Solidarity with the Palestinians is unquestionable in Lebanon, if not for political reasons then it is for human rights. Lebanese activists, political scientists and civilians have more than once clearly stated their support of a free, independent Palestinian state. Nevertheless, solidarity and emotions do not shape political strategies. For better or for worse, Lebanon is in a state of war with Israel and thus such emotions of support should be channeled, if not filtered, by this hegemonic state of affairs with Israel.
Israel’s announcement that it will ease the blockade on the Gaza Strip allowing food, medical supplies, and other determined goods to enter the territory is acclaimed by the whole world and has triggered a chain of positive support to the Palestinians by unleashing a series of ships bound to Gaza. The latter decision comes after a tragic event, which ironically, was a great catalyst as well in easing the blockade. The Turkish flotilla ship was transformed from an aid ship to a “liberating” one, from a victim to a hero. This event in itself prompted various political leaders to call for more ships to sail in the name of the Palestinian people, of whom was Hizbullah’s leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.
This said, the call for more ships was welcomed by activists who were previously reluctant or unable to sail to Gaza. This wave of uncontrolled support resulted in the creation of “Julia” a ship dubbed later “Naji al-Ali” in memory of a Palestinian artist killed by Israel in 1987. The Lebanese Foreign Ministry allowed the Gaza-bound ship to sail from Lebanese ports to Cyprus. On a day where Israel and Lebanon will have signed a peace treaty, such a ship would be much welcomed and would represent nothing but a constant and unwavering support from Lebanon to the people of Palestine. Yet in a state of war such act cannot and should not be allowed by a democratic, accountable, and responsible governmental entity. The government is bound by its Constitution and by international law and should uphold the Lebanese nation, not jeopardize it. The 1949 Armistice Agreement was violated and is considered today, null, and all United Nations Security Council Resolutions clearly outline the state of war that presides between the two parties of Lebanon and Israel.
Assuming that it is sent with the best of intention to provide food and supplies to people who are in desperate need, the ship carries along with it a controversial political explanation. According to Cypriot papers, the Cypriot Authorities declared that it will not allow the Lebanese Gaza-bound ship to dock in Cypriot ports as it put in motion a ban of such ships weeks ago, on the other hand, under international law, Lebanon should not engage in any activity that might be perceived as an act of hostility.
Although both ships, Mariam and Naji al-Ali, can be cleared by Lebanese law with respect to their cargo, and passengers, AFP quoted Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak considering the Lebanese government responsible for any “violent and dangerous confrontation” emanating from its vessels sailing to Gaza.
The regional context is in particular turmoil at the moment with an unstable balance of power, new key players such as Turkey, and a new Israeli satellite launched a few hours ago. A single word, misinterpreted or erroneously used by the passengers could escalate the already existing tensions into a disproportionate and catastrophic reaction. Lebanon and Lebanese can show their support by sending food and supplies under the patronage of other countries. This will not be considered as an act of cowardice but a responsible on from a government that wants to safeguard its nation and territory, and yet show its support to a cause that it upholds. Lebanon is in a state of war with Israel, unlike the Turkish flotilla dubbed as a hero now, Lebanese ships can become mere reasons for yet another Lebanese-Israeli summer war.
Published in the Daily Star