At 8:30 a.m. Pacific Standard Time, official Israeli Prime Minister Spokesperson Mark Regev discussed the current voyage of Free Gaza boat “Spirit of Humanity” with Free Gaza co-founder Paul Larudee. Larudee was seeking assurance that Israel would not harm the boat or prevent it from entering Gaza with medical supplies and personnel, as well journalists and human rights workers. The boat is currently at sea, heading for Gaza. Israel is threatening to use “all available means” to stop the boat. On Dec. 30, an Israel gunboat rammed and almost sank a previous boat. Here is a rough, reconstructed transcript of the conversation:
Larudee: Hello, Mark? This is Paul Larudee, calling from California about the boat going from Cyprus to Gaza with medical supplies and personnel on board. [audible moan from Mark] The Israeli government has threatened to use "all available means" to stop the boat. I would like your assurances that the boat will not be attacked or prevented from completing its mission.
Regev: This boat is not really about humanitarian aid. The Free Gaza Movement is a group of Hamas sympathizers. The aid that they are carrying is less than half of what is carried by even one of the more than 1000 trucks that Israel has allowed into Gaza since the start of the military campaign.
Larudee: But Mark, what is the harm in letting the boat through?
Regev: If these people want to free Gaza, let them free Gaza from Hamas. Do you know how Hamas treats its own people? [ensuing diatribe about Hamas]
Larudee: I'm not sure I agree with you on all points, Mark...
Regev: This is not an opinion. These are facts. How can you dispute facts?
Larudee: Mark, I'm not going to argue with you about this. I will concede all of this, because I'm asking something else. The boat has doctors and medical aid aboard and has been inspected by the Cypriot government. What is the harm for it to go to Gaza?
Regev: The Israeli government reserves all options, but the harm is that this is propaganda for Hamas.
Larudee: Mark, you will remember that on the very first voyage by Free Gaza in August, you announced that Israel had decided not to interfere because you knew that it was not a security threat, and to interfere would provide a propaganda victory for the group. Why is this situation any different?
Regev: I'm not sure that we will do the same this time. It is a different situation.
Larudee: Well, Israel did nothing stop the next four voyages and then one of your gunboats rammed the last one...
Regev: We dispute that version of events...
Larudee: OK, in any case the boat was heavily damaged somehow, and we are hoping that Israel will do what it can to make sure that nothing like that happens again. It is a war crime to attack a civilian target and a violation of the Geneva accords to prevent humanitarian aid from reaching war victims.
Regev: Israel doesn't commit war crimes, and we always follow international law.
Larudee: Mark, I know you're loyal to your government, and I wish I could be as sure of that as you are. I just want to be sure that the boat will be safe and will reach its destination.
Regev: I can assure you that Israel will respect international law.
Larudee: Oh, Mark! This is wonderful news! That is exactly what I was hoping to hear. Thank you so much. I feel so much better now. I'm going to take this as a very good sign that the boat will get through.
Regev: Yes, well thank you for calling.
Larudee: Thank you, Mark.