to them and make speeches  and inspire them to persist in the sacred task of cleansing our country of the black infiltrators.

And exactly when it's money time, when Minister Yishai wants at last to cash in on his long hard work at incitement, suddenly that bastard Deri pops up and spoils it. Really, there is no justice in the world.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

So, what the hell are these elections about?

Two weeks ago the "Makor Rishon" newspaper glorified the canine unit of the Israel Defense Forces and its tireless contribution to the campaign proclaimed by the government of Israel against the African refugees who threaten to seek asylum in our enlightened country. The paper's correspondent went to the southern border and heard about the spectacular antics of the two-legged soldiers and their four-legged best friends: "Dogs are incomparably capable when it comes to a chase. They locate undesirables in the border area, identify them as infiltrators and immediately start pursuit. A dog can just go on chasing and chasing, not letting go. At present, in the new reality on the borders of Israel, chase dogs assume greater significance ("Makor Rishon", Sept. 28, 2012).

Just as the journalist arrived on the spot, our fine boys of the canine unit were in mourning. "In the course of operations on the Israeli-Egyptian border, one of the dogs was sent to chase and trace an infiltrator who had penetrated into the country. After a long chase, along dozens of kilometers,  the dog overheated and died." Of course, the soldiers conducted a proper military funeral at the special dog cemetery maintained by their unit.

But - no need to worry. Already in the near future the State of Israel might be in a position to spare her dedicated pursuit dogs such risks. The construction of the fence on the Egyptian border is drawing to a close. From now on, refugees fleeing genocide in Darfur or a terror regime in Eritrea would no longer be able to get out of their jungle and penetrate into our flourishing villa. The high border fence will block their way, and if they ask the soldiers on the border for a little water and food, the soldiers will be bound by explicit orders not to give them anything, so as not to encourage refugees to head our way. And if the refugees insist on sitting at the fence and begging and pleading, the  soldiers will be authorized to use tear gas to make them understand the hint, go away from our borders and disappear into the depths of the desert. And if, as happened a few weeks ago, pertinent Human Rights activists from Tel Aviv would try to approach and bring food and water to refugees, the army would  rush to declare the border area a Closed Military Zone. Not only in the Occupied Territories can this be done – also in the sovereign territory of Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East.

Two days after the dramatic announcement of early elections, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu chose to open his elections campaign at  that very spot, on the Egyptian border. Not for him such outdated methods as facing the voters directly at a rally in the heart of a city. Our Prime Minister was photographed against the background of soldiers and senior officers and bulldozers busily at work completing the construction of the fence, and then he spoke out: "We are firm and determined to defend our borders at sea, on land and in the air. I think what is going on here is an exceptional project, a systematic security-engineering enterprise to which people from all over the world come to learn from. Remember the demonstrations against the infiltrators which took place in Tel Aviv, the feeling that we were losing our country, that there was the danger of a fatal blow to the national level of our Jewish-democratic state. So, we stopped it, we stopped the infiltration. Few of them manage to get in at all, and there will be less and less of these. And those who do get in no longer get to Tel Aviv, They are going straight to Saharonim Detention Center. This, too, was built by us."

Strangely enough, at the Hatikva slums in south Tel Aviv - right where a few months ago thugs were rioting and assaulting anyone whose skin was black – this piece of wonderful news sent by the PM from the southern border failed to  get a really enthusiastic response. On precisely the evening of the same day, Hatikva was one of the focal points where the social protest movement  - already several times declared dead – once again rose from the ashes. From the Hatikva Park at the neighborhood's center, residents embarked on the "Citizen Dignity March" through the city streets.

"This week we have been thrown into an elections campaign. These are the first elections since the Social Protest wave of the summer of 2011. What will it include? Promises, clichés, and a lot of illusions" stated the protesters' manifesto. "They will try to scare us about Iran, about a new Intifada, about the economic fate of Greece or Spain. But our situation is now worse than it was last year. The poverty index has gone up, the prices of fuel, vegetables, dairy products have gone up by dozens of percentage points, and so did the general cost of living.

Today our country is a place where a working  person is held in deep contempt and is dismissed lightly. Today our country is a place where expensive gifts are given to the most rich, and to them only. We are citizens of the middle class, as well as of the class of citizens who were deliberately weakened and impoverished. We are those who set up protest tent camps and who were accused of 'not being nice'. We urge you to join us for a demonstration, which would start the citizens' public campaign in these elections.

We will examine what each party had promised and what it actually delivered  since the last elections. We will examine how all Knesset Members voted on socio-economic issues, on housing, employment, minimum wages, and the like. We, all of us together, will remind the officials that elections day is the Voter's Day."

