After a wave of international flotillas laden with humanitarian supplies for Gaza were headed off by Israeli forces, with one standoff resulting in nine deaths, Mahfouz Kabariti had a new idea: a reverse flotilla that would carry symbolic Gazan exports like embroidery, carpets, and dates to foreign customers.
Gazans need “trade not aid,” says the dapper Mr. Kabariti as he polishes his glasses at an open-air restaurant in Gaza City. The vast Mediterranean stretches into the distance behind him, a seemingly open portal to the world.
But since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, Israel has enforced a strict naval blockade off Gaza’s coast, citing security concerns such as ships carrying Iranian-supplied weapons to Hamas, which is designated as a terrorist group by Israel, the US, and Europe. The blockade has put the kibosh on exporting anything from Gaza by sea, and only very limited exports are allowed by land through the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom crossing, stymieing Gaza’s manufacturing potential.
“If Israel is telling the truth that they have not occupied since 2005, they will allow the ship out,” says Kabariti, head of the Palestine Association for Fishing and Marine Sports. He plans to have “Gaza’s Ark” ready by the end of summer. “If not, they are a liar; this is collective punishment and it’s against international law.”