The Israeli government is attempting to compel the 23 abducted human rights workers who were sailing to Gaza as part of a humanitarian effort to break the Israeli blockade, to sign a deporation order that would prohibit them from visiting Israel for the next ten years. If they do not sign, Israel will continue to illegally imprison them. If they do sign, they have admitted violating Israel’s blockade and entering Israeli territorial waters without permission. That will bar them from the country for 10 years.
Just as an aside, when Norman Finkelstein was similarly and scandalously imprisoned by Israel when he attempted to visit a friend on the West Bank, he was willing to sign this deportation order, which I feel was a mistake on his part. But it’s hard to argue with the fact that spending an undetermined amount of time in an Israeli prison is one of the more unpleasant things that can happen to you and I can understand why one would seek to depart as quickily as possible. And he clearly isn’t planning or needing to spend any “quality time” in Israel anytime soon anyway. Feelings aren’t terribly warm and fuzzy between Finkelstein and the State of Israel (or its leaders anyway).
The Free Gaza Movement activists have not taken the bait and remain in prison. The U.S. government has not made the case a high profile one feeling it has bigger fish to fry regarding the settlement freeze issue. But the Obama folks are going to eventually face facts that having an ostensible U.S. ally holding four of our citizens for the crime of sailing a former ferry filled with medicine and other humanitarian aid to Gaza via international waters, is intolerable.
Someone will also have to explain to me how Gaza’s territorial waters have become Israel’s if the latter has truly withdrawn from Gaza as it likes to claim. The answer is the same as the one the White Rabbit gave: “a word means what I want it to mean, nothing more, nothing less.” So Israel conveniently abuses international maritime law and appropriates Gaza’s territorial waters when it suits; and when it doesn’t it claims it washed its hands of Gaza long ago and has no interest in it.
Also, can someone explain to me why Fox News has been providing the most extensive coverage of this incident in all the U.S. media. Not a word in the N.Y. Times, whose correspondent, Ethan Bronner apparently can’t be bothered to cover such an ‘insignificant’ story.