Greek consulate, governor confirm ‘powerful’ pressure on Greece led to flotilla ban

For the past few days, speculation has run rampant that the Greek government, presiding over a country in dire economic straits, was heavily pressured into issuing an order that banned the “Freedom Flotilla” ships from sailing out towards Gaza.  And while the extent and details of that pressure remain unknown, two official sources from the Greek government have now confirmed that heavy pressure was put on Greece.

Greece, for its part, has claimed that the ban on flotilla ships leaving their ports was issued because of “the need to protect national interests” and the “immediate dangers to human life posed by the attempt to break the blockade.”

The first confirmation came via a Jewish Voice for Peace tweet, which announced that someone from New York’s Greek consulate told a caller that the U.S. government “ordered” Greece not to let the U.S. Boat to Gaza sail out of a Greek port.  According to the caller, the U.S. State Department had nothing to say when asked about the Greek consulate’s comment.

The second confirmation came today, when a reporter from the Guardian interviewed the provincial governor of the Ionian islands, which includes Corfu, a Greek island from where a flotilla ship is waiting to set sail for Gaza.  Jack Shenker reports:

The flotilla activists have always claimed they had local political support for their mission, and from what [Spiros] Spirou, [the provincial governor], told me it appears that they’re right. In open defiance of his political bosses in Athens, Spirou told the Guardian and al-Jazeera that he “admires and supports the activists’ struggle” and would make no attempt to stop their boat from making a break for international waters if it chose to do so.

But the local coastguard don’t come under Spirou’s control, and the decision from the central Greek government to stop any flotilla vessels from leaving port appears increasingly irreversible. “Greece loves peace, but at this moment it can’t confront more powerful economic forces,” said the governor. He confirmed that official attempts to tie the flotilla up in bureaucracy and paperwork were merely a pretext for preventing it from sailing at all.

“The ban has come from the ministries in Athens and I have no responsibility for it at all – I’ve tried to get in contact with them and get an explanation but I have not been able to get through,” he insisted. “Right now Greece is in crisis and decisions have been taken at an international level.”

Right now, Greece would be extremely vulnerable to any type of economic pressure, and would welcome all the help it gets–even from Israel, a country that Greece has had historically chilly relations with.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly “implor[ed]” Greek’s leader to “issue an order preventing ships from disembarking from Greece toward the Gaza Strip,” as Haaretz‘s Barak Ravid reported on July 1.  Netanyahu has curried enormous favor with Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou for “imploring” the European Union (EU) to bail out Greece, and, most likely, any Greek passivity surrounding the second “Freedom Flotilla” was thrown to the wind due to Israel’s help with the EU bailout.  And since the Israeli raid on the Turkish Mavi Marmara last year, economic, political and military links between Israel and Greece–the traditional rival of Turkey–have strengthened.

Huwaida Arraf, the chair of the Free Gaza Movement, further confirmed the enormous pressure on Greece in an interview yesterday with Al Jazeera‘s Inside Story.  She said:

Some inside sources have been telling us.  We have a lot of parliamentarians, European parliamentarians, that are part of our initiative, and they have been engaging in discussions with their Greek counterparts.  We have been told that an enormous amount of pressure has come to bear on Greece, not only from the Israelis, but by Israel’s undying supporter the United States, and also by other European Union states that have also been shamefully silent and have done nothing to force Israel to lift its shameful blockade on Gaza or to end Israel’s illegal policies.

While there was some talk before today of other boats sailing out of Greece, the Greek Coast Guard has now taken over the Canadian boat to Gaza after they attempted to sail for international waters.  “Coast guard used water cannons then borded the #tahrir with m16’s and took the wheel room from the driver at gun point,” tweeted Jesse Rosenfeld, a journalist aboard the Tahrir, the name of the Canadian boat.

It appears, as American-Israeli journalist Joseph Dana tweeted, that “It is over. The #flotilla2 has been stopped by the Greek government.”

8 responses to “Greek consulate, governor confirm ‘powerful’ pressure on Greece led to flotilla ban

  1. Pingback: Detailed Information on the Sabotage to the MV Saoirse « KADAITCHA

  2. Pingback: Greek consulate, governor confirm ‘powerful’ pressure on Greece led to flotilla ban

  3. Alex:

    I read your post, but I’m still waiting for your evidence of powerful pressure leading to the flotilla ban. You write that you have three bits of evidence: 1) a JVP tweet concerning an anonymous person in the Greek consulate in NYC making a vague statement to another anonymous person about pressure from the U.S. on Greece; 2) a local government official in Greece saying that he supports the flotilla but doesn’t control the Greek Coast Guard, and stating that he believes that the decision was made “at an international level”; and 3) the word of Huwaida Arraf, a flotilla organizer, who says that she was told by other anonymous people that international pressure compelled Greece’s actions. How do any of those bits of information “confirm powerful pressure on Greece”? They raise questions that you may wish to try to answer, but it’s more than a stretch to say they answer those questions. Care to clarify this? I’m left feeling that your headline concerning “confirmation” is deceptive.

    Why don’t any of your three sources indicate who told them about the pressure, what form the pressure took, and why they believe it to be true? All you have is rumors masquerading as news. Do you honestly consider this to be “confirmation”?

  4. Jaime Omar Yassin

    I have a problem with this narrative. Calling it ‘enormous pressure’ seems like a good rhetorical tactic. But it doesn’t explain why Greece took advantage of the diplomatic break between Turkey and Israel last year to get closer to Israel diplomatically and economically. Surely, the Greeks understood the faustian bargain they were entering into, and they seemed to have jumped into it feet first anyway. They obviously also knew that they would be asked to help Israel out on tasks like this as well.

    Calling it pressure, diminishes the reality that state leaders are establishment actors. They do business with one another, they’re all in the same club. While it may isolate Israel in the short term, and that may be of some value in pushing forward on our issue, in the long term I see us constantly turning to the states of the world that have horrible records of imperialism, cronyism and corruption as our “friends”. It always comes back to haunt us, I think.

  5. It’s shame for the entire world and especially for so called democratic world or civilised world and secondly for the entiree Muslim world. That a terrorist country like Israel has become the world most powerful nation.

  6. Collusion is a better word. Nevertheless The flotilla mission is a great success.Israel provided pro bono publicity for its sinking reputation- not only capable of crushing Gazan families and war crimes, but capable of cynically exploiting a desperate Greece down on its financial knees to act as its proxy to prevent a handful of peaceful activists from sailing to Gaza. Now Israel has expanded its colonial checkpoints to Greek ports and European airports announcing its stranglehold on human and civil rights there.

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