Some other things have also happened in our enlightened country, on the very same day that the Prime Minister delivered his speech at the border, and not even that far away from there. Very large police forces arrived at the  Bedouin village of Bir Hadaj, including the Yasam Special Riot Police, and with helicopters escorting them in the sky. Their objective: to attach a demolition order on a  building which was declared illegal, and make clear to the residents of Bir Hadaj that the government of Israel will not flinch from using all  the means at its disposal to implement this demolition order. Indeed, the government made use of quite a few means: police hurled stun grenades and tear gas canisters and fired rubber bullets into the houses. Residents suffered from smoke inhalation and the effects of tear gas, including children whose school was also targeted. Many were taken into custody, many others hospitalized.

Bir Hadaj, unlike many other Bedouin villages, is a "recognized village" and the  government does not dispute its very existence. But in practice the difference between it and the "unrecognized villages" is not all that great. Bir Hadaj has no approved zoning plan, and it is completely unknown if and when it would have one. Therefore, it is in practice impossible to build legally there. There is no authority to which one can apply to obtain a permit, all construction by the residents is illegal by definition. Many thousands of pending demolition orders are hanging over this and the other Bedouin villages, and in the past year over two hundred of them were implemented.

A notice on the website of the Israel Lands Administration talks about "Concentrated Enforcement Operations, in the course of which hundreds of police, inspectors and contractors converge on a single spot and give prominent visibility to the Rule of Law.” Such actions are said to “bring impressive results." Impressive indeed.

The residents of the Bedouin villages are Israeli citizens. They vote in elections, and some of them even serve voluntarily in the Israel Defense Forces, even though the draft does not apply to them. In a normal democratic country, a sector numbering a significant part of the citizen body would attract the attention of politicians who would try to address their problems in order to  get their votes. But in the State of Israel, which builds high walls in order to preserve "The national level of the Jewish-democratic state", what happened in Bir Hadaj did not receive media attention and would not feature in the coming elections campaign. At most, it will get the attention what is defined as "The Arab Parties" which are anyway considered extremist and ineligible to take part in negotiations to form a new government  coalition after the elections.

And if this is how people are treated who are citizens of Israel and vote in Israel's Knesset, what can expect those who are not Israeli citizens and who live during the past fourty-five years under the occupation rule of Israel's army?  The same week on which the Prime Minister declared early elections in Israel marked also the start of the olive harvest season in the Occupied Palestinian Territories - a time of the year always prone to trouble, and especially so this year.

In less than a week, "B'Tselem" documented at least five cases of harassment of olive harvesters and/or destruction of olive groves, "arousing the suspicion that  the security forces did not take proper care to protect Palestinians and their property from settler violence." Thus, villagers from Beitillu, coming to harvest their olive groves, were attacked by ten masked settlers who came from an outpost near the settlement of Nahliel. The settlers also set fire to the trees. When a violent clash erupted, soldiers arrived - and... expelled the Palestinian farmers from the area.

And in al-Janiya west of Ramallah, 25 olive trees were vandalized, belonging to the Abu Faha'ida Family. Ironically, the settler outpost established very near is called "Za'it Ra'anan" which means "Flourishing Olive Tree,".

And when villagers from Fara'ata and Immatain came to harvest,  they discovered that persons unknown had already harvested 220 trees and stolen the crops, in the process breaking branches and damaging trees. And who were these unkowns? The Gilad Farm outpost is located nearby, and its residents have a long proven record of acts of this kind.

And residents of Qaryut found that more than eighty trees, owned by ten different families, were destroyed in the previous night. The land is located south west of the village, about two kilometers from the settlement of Eli. (The truth is that almost every Palestinian village is close to one settlement or another...) And so on and so on, one more  case and yet another one, all recorded and photographed and documented. And then what?

It is possible to record and publicize every case, and publicize the information in the country and worldwide. Israelis can accompany the Palestinians whose  orchards were damaged to the police stations, which are the only place where  a complaint can be lodged and to which Palestinians are denied entry for security reasons. Formal complaints can be submitted to the military authorities, emphasizing that under International Law they are obliged to protect the Palestinians living under occupation, make it possible for them to safely harvest their olives, the sole source of income for many, and prevent settlers from harming them. (Insisting upon filing a complaint after complaint, without hoping too much for results... ) In particular volunteers can and should be recruited, as many Israelis as possible to as many villages as possible, whose presence would make it difficult for settlers to attack and for soldiers to ignore these attacks.

But it would be very difficult to put this issue on the agenda of the elections campaign opening this week in Israel.

Already for some years most of the politicians in Israel - and with them, in fact, most of the people – decided to sweep the Palestinians under the carpet. Not to deal with them, not to talk seriously with them or about them. Not to talk about forty-five years of occupation over millions of people, nor on repression and violations of Human Rights, nor of settlements growing and expanding. It is generally agreed that we have no partner, and since there is no partner the Palestinians themselves are to blame for everything that happens to them. So,  one can forget about the Palestinians until the partner arrives (or the Messiah - whichever comes first).

At a discussion on TV First Channel prime time, the well known commentator Ari Shavit astonished his colleagues, predicting that dramatic events in the coming months will force politicians from all parties to end their silence and prominently address the Palestinian issue, already in this elections.


