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Malta sinking killed hundreds fleeing Gaza

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This is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.

Time – and the news – moves on. Quickly. So, with the war over, Gaza remains in the news but off the front pages. ISIS has now taken the lead.

Still every now and then an interesting reminder of the Gaza war surfaces. In this case, by drowning. At first it seemed that the boat deliberately sunk off the Malta coast last week was another case of human trafficking gone from bad to worse. Horrible but unrelated to Israel/Palestine. Now reports have it that 250-300 of as many as 500 drowned were refugees from Gaza. They were attempting to escape what is left of the prison walls in Gaza.

So says the EUobserver in a narrative that is a fitting continuation of Israel’s war on Gaza – without leaving out the world’s complicity in the war and its aftermath. As well, it is a story of corruption all around. Refugees trying to escape by sea can expect little else:

The Palestinian survivors told the International Organisation for Migration they paid a “travel office” in Gaza $2,000 each using money from grants to rebuild their homes.

Haaretz reports, citing one anonymous people smuggler, that some people pay up to $4,000. They enter Egypt through tunnels under the Rafah crossing point, where buses take them to safe houses in Egypt.

The sea crossing to Europe [from Damietta, Egypt] can take a week because they are forced to keep changing boats.

The smugglers bribe Egyptian officials. They also have agents in south Europe who help migrants get out of detention facilities. Some tell the Palestinians to claim they are Syrians fleeing the civil war.

The survivors told the IOM that their boat was deliberately rammed by smugglers in waters south of Malta on 11 September when the migrants refused to board a smaller vessel.

“After they hit our boat they waited to make sure that it had sunk completely before leaving. They were laughing”, one survivor said.

Some people floated in the sea for three days before bad weather set in. One survivor who made it to Crete was a two-year old girl.

Is this what the European Union meant by the sea route it proposed during one of the many Gaza war ceasefires? If you remember the EU hoped that in lieu of the seaport Gaza was demanding Israel might allow Gazans – under heavy security of course – to travel from Gaza to Cyprus by sea.

There isn’t much being reported on the seaport. Apparently, Gazans aren’t waiting any longer. They’re trying to get out any way they can.

A Gaza resident contemplating making the same voyage in a few weeks remarked: “We are thinking: It’s better to try and to drown in the sea than to stay at home and be killed by Israeli bombs.”

Even with the obvious danger, it’s hard to argue against the only sea route likely to open for Gazans who survived Israel’s onslaught.

Ceasefire in place, Gaza remains under siege. By land – and sea.

Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is Professor of History and Jewish Studies and Director of the Center for the Study of the Global Prophetic. His latest book is Finding Our Voice: Embodying the Prophetic and Other Misadventures.

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30 Responses

  1. amigo on September 17, 2014, 11:27 am

    “A Gaza resident contemplating making the same voyage in a few weeks remarked: “We are thinking: It’s better to try and to drown in the sea than to stay at home and be killed by Israeli bombs.”

    Nothing to do with Israel.

    They chose to leave.

    Hey , dust off that “Absentee Law” .

  2. Kay24 on September 17, 2014, 11:32 am

    The reality is sad. The world did nothing while these poor people were slaughtered, in fact the US even handed over MORE deadly weapons to the killers so that they can continue their massacre, and now the victims are fleeing hell, and still the world does nothing but watches.

    Exactly WHEN will someone step in and hold these ruthless zionist responsible? The US is an enabler, so who then, and when will enough be enough?

    • Gene Shae on September 18, 2014, 8:03 pm

      Perhaps you missed the part that 500 people were killed by non-Israelis?

      • Kay24 on September 19, 2014, 9:12 am

        I willfully miss parts, knowing you are there to point it out when you obviously disagree with comments. :))

      • Gene Shae on September 19, 2014, 5:16 pm

        Kay, I like that humorous response!

  3. Denis on September 17, 2014, 1:52 pm

    This is exactly GoI’s intended consequence of Cast Lead, Pillar of SomethingOrOther, Protective Edge, and whatever new one will come in mid-2015: produce so much killing and misery that rational Gazans are driven to consider drowning at sea as a valid alternative to staying in Gaza. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think any single bomb or attack during PE killed that many Palestinians.

    The article doesn’t tell us how many Gazans have fled since the attack began. But one senses that this operation is up and running big time. There were 300 in one boat? How many boats have already left?

