This posting contains three articles
Gaza’s flotilla organizers announce that they plan to start their trip on Thursday from the coast of Crete
AFP , 27.06.11
Pro-Palestinian activists from 22 countries plan to set sail in an international flotilla for Gaza from the coast of Crete on Thursday or Friday, organisers said Monday.
¨Thursday or Friday, nine or 10 boats should meet up in the Libyan Gulf,¨ Vaguelis Pissias, one of the Greek organisers of the flotilla, said at a press conference with representatives from the international organisations involved. ¨We really hope that despite the pressure from Israel and other countries, the Greek authorities are not going to stop us leaving,” he added.
Organisers of the ¨Freedom flotilla¨ complained that the Greek authorities were creating ¨administrative obstacles¨ amid pressure from Israel to stop the campaigners from attempting to defy the five-year blockade of the Gaza Strip.
The departure has also been complicated by local politics, with transport strikes planned for this week as frustrated Greeks protest against harsh austerity reforms being voted on by the government of the debt-ridden country.
Several of the boats taking part — including two cargo ships carrying three thousand tonnes of aid such as medicines and cement — will set off from Greek ports, while others plan to join them out at sea, organisers said.
On Monday, Israel’s security cabinet ordered its marines to prepare to stop the international flotilla from entering Gaza, but said they should avoid confrontation with the activists on board.
Despite warnings from the United States, France and Greece not to take part, 350 activists including artists, writers and Swedish, French, Norwegian and Spanish members of parliament, are hoping to draw attention to Gaza’s plight.
A similar operation in May last year ended in violence when Israeli commandos seized the flotilla’s flagship, the Mavi Marmara, leaving nine dead.
This year, French, Italian, Irish, Spanish, Canadian and American boats plan to take part, as well as a Greek, Swedish and Norwegian ship and two cargo vessels, one of which has been organised by Palestinian refugees.
¨Israel can’t tell European countries which boats can leave or not,¨ said Thomas Sommer-Houdeville, a representative for the French ship from the ¨A Boat for Gaza¨ group. Ann Wright, a member of the US delegation on the Audacity of Hope boat, said: ¨We are here to defy US and Israeli policy… and resist Israel’s diplomatic efforts to stop the flotilla.¨
Three years ago when we sailed, Free Gaza was largely unknown. The original committee of volunteers worked hard for a couple of years before actually even sailing, then were the first to brave isolated waters, no functional live streaming (blocked), and comparatively little media interest.
Amazingly, in retrospect, they made it, then the boat I was on made it, thanks to Free Gaza’s samoud(steadfastness).
Those organizers and original activist also endured threats from Zionist agents, direct threats with calls to they and their family, as well as boat sabotage attempts.
The same Zionist games, sabotages, political maneuverings and threats are being fired at the current Flotilla. The activists on board –the large majority over 40, over 50, a good number Jewish, all trained in non-violence –are being dubbed “violent”, “terrorists” and as some sort of mortal threat to the heavily armed, highly trained Israeli commandos who will be lurking in international or Palestinian waters, likely to try to stop the flotilla as they did one year ago.
Press TV recently interviewed the obviously non-threatening Canadian activists on the Tahrir, including “Canadians, Danes, Australians and Belgians, young and old. Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Atheist.”
The US boat, the Audacity of Hope, “will be open for view, photography, and video. The captain, crew, and passengers on the boat will be available for interviews and inspection. The cargo of the ship – 3,000 letters from Americans to the people of Gaza – will also be available for view, photographs, and video. Everything that will be on the boat when it sets sail, including food and passengers’ personal medications for use during their voyage, will be available for inspection.”
Today the Irish Times reports that the Irish boat, the MV Saoirse, cannot sail now: Fintan Lane, the national co-ordinator of Irish Ship to Gaza organisation, said that the ship would not be able to sail as it had been “dangerously sabotaged”, according to the organising campaign. He said that the damage to the ship was discovered on Monday night when the captain noticed that there was something wrong. Divers found that a piece was missing from one of the propeller shafts.
