Friday, August 8, 2008

Gaza siege, security concerns or collective punishment?

Among the peace activists who are to break the Gaza siege are Lauren Booth, British journalist and the sister-in-law of former UK PM Tony Blair.

The following is Lauren's interview with Press TV:

Q: Any chance the Israeli authorities are going to let you through so that you can break the blockade of Gaza?

A: Well interestingly yesterday on the BBC, one of the diplomats from Israel said under no circumstances will any of these ships be allowed to arrive in Gaza. And really, that was a mistake, a diplomatic error on his part of Israel because it shows that security questions are not the reason they are blockading the sea and the lands and the air around Gaza.

It appears to be a collective punishment for the 1.5 million civilians living there and to say that you won't let any boats in even when all security measures have been met, which they have been, and will be - that was a mistake.

Q: At the moment, the reports I have say the Israeli foreign ministry is following developments. So, as far as you are hearing they are saying no at the moment?

A: The people here, the organizers believe that it is very likely that there will be an interception at sea by the Israeli navy. But everybody on this boat, the journalists included, sincerely hope that we will get through because let's remember that 80 percent of Gazans have been forced into poverty and rely on aid. They need this source open and they need the world to start taking their human rights seriously.

Q: Are you getting full support from the Cypriot government?

A: The Cypriot government has agreed because the ships have passed customs checks, so they have agreed that they should be allowed to sail.

Q: You are getting quite a lot of the attention being the sister of Nora, the wife of the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Did you ask, in fact, whether the present envoy of the Quartet would come along on your attempt to break the blockade of Gaza?

A: You know it's a really good idea, and I'd like to take this chance and invite Tony Blair as the Middle East envoy to come onto the boat or to sail alongside us and come and see Gaza for himself because I've been there and sadly recently he has not. And if he were to go, he'd see that for shops, of course, Israel only allows nine basic materials instead of the 200 needed to maintain the society. It's his job to be going, not mine. Why isn't he there?

Q: Describe who else is on board with you.

A: There are some fantastic people here. There is Hedy Epstein. She is an 82-year-old Holocaust survivor. She is a human rights activist full of energy, very keen to see justice in Palestine.

We have Sister Ann Montgomery, Catholic nun, 81.

There are campaigners who are 22 years old, mothers, parents, attorneys, doctors, all from around the world. I am very proud to be spending time with these people.

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