    Those tunnels under Rafah will stay open as long as it takes to empty Gaza. GoI will put up neon “Exit” signs over the tunnel entrances next.

    Once Gaza is cleared, which won’t take long, the IDF will begin pounding the West Bank. Picking off unarmed Palestinians one at a time is not that effective; besides, individual killings produce more blow-back than killing 1000-2000 at a pop.

    • ivri on September 17, 2014, 5:24 pm

      “Once Gaza is cleared, which won`t take long”
      There are a million and 800 hundred thousand people there. Suppose 50, 000 leave so what`s the impact?
      The truth is that they don`t need to leave at all – just change orientation and leadership. Hamas was elected democratically (even if don`t act democratically), which means that it was the Gazans free choice. It is their turn now to change course and don`t allow spending their money on military adventures but rather on civil development projects. In that case there will be no siege of course and a meaningful potential for economic development. They would not be the first in History to make this direction change and with that move from disaster to normalcy.
      A second comment: there are also masses of illegal immigrants from other countries in the region trying to enter Europe by sea.

      • CDWard on September 17, 2014, 7:55 pm

        Israel is never going to lift the siege because it wants all of the Palestinian’s land and the Palestinians removed or killed.

      • Denis on September 17, 2014, 10:53 pm

        Let’s see if I’ve got you right, ivri. . . the Gazans occupy land that is theirs historically and is theirs in the eyes of the UN and all of the world, except GoI and USG. And your point is that if the Gazans want to remain on their land without being repeatedly attacked by GoI all they have to do is “just change orientation and leadership” — presumably in a way that is acceptable to Israelis, who exist as Israelis only because they stole the land they occupy from the Palestinians.

        Those who believe might makes right, will likely agree with you. Those of us who believe that right will eventually prevail and the Israelis will pay the price of their brutal and bloody subjugation of the Palestinians will likely disagree with you.

        The history of Palestine will be determined by whether the Israelis can eradicate of the Palestinians before Americans wake up to what is happening.

      • talknic on September 18, 2014, 11:44 am

        @ ivri “The truth is that they don`t need to leave at all – just change orientation and leadership”

        Terrorism is by definition violence against civilians in order to have them change their chosen leadership.

  4. annie on September 17, 2014, 2:24 pm

    250-300 of as many as 500 drowned were refugees from Gaza. – See more at:

    500 people drowned? omg, this is hideous. this is mass murder on the high seas if it came down the way it was described in the article.

    • Kay24 on September 17, 2014, 4:45 pm

      The indirect result of the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza. This number should be added to the huge toll that resulted from that massacre. Israel is responsible for this terrible tragedy, but this too may be blamed on Hamas.

    • American on September 17, 2014, 6:31 pm

      I read about yesterday and posted a link…article said 10,000 Gazans fled Gaza.

  5. ritzl on September 17, 2014, 2:48 pm


    • Gene Shae on September 19, 2014, 7:46 pm

      You are a sick-sick woman

      • ritzl on September 22, 2014, 7:28 pm

        Well that may be, except for the woman part, but my definition of sick is killing their families so they are forced to flee AND doing everything in your power to prevent them from doing so AND even when they find a way they face murder by trafficker.

        The result is just more “lawn” to be “mowed” in a few years (which means more kids to be killed as the world watches Israelis cheer it on).

        It’s sadistic in the EXTREME.

        Even the Jewish kids in the ’30s were given a relatively safe out given enough bribes.

        My take of this most vile episode in this conflict is more than suppress Palestinian identity, more than criminalize it globally, the Israelis simply want to contain any dispersion of it and kill Palestinians until they no longer call themselves Palestinian. I mean if they want to leave, why not encourage that? There are simply ZERO answers to that question.

        So I guess I’m sick because I’m sick of it.

  6. just on September 17, 2014, 3:50 pm

    Refugees fleeing from their refugee prison.

    Never free. Never safe.

    Israel and its adherents have no soul.

    • seafoid on September 17, 2014, 5:00 pm

      They often justify the foundation of Israel by mentioning the thousands of stateless Jewish refugees who were kept in DP camps by the allies after WW2.
      And that is the limit of their humanity. Hypocrisy is no replacement.

