The headlines scream condemnation of Israel for attacking humanitarian activists on a peaceful mission to bring essential goods to the beleaguered residents of Gaza. I believe that facts are the best response to vitriol. So here are some facts:
- The Israeli government and its military repeatedly warned the flotilla that they were not to dock at Gaza and the legal blockade would be enforced.
- Israel repeatedly offered the port of Ashdod Harbor as the place to unload all humanitarian goods for inspection and transport to Gaza.
- Activists on the Turkish ship Mavi Marara were armed and attacked the Israelis boarding the ship. The other five ships provided no resistance and therefore incurred no casualties and were peacefully escorted to Ashdod where the goods were unloaded and will soon be transported to Gaza for humanitarian purposes.
Food and supplies are shipped from Israel to Gaza six days a week. These items were channeled through aid organizations or via Gaza's private sector.
Large quantities of essential food items like baby formula, wheat, meat, dairy products and other perishables are transferred daily and weekly to Gaza. Fertilizers that cannot be used to make explosives are shipped into the Strip regularly, as are potato seeds, eggs for reproduction, bees, and equipment for the flower industry.
The medical corridor
No Palestinian is denied medical care in Israel. However, if the Hamas regime does not grant permits for medical care, the Israeli government can do nothing to help the patient. Israel will facilitate all cases of medical treatments from Gaza, unless the patient is a known perpetrator of terror.
In 2009 alone, 10,544 patients and their companions left the Gaza Strip for medical treatment in Israel. Moreover, there were 382 emergency evacuations from Gaza for medical purposes.
On 24 May 2010 Israel opened the Kerem Shalom crossing to 97 trucks loaded with aid and goods, including six trucks holding 250 tons of cement and one truck loaded with five tons of iron for projects executed and operated by UNRWA.
According to the UN report of May 2010, 120 megawatts (over 70%) of the Strip's electricity supply comes from the Israeli electric grid, while 17 MWs come from Egypt and 30 MWs are produced by the Gaza city power station.
During 2009, 7.5 million tons of flowers and 54 tons of strawberries were exported from Gaza with Israeli cooperation.
In 2009, 1.1 billion shekels (about $250 million) were transferred to the Gaza Strip for the ongoing activity of international organizations and to pay the salaries of Palestinian Authority workers.
Palestinian families receive the same subsidized healthcare as Israelis, about 10% of the cost for the same treatment in the United States.
Israel transfers school equipment supplied by UNRWA including notebooks, school bags, writing implements and textbooks. Israel is currently coordinating the transfer of 200,000 laptops for Gaza schoolchildren and the shipment of 74 maritime containers for conversion into Gaza classrooms.
Despite the inherent dangers involved, Israel permits Gazans and visitors to travel between Gaza and Israel, from Gaza to Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), and even abroad for medical treatment, religious pilgrimages, and business trips. Whenever possible Israel allows for diplomatic activities and trade and commerce with the Gaza Strip.
During the Christmas holiday, approximately 400 permits were given to visit Bethlehem from Gaza as well 100 permits to travel abroad. In addition, 257 permits were given to businessmen from Gaza to facilitate business operations.