Greek Actions Reap International Praise
The Greek government on Friday banned all flotilla ships from leaving its ports, without explaining its reasons. While critics accused the beleaguered government of bowing to Israeli and US pressure, praise for its actions have come from a wide range of international sources beginning with Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who thanked his Greek counterpart for helping to stamp out “anti-Israeli provocation.”
Greek authorities have restrained would be participants in the Gaza-bound flotilla and refused permission for any of the involved boats to leave Greek ports. A Greek government offer to deliver aid slated to be carried by the detained ships to Gaza via legal entry points in Egypt or Israel has been rejected by flotilla leaders. “Humanitarian relief” is apparently no longer the primary concern of the flotilla participants.
A spokesperson for the Greek government said the decision to stop the boats came in response to the United Nations call saying that humanitarian aid should be sent to Gaza “through official channels.” Humanitarian efforts,” she said, “should be taken under the offices of the United Nations. Greece supports the need to improve humanitarian aid in Gaza and lift the blockade, but it must be done through official channels and with respect to international laws. The use of violence must be avoided in every case.
Each of the ten boats comprising the so called “freedom flotilla” is under close scrutiny in Greek ports. Despite the watch, two, the American Audacity of Hope and the Canadian Tahrir, have attempted to run the Greek blockade. The captain of the American ship was arrested after he attempted to flee the port of Perama in a vessel that Greek authorities deemed “not seaworthy” which had papers that “were not in order.” The 36 American passengers and four crew members were returned to port about 10 minutes after it had attempted to flee.
Monday, the Tahrir attempted to leave port. Armed Greek Coastguard members intercepted the ship and successfully forced it back to port. Flotilla supporters have attempted to block the coastguard by placing manned kayaks in the path of their vessels. Canadian Dylan Penner told the London paper, The Guardian, that the Greek action ” is conclusive evidence that Israel’s unlawful siege on Gaza has now been extended to Greece.” “Everyone involved with this flotilla came with the determined intention to break Israel’s illegal siege on Gaza,” he said.
Although flotilla members and some Middle Eastern media have claimed that “Israeli and American lobbying” was responsible for the Greek action, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is said to be in agreement with the Greek government proposal.
In New York, Israeli Consul for Media Affairs Joel Lion told the Algemeiner “Greece is implementing international maritime law prohibiting a ship to leave a port without permission.”
A letter expressing his gratitude and praise has been sent to Prime Minister George A. Papandreou, by Abe Foxman, Director of the Anti-Defamation League. Foxman applauded the Greek government and noted his “sincere appreciation for the action taken by Greece to prevent the ships involved in the Gaza flotilla from leaving Greek ports. These actions, he said “serve(s) as an example for the entire international community.” “Greece’s actions to stop these ships from using Greek ports as a launching point will help prevent the public confrontation with Israeli naval authorities.”
Until recently, Greece had been considered a supporter of the “Palestinian cause.” P.M. Papandreou’s actions preventing the departure of ships has garnered praise throughout the Greek American community. Greek American business man and philanthropist John Catsimatidis, responded to the Algemeiner’s request for comment saying “I am so glad the Greek Government is Supporting Israel. We Don’t need more Guns & Munitions in Gaza.” Professor Prof. Asher J. Matathias, a Jewish member of Greek American community, praised the “timely intercession by the Greek government” calling its actions “another important milestone in the ongoing rapprochement between Greece and Israel… at once forthrightly positive, and overlaid with the omen for further national benefits.” Matathias, President of the Long Island B’nai Brith Lodge, called the events, an “unexpected turn in the good fortunes of mutual collaboration between Greece and Israel.”
Richard B. Stone, Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish organizations applauded “The resolve demonstrated by Prime Minister [George] Papendreou and Minister for Citizen Protection [Christos] Papoutsis, who announced the ban, to halt this incendiary challenge to Israel’s legal maritime blockade sets an example of strong moral and political leadership for the international community. It also reflects the fundamental values shared by Greece and the United States.
B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs and Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin expressed the organization’s gratitude to Greek Ambassador Vassilis Kaskarelis for stemming the flotilla’s ability to create a provocation, saying “Only with a return to negotiations, without preconditions, can the peace process hope to succeed. Diversions and provocations, such as those planned by the flotilla’s organizers, are surely not that path.”
Attention is also called to the actions of the Turkish government which has refused to grant permission to the Mavi Marmara to sail, a Turkish flag vessel, resulting in its withdrawal from the flotilla.