This is a guest post by Martin In The Margins
What on earth is a Catholic archbishop doing, blessing the latest attempt to break the Gaza blockade? According to The Guardian an all-female Lebanese aid ship, the Mariam, named after the mother of Jesus, will set out shortly from Beirut. Apparently Christian and Muslim activists ‘gathered yesterday near a statue of the Virgin Mary at Maghdousha in south Lebanon’ for the archbishop’s blessing.
Lending a spiritual veneer to this kind of venture seems completely inappropriate, since its intentions are clearly military-political, designed to break a defensive blockade imposed by a neighbouring state, and at the same time overtly propagandist. In the wake of the original flotilla fiasco, the aim of this new mission is surely to provoke another incident and to heap further international calumny on Israel. Sending an all-woman crew seems cynically designed to increase the PR value of the initiative. The organisers must know that there is zero chance of the Miriam being allowed to dock in Gaza, and every chance of embarrassing media images of Israeli soldiers forcibly removing female activists from the ship.
Hizbullah denies any involvement in the mission, but doubt has been cast on this claim by news that it has vetoed the involvement of Lebanese singer Haifa Wehbe, on the grounds that her reputation for ‘nudity, degradation and immodest dress’ would damage the reputations of the other women on board.
If the Catholic church in Lebanon were really motivated by humanitarian sympathy, it would support the work of the NGOs already working in Gaza, or send aid by legitimate means via Israel (as many as 100 trucks a day cross from Israel into Gaza carrying humanitarian aid). In blessing the Miriam, the archbishop is either naively allowing himself to be used for propagandist ends, or worse, indulging in dangerous political meddling.