Israeli Officials Defend Flotilla Action to Christian Supporters

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Adrienne S. Gaines

During conference
calls Thursday with Christian groups, Israeli officials
defended the Jewish nation’s action against a flotilla of aid ships that left
nine pro-Palestinian activists dead.

On a call with more
than 3,000 participants affiliated with Christians United for Israel (CUFI), Deputy Foreign Minister
Daniel Ayalon (pictured) said the flotilla’s sponsor, a Turkey-based charity
known as IHH, has ties to al-Qaida and is an ally of
a militant
Palestinian organization that controls
the Gaza Strip. Rather than
delivering humanitarian supplies, Ayalon said the activists wanted to end the
blockade, which Israel insists is needed to prevent groups from smuggling weapons to

Photo of Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon by Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“We have it on
tape, although supposedly their mission was humanitarian—even though there is
no humanitarian crisis in Gaza—they said actually their mission is to break
the blockade on Gaza,” Ayalon said. “Why do they want to break the blockade on
Gaza? Because the blockade works.”

He said Israeli
officials tried to divert the six Turkish ships so their contents could be
inspected and all but one cooperated. When Israeli soldiers boarded that ship, the Mavia Marmara, early Monday morning, they were met by 75 to
80 “mercenaries” carrying axes, iron pipes, knives and machetes, he said. Nine
pro-Palestinian activists were killed, including one American of Turkish origin, and seven
Israeli soldiers were injured.

“This was not a
mission of peace,” Ayalon said. “On the contrary, this was a clear provocation
trying again to condemn, to delegitimize Israel … to make it an embarrassment
for Israel.”

“But this is just the fluffy stuff,” he added. “The real threat here is that
they wanted to strengthen Hamas and with Hamas the entire axis of evil in the
Middle East.”

He said Hamas is an
organ of Iran and represents its interests rather than Palestinians’.

“We have to keep our eye on the ball, and the ball is Iran,”
Ayalon said. “Because Iran is behind this terror wing that we saw through
Hezbollah and … the Muslim Brotherhood. They are trying to change the world
order as we know it. To get the nuclear bomb is not just an end in itself, it’s
only a means to reach hegemony over the entire Middle
East and much, much, much beyond.”

In a
separate call Thursday hosted by Eagles’ Wings, Member of Knesset Yuli-Yoel Edelstein, Israel’s minister of Public Affairs and the
Diaspora (Likud), said
Israel would respond again to other ships attempting to break the blockade. An
Irish aid ship is currently en route to the Gaza Strip and is scheduled
to arrive later this week. According to media reports, there are 15
pro-Palestinian activists on board, including Irish Nobel Laureate Mairead Corrigan-Maguire. 

prime minister said yesterday loud and clear and I am saying to you loud and
clear, if there will be another attempt this week, next week, in two weeks from
now, we will have to act,” Edelstein
said. “We will do everything in our power to avoid casualties but we
will nevertheless prevent the influx of uninspected goods into the Gaza Strip.”

and Ayalon also defended Israel’s decision to board the aid ships in
international waters. Edelstein said the nation was within the boundaries of
international law, citing section 67A of the San Remo Manual on International Law, which states that vessels can be attacked if they are believed “on reasonable grounds to be carrying
contraband or breaching a blockade, and after prior warning they
intentionally and clearly refuse to stop.”

said boarding the ship instead of waiting for it to get closer to Gaza was an
attempt to avoid a sneak attack from Hamas, which he said could have resulted
in more casualties. “The decision was a calculated decision to intercept the
ships farther away from the coast of Gaza,” he said.

The flotilla incident has brought international outcry
against Israel and strained the nation’s relationship with Turkey, which
has been a key ally in the Middle East. After the flotilla incident, Turkey withdrew
its ambassador to Israel and demanded a U.N. Security
Council session on the clash, the Associated Press reported.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said the flotilla incident was “completely unacceptable” and called on
Israel to lift the blockade, which he said “just strengthens Hamas’s grip on
Gaza,” BBC News reported.

The Obama administration
did not condemn Israel’s handling of the flotilla but expressed regret for the
loss of life and called for an investigation into the events. In an
interview with PBS’ Charlie Rose Wednesday, Vice President Joe Biden defended Israel, saying it had an “absolute right” to protect

“It’s legitimate for Israel to say: ‘I don’t know
what’s on that ship. These guys are dropping … 3,000 rockets on my
people,'” Biden said. “Israel has a right to
know—they’re at war with Hamas—has a right to know whether or not arms are
being smuggled in.”

Edelstein said Israel sends 15,000 tons of humanitarian
supplies to the Gaza Strip each week. He said
“there are no real shortages” and accused Hamas of preferring to procure
weapons than food, medicine and building materials for its citizens.

international groups, including some Christian organizations, dispute Israel’s
claim that there is no humanitarian crisis in the region and say Israel’s
blockade of the Gaza Strip has failed to prevent an influx of weapons.

While calling for
participation in the World Week of Peace in Palestine Israel, which ends Friday, World Council of Churches General Secretary Olav Fykse Tveit denounced Israel’s
actions and said Monday’s events were a reminder “of the pressing need
for an end to the Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian

The Action by Churches Together Alliance, a network of 100 humanitarian and development organizations, also condemned
Israel’s handling of the flotilla, calling it a “crime.” But several other
Christian groups were quick to defend the nation. In an e-mail to supporters, American Family Association President President Tim Wildmon said Israel was “clearly in the

“Israel has every moral right in the world to make sure that
humanitarian cargoes aren’t used to ship weapons into the Gaza Strip that will
almost immediately be used to attack innocent Israeli families,” Wildmon said.

“We call on President Obama to take a firm and
unapologetic stand for Israel,” he added. “Israel is the only democracy in the
Middle East and our only reliable ally in the region. Today is the day for
America to stand with our friends and allies in Israel.”

Eagles’ Wings founder Robert Stearns and CUFI founder John Hagee echoed that
sentiment during Thursday’s conference calls. Both men said Israel needs its
Christian allies more than ever and encouraged their supporters to contact their
elected officials and urge them to stand with the Jewish nation.

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