JfJfP stands by attempts to break Gaza siege
We would like to express admiration for the French boat, Dignité Al Karama, and the courage of its crew which, in the face of coordinated hostility by Israel and Greece, managed to challenge the blockade of Gaza. This vicious, morally repugnant siege constitutes an international crime, a denial of freedom and a violation of human rights and dignity. We will campaign relentlessly to bring it down.
Glyn Secker, Captain of the Irene, The Jewish Boat To Gaza which sailed and was boarded by Israeli forces last September, on behalf of Jews For Justice For Palestinians and the passengers and crew of the Irene.
The French boat “Dignité/Karama” (Dignity) left the Greek island Kastellorizo around 8:30PM local time on Saturday July 16, 2011, heading south. The ten passengers onboard view themselves as representatives of the whole Freedom Flotilla II – Stay Human. The rest of the Flotilla’s ships have been detained in different Greek ports, through bureaucratic obstruction, sabotage, sudden restrictions and withdrawals of flags.
The Dignité, sailing under a French flag, left Corsica on June 25th, and has, over the past weeks, been in Greek waters. It has now left– so far without being followed by the Greek coast guard or Navy.
Among the delegates on board is Jacqueline Le Corre, member of the French Communist Party, Jean Claude Lefort, former French Member of the European Parliament, as well as representatives of the Canadian, French, Greek and Swedish initiatives within Freedom Flotilla II. Onboard the Dignité are also renowned Israeli journalist Amira Hass, reporting for Haaretz, and a team from Al-Jazeera TV. (Full list of passengers below).
Kastellorizo, in the far east of the Greek archipelago, is only miles from Turkish mainland. A substantial part of Kastellorizo’s population fled during the Second World War to Gaza, where they stayed for years. The present mayor of the island, Paul Panigiris, was born in Gaza, and feels strongly, as do many other people from Kastellorizo, for a population that once hosted them and is now under siege.
The action of Dignité is not a mini-version of Freedom Flotilla 2, but a first wave that will be followed by others. It is a message to the Israeli government, to the international community and to the besieged people of Gaza: The Free Gaza Movement and the coalition of Freedom Flotilla II are not giving up, until the inhumane and illegitimate blockade of Gaza is lifted.
Gaza, we are coming!
Passengers on the Dignité:
Stéphan Corriveau, Coordinator of Canadian boat to Gaza
Dror Feiler, spokesperson of Ship to Gaza-Sweden, President of European Jews for a Just Peace, artist, musician, composer
Jérôme Gleizes, France, Europe Ecologie Les Verts
Jacqueline Le Corre, France, Médecin-Collectif 14 de soutien au peuple palestinien, member of Parti communiste francais
Jean Claude Lefort, former MEP, French Communist Party –PCF
Claude Léostic, spokesperson of Un bateau français pour Gaza
Yamin Makri, France, Collectif 69 de soutien au peuple palestinien
Omeyya Naoufel Seddik, Tunisian, Fédération des Tunisiens pour une citoyenneté des deux rives (FTCR), and Ligue tunisienne des Droits de l’Homme (LTDH), Phd in Political Science
Thomas Sommer-Houdeville, spokesperson of Un bateau français pour Gaza, Researcher, Political Sciecnce, Middle East
Studies, Institut francais du proche Orient
Vangelis Pissias, spokesperson of Ship to Gaza-Greece, Professor at Technical University of Athens
Amira Hass, Israeli journalist – Haaretz
Ayyache Derradji, Journalist from Al Jazeera
Stéphane Guida, Cameraman from Al Jazeera
Zacharia Stylianakis, Captain
Hilaire Folacci, Mariner
Yannick Voisin, Mariner
Jo Leguen, Navigator
Gaza-bound ship carrying pro-Palestinian activists sets sail from Greece
Ten activists head to Gaza aboard the French Dignite-Al Karama ship, regarding themselves as representatives of the entire abortive flotilla.
By Amira Hass
Somewhere in the East Mediterranean
On Saturday evening a Gaza-bound boat left Greek territorial waters. Its 10 participants regard themselves as representatives of the entire abortive flotilla to Gaza, and are determined to exhaust all possibilities in order to reach their destination, or at least carry out the symbolic act of protesting the blockade. They are well aware of the Lilliputian dimensions of their venture, compared with the massive impact organizers had initially planned to have with the 10-odd vessel flotilla.
