By Miriam Bell…

The boats sailing to Gaza are a violation of international law, a cynical provocation and a public relations stunt combined with anti-Semitism, the Embassy of Israel in New Zealand says.

The Embassy has released a statement after Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson called Israel’s blockade of Gaza illegal.

Davidson was commenting on Israel’s detention of a New Zealand union leader, Mike Treen, who was on a fishing boat in the latest so-called “Freedom Flotilla” sailing towards Gaza.

The boat Treen was on was stopped by the Israeli Defence Forces, and those on it were detained and taken to the southern Israeli port of Ashod.

A pre-recorded message from Treen, which claimed he had been “kidnapped by the Israeli Navy”, was then published on his blog.

The message also called for Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters to demand that the Israeli government immediately release all flotilla participants and ensure their cargo of medical aid is promptly delivered to Gaza.

Treen subsequently claimed that he was “repeatedly tasered” in Israeli custody. He has now been released from Israeli custody and is on his way back to New Zealand.

Davidson, who herself was detained by the IDF when participating in a similar flotilla in 2016, called on the government to condemn Israel’s ongoing blockade of Gaza.

She claims the blockade has been deemed illegal by the United Nations and has created a deepening humanitarian crisis as Palestinians in Gaza have limited access to vital resources like water, food, power and medical supplies.

“This is why the peace flotillas attempts to break the blockade are so important. Bringing international attention to this gross injustice is essential.”

However, the Embassy of Israel has strongly rebutted Davidson’s claims.

In its statement, the Embassy says the flotilla to Gaza is in direct violation of international law while the naval blockade is legal and in accordance with international law.

It also says the flotilla is a cynical publicity stunt designed to divert the attention from the fact that Hamas, with its brutal ruling of Gaza since 2007, invested in terror instead of the welfare of its people.

“By imposing the legal naval blockade, Israel is exercising its right to self-defense by aiming to prevent the illegal smuggling of arms to Hamas, a world-recognized terror organization (including by New Zealand) that is sworn to Israel’s destruction and had turned Gaza into a terror center.

“Make no mistake, Hamas attacks Israeli civilians on a regular basis and the flotilla to Gaza will not promote peace or assist the Palestinian people – it will only inflame the situation in the region.

“In fact, humanitarian aid is already provided to Gaza through Israel in vast quantities making the boats unnecessary.”

The Embassy says that the cynical public relations stunt, which is endorsed by extremist groups such as Kia Ora Gaza, is first and foremost motivated by hatred and anti-Semitism and does not contribute to the promotion of a possible constructive engagement between the parties.