  7. seafoid on September 17, 2014, 5:17 pm

    The children of Gaza have bleak horizons. About 60,000 houses were damaged of which 20,000 are uninhabitable. Even before the current violence 71,000 homes needed repair or rebuilding. The public infrastructure on which they depend has been eroded by years of blockade with water, sewage and electricity systems decimated further by the latest violence. The neighborhoods where the children of Gaza once played lie in ruins, their recreational spaces littered with unexploded Israeli ordnance, which must be cleared before recovery can begin in earnest. The majority of Gaza’s 110,000 homeless people are children.

    “But all that would require real negotiations on a Palestinian state. Without that, the wolf of Isis will appear at Israeli and Palestinian doors sooner or later, turning these futile contests almost into wistful memories.”

    Gaza is Zionism’s black hole. Whatever moral purpose Israel ever had has been lost down it.

  8. seafoid on September 17, 2014, 5:54 pm

    This is a new low for Israel, like the Abu Khdeir murder was.
    The cruel logic of Zionism, where Palestinians are not even human. Never expect a floor.

    • Gene Shae on September 19, 2014, 7:45 pm

      What does a group of human traffickers sinking a ship have to do with Zionists? Even if there were no Gazans on the ship, this would have happened anyway.
      The knee-jerks on here make the comment section fairly useless.

      • talknic on September 20, 2014, 2:12 am

        @ Gene Shae “What does a group of human traffickers sinking a ship have to do with Zionists?”

        They were fleeing the onslaught of the Zionist Movement‘s state.

        “Even if there were no Gazans on the ship, this would have happened anyway”

        Speculation can be fun, you can say absolutely anything. The fact is there WERE people from Gaza, who WERE fleeing the onslaught of the Zionist Movement’s state

      • Gene Shae on September 20, 2014, 10:55 am

        Talk, your response elicits a great head shake. The facts are that 500 people were killed in an at-sea tragedy where human smugglers killed them in cold blood. Among those people are two-three dozen who left the totalitarianism Hamas ruling for a better quality of life. Perhaps some of them spoke up for Gay or women’s rights and needed to flee, but that is speculation. Anyway, the only remorse for this tragedy that I read here (safe for Annie) is exclusively for the Gazans and the blame is 100% for Isrsel who has *nothing* direct or indirect with this tragedy.
        This is why your victim narrative is just intellectually false and unappealing

  9. a blah chick on September 18, 2014, 3:00 pm

    Is there any chance that some of the Gaza orphans can be adopted by Palestinians families in Israel or the West Bank?

  10. Dima on September 22, 2014, 9:41 pm

    Hi guys, Im israeli from telaviv (russian origin.. but it doesn’t matter..)
    I’ve never participated in any discussions about Gaza, but this time it’s overkill :( I am embarrassed from the fact I live in israel. I’m really embarrassed to passively participate this crap…. i never thought ‘we’ can kill thousands of people just like that. it’s crazy :( … also i never knew there are 2 millions of people there. i thought gaza is a small city that consists of 80% terrorists, and 20% mothers of terrorists who are happy when her son explodes killing jews. this is the picture we all have in mind, in israel. so, looking at google map and trying to realize “2 fkn million??? here??” i thought “isn’t it obvious now why they fight back? they have no future and no present, what else they gonna do in their spare time, if not fight back? its obvious…”

    if i was born there and grow up.. guess what would be my profession in Gaza? :D , correct .. i’d be a rocket f*king scientist….

    how other israeli citizens don’t realize that it’s impossible for 2 million people to normally live in such conditions? Gaza is obviously a f***g ghetto. I don’t get it, why are ‘we’ doing that to these people? why Gaza can’t just merge with israel and be just another city where they can join our country, work, study, buy land back. we are new generation. we don’t like to see others suffer so let’s forget the past and try build a new future? will palestinians agree if we open the gates and let them be part of what is now ‘israel’ ? israel has 1 million muslims, arabs, that live among us, work with us, party with us [though i don’t like them much, they’re a bit rude. but i don’t care if they’re around, overall they don’t do any harm, we sometimes have to work together, in warehouses, building construction, etc’ so i don’t hate them, we get along totally ok, russians, israelis, sudanians(who joined us lately :D),and arabs] )

    so, after this first long comment, which is 10% of what i want to ask\say :) , what do you people think, can it be a solution to open the doors and let gaza join israel?