Dignite-Al Karama, one of two yachts purchased by the French delegation in the second Freedom Flotilla, left a port in Corsica on June 25. Thus, it was spared the fate of eight other boats which were supposed to sail out of Greek ports, but were impounded by Greek authorities.
Last Wednesday Karama left the port of Sitia in Crete, where it had been anchored for a week, awaiting the other boats in vain. Once it was clear that Greece, under strong Israeli pressure, would not allow those boats to sail, its remaining passengers ¬ three French nationals and one Tunisian ¬ were joined by three representatives of other delegations, a Greek, Swede and a Canadian, and by three more French activists who arrived from France. Also on board are three crew members and three journalists from Al Jazeera and Haaretz.
The decision to carry on the mission of sailing to Gaza was not automatically welcomed by other delegations or by the steering committee of the flotilla. Some preferred to officially end the current campaign. Karama’s participants spent long hours negotiating and convincing the others.
On Thursday evening Karama reached the eastern Greek Island of Kastellorizo in order to fuel and meet the additional delegates from France. Kastellorizo’s history is connected to Gaza: During World War II, after having been occupied by the British army and fearing German attacks, some of the inhabitants fled to Gaza and remained in Palestine for a couple of years. This made the inhabitants of the island and its small port city especially hospitable to the small boat and its mission.
Three of those on board already sailed towards Gaza in last years’ flotilla. One of them, Greek sociologist Vangelis Pissias, claims that while in detention in Ashdod last year he was severely beaten by Israeli security forces. Also on board for the second time is Dror Feiler, the Israel-born Swedish national, who is chairperson of ‘European Jews for a Just Peace.”
Claude L’Eostic, a French flotilla organizer and a veteran activist for Palestinian causes, said that even the sailing of one tiny yacht was the best way to expose the Israeli policy of blockading Gaza, and its illegality.
Undeterred, two Freedom Flotilla ship heads to Egypt
By Saed Bannoura – IMEMC News
After weeks of threats by the Israeli and US governments, sabotage by unknown parties, and a public relations campaign by the Israeli government aimed at discrediting the Freedom Flotilla in the international media, the peace activists with the Freedom Flotilla to break the siege on the Gaza Strip say they remain steadfast in their aims, and one of the original ten ships on the flotilla is now on its way to Egypt, with a second prepared to depart shortly.
From Egypt, the crew and passengers of the ships will decide whether to continue to Gaza to break the Israeli siege which, despite Israeli claims to the contrary, remains in place and continues to cripple the Gazan economy.
Due to the extended delays, which included the detention of the crews and passengers of several of the ten flotilla ships, many participants in the Flotilla have had to return to their home countries, and the others have been blockaded in a Greek port by the Greek coast guard, at the behest of the Israeli government.
But one ship managed to escape the impound by Greek authorities, as it was not docked with the others at the time of the impound. That ship, the Dignite al Karama, set sail on Saturday evening toward Egypt. The ten people on board, mainly French activists, say they have to represent the entire flotilla with their one ship, since the others remain under Greek detention.
The ship, known as the ‘Dignite al Karama’, was commissioned by French activists, and includes in its passenger list Israeli-born peace activist Dror Feiler, who is the head of ‘European Jews for a Just Peace’, Greek sociologist Vangelis Pissias, and a number of other dignitaries.
A second Flotilla ship, the ‘Juliano’ (named after slain peace activist Juliano Mer-Khamis, who was apparently killed by a Palestinian gunman while working for peace in Jenin), plans to depart the port of Heraklion as soon as it is given permission to sail to Alexandria, Egypt and join the Dignite Al Karama.
The Dignite al Karama has been docked at the port of Kastellorizo, a remote Greek island that is sympathetic to the Flotilla’s cause. In World War II, fearing German attacks, some of the island’s inhabitants fled to the Gaza Strip, where they were given refuge. The mayor of the town of Kastellorizo welcomed the activists, and authorized them to leave Greek waters.
The other ships, docked in Athens, were blockaded and impounded by the Greek coast guard after requests by the Israeli Prime Minister to his Greek counterpart, leading the activists to say that “The Gaza blockade has been extended to Greece.” A group of Spanish activists remain on hunger strike after occupying their country’s embassy in Athens.
The Freedom Flotilla aims to bring humanitarian aid and support to the people of Gaza, and to expose the four-year old blockade on the Gaza Strip imposed by the state of Israel in order to, in the words of Israeli officials, “put the people of Gaza on a diet”. Since the blockade began, unemployment levels have reached highs of 80% and malnutrition rates among small children have been estimated at highs of 40%.