Saturday, October 6, 2012

Between Naples and Gaza

The city of Gaza is on the shore of the Mediterranean. Like in many other coastal cities, there are inhabitants of Gaza who are interested in sailing as a sport and hobby. But putting such interests into practice is far more complicated in Gaza than in most other coastal cities. In 2006 Qatar donated ten small sailing boats to the newly-founded Gaza Sailing and Surfing Association, but it took until September 2012 for the Israeli military inspectors to make up their minds and conclude that there was no security threat involved in letting them through.

The boats' arrival in Gaza provided a rare chance for a bit of positive news, with the twelve-year-old Darin Kabariti enthusiastically telling journalists that she feels completely free when launching her sailboat off the Gaza coast.

Not long after the sailing boats' joyous entry into Gaza, the 22-year-old fisherman Fahmi Abu Rayash was shot near Beit Lahiya and hit in the abdomen and foot. At first his wounds were not considered fatal but he succumbed after two days in hospital.

What did happen there? According to the Israeli military communiqué, he had approached  too close to a forbidden zone, arousing the suspicion that he intended to carry out an armed attack. According to the Palestinians, he had intended harm to nobody (at least, to none but fish). There had not been – and it is very unlikely that there will ever be – an impartial investigation. There had been no report of his death in the Israeli or international media, and not very much in the Palestinian press, either. It is too much of a daily routine. And nowadays, Israeli officials have a ready-made answer to anyone who asks too many questions about such things: "More horrible things are happening all the time in Syria". Which is a matter of undoubted, documented fact

The gunboats which are Israeli Navy's own pride and joy continue patrolling day and night off the Gaza shore, charged – as they had been over more than a decade with making the siege of Gaza, so to say, watertight. It is the gunboats' daily job to  prevent Gazan fishing boats and Gazan sailing boats and any other kind of Gazan boat from venturing "too deep" into the open sea, and to equally prevent any other vessel from any other place on Earth from approaching anywhere close to the shores of Gaza 

And just now, there is such a vessel approaching besieged Gaza from the west. Not by stealth – in fact, its approach had been announced and heralded many months in advance. The Estelle had been purchased by the Swedish “Ship To Gaza” association and had set out last May from Finland by a long a complicated route, touching at ports in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Holland, France and Spain.

The seventeen activists on board – Swedes and Norwegians and also some dissident Israelis – had had many interesting experiences en route. There were rallies and artistic performances in every port, and they participated in a film festival in Bretagne, and in Barcelona the well-known artist Manu Chao came to take part in the solidarity concert, as did Adeila Guevara, daughter of the legendary Che Guevara. And by now they have reached Naples and are engaged in a very full program: a concert, and  Catholic Mass celebrated on the pier, and an organized tour of the ship for Neapolitan school children, and also a visit by Naples Mayor Luigi de Magistris, who has declared himself the Estelle’s official protector for the length of her stay in Naples. Meanwhile Avigdor Lieberman, Netanyahu's Foreign Minister, is exerting considerable pressure on the Italians to block the ship from departing – but unlike the case of last year's Freedom Flotilla, blocked at Athens, he does not seem to get very far.   .

So, the Estelle will shortly depart on the final lap of its journey. It is not so far from Naples to Gaza, as nautical miles go. The Israeli Navy gunboats are equipped with high-quality radar, and it is not difficult to detect a ship which makes no effort to hide (quite the opposite, in fact). And so the outcome, sometime later this month, is fairly predictable.

Most probably, it will not be anywhere near the actual shores of Gaza. In the past, Israeli Navy gunboats have eagerly gone deep into the Mediterranean to intercept Gaza-bound vessels, sometimes, as far as 65 kilometers from the shore. (In undoubted international waters, but the Foreign Ministry's lawyers in Jerusalem have come up with a legal opinion explaining why this was OK, digging up some precedents from bold actions taken by the British Royal Navy in its bygone proud days of empire…)

The Estelle will be sternly warned to turn aside, the activists on board will ignore all warnings, and the crack Naval Commandos will come aboard. The ship will be towed to the Port of Ashdod, and the Swedes and Norwegians aboard will be remanded in custody and charged with "Illegally entering Israel" and their plea that they had no intention of entering Israel and that Gaza is not Israel will be ignored by the learned judges. And the Israelis on board will be charged with… Well, there are creative minds in the Israeli Public Prosecution, and they will think of something.

Will it end the siege of Gaza? Definitely not. But for at least a few days it might remind some people who don't want to be reminded that Gaza is still under siege, out of sight and out of mind, and that this siege is causing a considerable daily suffering to a million and six hundred thousand people, a large part of them children. Even though it is quite true that at this moment there is a worse suffering in Syria.

Ongoing reports on the Swedish Ship to Gaza website:

Online petition against the Siege of Gaza (English after Hebrew)