  11. Dima on September 22, 2014, 9:56 pm

    And yes, i can’t deny the fact that from small pieces of information that i read (im not a fan of politics, im an IT guy, pretty busy all my life), seems like israel is kinda the wrong side initially, because the land given to us by brits who were the ‘legal’ owners then, was smaller than what we expanded now (again its hard to tell who’s legal, and who not.. did brits had the right to ‘give us’ this piece of land. in world of wars, where nations conquer others, empires rise and fall, we can say that the ‘legal’ ones are also those who took control by force and kept it. [coz they worked hard to build the army, were courageous enough to go conquer] this is laws of nature, of our world right now, maybe it will change in future)

    so, yeah, it kinda sucks – they give us small piece of land. then all arab countries tried to take it from us, they lost, we took some more land coz of this. and then again couple times.
    but hey, we did give back the sinai to egypt! if i was the general i would not give it back :( look at all the land.. how many solar power plants we could build there :( .

    • annie on September 23, 2014, 12:51 am

      in world of wars, where nations conquer others, empires rise and fall, we can say that the ‘legal’ ones are also those who took control by force and kept it.

      you can type whatever you want, but it won’t make it true. you can’t say ” the ‘legal’ ones are also those who took control by force and kept it”, that is actually against international law.

      this is laws of nature, of our world right now

      it may be “your world” but it’s a neanderthal reality and it’s definitely not considered ‘legal’ by the international community (hence, no one will place their embassy in unilaterally annexed jerusalem (against international law) nor recognize the territory of occupied east jerusalem as part of israel, since it’s in the WB, palestine.)

      for someone who claims to not be a ‘fan of politics’ how did you end up on this political website spouting well worn hasbara/colonialist/zionist/reality-denying talking pts? do tell.

      ps, you might want to check up on the history, the brits didn’t ‘give’ anyone the land. and since this thread is almost a week old it’s likely hardly any commenters here will read your comments anytime soon.

  12. Dima on September 22, 2014, 10:10 pm

    oh, also i must say that i feel right now both sides are pretty guilty, while israel is 80% guilty and gazans about 20%.. israel is totally wrong by letting this people get to the point they prefer to fight and die, instead living happy lives with their families. i think any ‘hasbara’ guy will agree with me that no-one is born as terrorist, right? we do have love in our hearts when we are born.

    but letting 2 million people live in a ghetto really sucks, i wonder if all those generations of our politics had brains at all or zombies ate them on their way to knesset? :O

    and one last thing: so ok, we israelis are bitches right now, i agree, we’re like nazis to them… BUT why the so-caring arab countries don’t let palestinians immigrate to their so-very-caring-lovely own countries (egyps, saudi, qatar, libya, jordan, iran, lebanon, whatever, all of them) ?? WHY DO PALESTINIANS FROM GAZA HAVE TO TRY FLEE TO “M-A-L-T-A” and not flee to nearest friendly-lovely egypt? yes we israel are enemies and bastards, 100%, im one of those bastards, but WHY poor people in gaza try to reach MALTA instead of any super-friendly-brother-arabs country??? this is a mystery for me… real mystery, and i’ll be super happy if anyone could explain it.

    thanks. god bless u all.

    • annie on September 23, 2014, 12:42 am

      egypt is partners w/US/IS. it’s another dictator in the grip of US imperialism. but most palestinians are not trying to immigrate somewhere else. they have sumud and will remain in palestine. .

  13. Dima on September 23, 2014, 2:05 pm

    hey, didn’t even expected someone to reply. thanks Annie.
    i don’t really see how you recognized any ‘hasbara’ in my text when i wrote mostly against myself and my country :D but whatever.
    i do agree however that israel force used lately, and overall situation is ugly.

    and why i ended up here if i’m not fan of politics, is that i got mail about sinking boat from some petition site, avaaz or similar, that wanted me to sign some kind of ‘free gaza’ petition.
    so i googled to read the full story, that’s it.

    by the way Annie, may i invite you to israel, and we go together protest at entrance of knesset against war crimes?
    or you’re best at talking? (typing from comfort of your sofa, feeling to smart and proud)

    if you’re interested, PM me with your mail, we can meet here think together about how we can help the situation, instead discussing it showing how smart and ‘full of justice’ we are.

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