Arab Israeli MP to Join Gaza Flotilla

Arab Israeli MP to Join Gaza FlotillaArab Israeli MP to Join Gaza Flotilla

An announcement by an Arab Israeli lawmaker that he plans to join a pro-Palestinian flotilla seeking to break Israel’s blockade on Gaza caused outrage Monday among Israel’s political class.

Basel Ghattas, an MP with the Joint Arab List, sparked controversy after he announced he would join other parliamentarians and public figures from around the world in the latest attempt to reach Gaza by ship later this month.

Gaza has been subjected to an Israeli blockade for nine years, which includes a complete ban on ships entering or leaving the coastal enclave’s waters, AFP reported.

Ghattas on Monday repeated his demand that the “freedom flotilla” be allowed to enter Gaza peacefully, adding that suffering by residents of the coastal strip was being neglected.

“The central issue here is the fact that the Israeli public is trying to ignore the fact that there are two million Palestinians just 50 km from Tel Aviv living in disgraceful poverty and hunger.”

Pro-Palestinian activists have repeatedly tried to reach the Gaza Strip by sea but have been blocked by the Israeli navy.

In May 2010, Israeli commandos staged a botched raid on a six-ship flotilla which ended in bloodshed that claimed the lives of 10 Turkish nationals and sparked a crisis with Ankara.

Hanin Zuabi, a female Arab-Israeli MP who was on board at the time, was roundly denounced by the Israeli political establishment as a traitor, with Ghattas now facing a similar outcry.

“It is the gravest thing possible that an Israeli MP would join the flotilla whose aim is to help Hamas,” said Zeev Elkin from Israel’s ruling rightwing Likud Party.

One of the boats involved in the bid is a Swedish trawler which set sail from Sicily on Friday evening.

It is expected to meet up with several other vessels in the coming days to form what is being referred to as the Freedom Flotilla III, organisers say.