“This was the type of sabotage that endangered human life,” Mr Lane said last night. “They put divers under the boat who cut a piece out of the propeller shaft. That means that the damage would have happened gradually and what would have happened eventually is that the propeller would have come up through the bottom of the boat, caused a flood in the engine room and would have caused the boat to sink.”
Until 3 days ago, the The Freedom Flotilla II was composed of two cargo ships and seven passenger boats and would leave from various ports to a meeting point in international waters, from which the boats will sail all together towards Gaza, carrying nearly three thousand tons of aid and hundreds of civilians from dozens of countries, including members of parliament, politicians, writers, artists, journalists and sports figures, as well as representatives of indigenous peoples and various faith groups.
The Flotilla will still sail, despite the sabotage and threat attempts, despite political coercions from weak governments, including my own, despite blatant lies on the intent and cargo of the boats.
And there is need. Political need, to break a political stranglement of Palestinians in Gaza’s abilities, dreams, employment, health, education, lives…
Palestinians continue to call for actions like the Flotillas, including a recent call from civil society:
Besieged Gaza, Occupied Palestine
We Palestinians of Gaza want to live at liberty to meet Palestinian friends or family from Tulkarm, Jerusalem or Nazareth; we want to have the right to travel and move freely. We want to live without fear of another bombing campaign that leaves hundreds of our children dead and many more injured or with cancers from the contamination of Israel’s white phosphorous and chemical warfare. We want to live without the humiliations at Israeli checkpoints or the indignity of not providing for our families because of the unemployment brought about by the economic control and the illegal siege. We are calling for an end to the racism that underpins all this oppression.
We ask: when will the world’s countries act according to the basic premise that people should be treated equally, regardless of their origin, ethnicity or colour – is it so far-fetched that a Palestinian child deserves the same human rights as any other child in the world? Will you be able to look back and say you stood on the right side of history or will you have sided with the oppressor?
We, therefore, call on the international community to take up its responsibility to protect the Palestinian people from Israel’s heinous aggression, immediately ending the siege with full compensation for the destruction of life and infrastructure visited upon us by this explicit policy of collective punishment. Nothing whatsoever justifies the intentional policies of savagery, including the severing of access to the water and electricity supply to 1.5 million people. The international conspiracy of silence towards the slow genocide taking place against the more than 1.5 million civilians in Gaza, more than 50 per cent of whom are children under the age of 15, indicates complicity in these war crimes.
We also call upon all Palestine solidarity groups and all international civil society organizations to demand:
– An end to the siege that has been imposed on the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as a result of their exercise of democratic choice.
– The protection of civilian lives and property, as stipulated in International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law such as The Fourth Geneva Convention.
– The immediate release of all political prisoners.
– That Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip be immediately provided with financial and material support to cope with the immense hardship that they are experiencing.
– An end to occupation, Apartheid and other war crimes.
– Immediate reparations and compensation for all destruction carried out by the Israeli Occupation Forces in the Gaza Strip.
-The permanent opening and free movement of Palestinians through the Rafah Crossing
-An endorsement of the Boycott Divest and Sanctions Campaign; join the many International Trade Unions, Universities, Supermarkets and artists and writers who refuse to entertain Apartheid Israel. Speak out for Palestine, for Gaza, and crucially ACT. The time is now.
Palestinian Student’s Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel
Palestinian Youth against Israeli Apartheid
One Democratic State Group
General Union for Public Services Workers
General Union for Health Services Workers
University Teachers’ Association
Palestinian Congregation for Lawyers
General Union for Petrochemical and Gas Workers
General Union for Agricultural Workers
Union of Women’s Work Committees
Union of Synergies—Women Unit
Arab Cultural Forum
Association of Al-Quds Bank for Culture and Info