- On May 28 (three days before Israel's high seas massacre),
Haaretz writers Jack Khoury and Yuval Azoulay headlined, "Hamas: Flotilla
shows whole world opposes Gaza siege," saying:
- Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said "if Israel behave(s)
like pirates and attack(s) the international Freedom Flotilla carrying
10,000 tons of (humanitarian) aid for Gaza, then the Palestinians will
have won. The flotilla's message is clear and it will reach the entire
- Indeed so, and more are now coming from over 10 countries,
including America. FreeGaza.org updates them. Angered by Israel's May 31
massacre, local initiatives plan their own missions. Their aim: highlight
Gaza's siege and shame Israel by bringing aid until it ends.
- Established in August 2008, the Free Gaza human rights
movement visited Gaza nine times by sea "to break Israel's illegal
stranglehold on 1.5 million Palestinian civilians," suffocating under
- It hasn't been clear sailing. In 2008, Free Gaza succeeded
five times, but were "violently intercepted on the(ir) past four voyages,"
including the lethal May 31 massacre, killing nine or more activists and
injuring many more. One of several earlier articles explained, accessed
through the following link:
- Free Gaza and its coalition partners are the only organizations
that "sent boats directly to Gaza in defiance of Israel's criminal"
blockade. They "sail as an expression of citizen nonviolent, direct
action, confronting" Israeli lawlessness, together with:
- -- the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza;
- -- IHH - the Turkish Foundation for Human Rights;
- -- Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief;
- -- the International Committee to End the Siege on Gaza;
- -- Ship to Gaza Sweden; and
- -- Ship to Gaza Greece.
- Ahead, missions from growing numbers of countries plan
to deliver vitally needed aid, and send a message that Israeli lawlessness
won't stand. Here they are, a humanitarian hall of fame.
- Its initiative headlines a fundraising appeal: "End
the Blockade! A Ship with Medical Aid for Gaza," saying:
- "We refuse to stand by inactively and watch as....1.5
million (people suffer) strangulation and starvation," especially
in Cast Lead's aftermath. Past flotillas aren't enough. "We want to
join the appeal of the 'Free Gaza' campaign and send a ship with medical
necessities to Gaza from a European port. This can only be achieved with
a great deal of public support...."
- They need help to provide it, saying:
- "There can only be peace, when human rights and
international law (are) respected by all sides. For this, the Gaza blockade
must be lifted. That would be an essential step toward more security and
freedom for everyone in the region."
- On August 31, the Belfast Telegraph headlined, "Plans
underway to send second Irish ship to Gaza," saying:
- Eight Irish activists were on Freedom Flotilla I. Up
to 50 more, comprised of seven pro-Palestinian groups, plan another, and
have "launched a fundraising campaign to purchase an Irish ship."
Irish campaigner Dr. Fintan Lane said "funds (are needed) to buy the
boat, fuel, and to hire a legal team in case of more kidnappings."
- The web site FreeGazaIreland.com highlights "Cementing
Our Relationship with the People of Gaza," calling on:
- "families, schools, hospitals, unions and community
centres to buy bags of cement (to help). They will be loaded onto a cargo
ship as part of an international flotilla...."
- "Let's come together and support the people of Palestine
to rebuild their lives and end the siege on Gaza and Israel's devastating
- Scottish activists were aboard Freedom Flotilla I. They're
still trying to learn what happened to the stolen cargo. They want it delivered.
They want their boats returned. They're pursuing a legal complaint about
Israel's attack. They want their personal belongings back, especially videotape
evidence for a proper inquiry. They're not intimidated. They're planning
- FreeGaza-Scotland.org updates information on their site.
They're "hoping to (reach) as many different Scottish groups and people
as (possible) to get a boat from here." They're working with Tayside
Justice For Palestine that sent medical supplies with the Rachel Corrie
in June. They request funding help and contact with "any other groups"
that want to help.
- USAtoGaza.org updates information on their site. A November
1 press release headlined, "As US Activists Prepare Boat to Gaza,
Israel Threatens to Use Snipers, Dogs," saying:
- US peace activists are raising $370,000 for a boat to
sail in spring 2011 from a Mediterranean port. Called "The Audacity
of Hope," it will join an international effort from "over a dozen
European, Asian and North American countries," including Canada. Israel,
however, threatens deadly force.
- The mission's spokesperson, Jane Hirschmann said:
- "the Americans would not be deterred by the Israeli
threats. Of course, we take (them) seriously. Nobody doubts the Israeli
government's willingness and readiness to use force against unarmed civilians.
But this is a nonviolent mission on our part, challenging Israel's illegal
siege. Gaza remains essentially an open-air prison under a US-backed Israeli
- On board will be clergy, elderly participants, and "Holocaust"
survivors - Jews against Israeli injustice.
- A November 23 update expressed "shock and outrage"
over the May massacre, saying "there had to be a US BOAT TO GAZA."
In October, they were invited to become part of Flotilla II to be launched
at end of March 2011.
- It will be a larger effort, involving more people worldwide,
a combined one traveling by sea as well as others "on land vigilant
as the boats sail." Besides delivering humanitarian aid, they want
Washington held accountable for supporting Israeli crimes.
- They also need funds and request supporters contribute.
- A collaborative initiative, two Canadian efforts include
FreeGazaCanada.org/FreeGazaQuebec.org and CanadaBoatGaza.org/Bateau/Gaza.qc.ca.
- They plan to sail in spring 2011 from an East Mediterranean
port (likely Greece or Turkey) with up to 40 participants. The team said
(at end of October) they were one-third toward their $300,000 goal. "We
are counting on your continued support - only together can we achieve our
ultimate goal of justice and freedom for all Palestinians in Gaza and elsewhere."
- The Alternatives NGO is their financial sponsor, an organization
active in supporting Middle East human rights and justice. What they collect
will go solely for the mission.
- In early November, participant Kevin Neish (aboard Flotilla
I) began a cross-country tour seeking support for the "Canadian Boat
to Gaza," sailing with Flotilla II. Their members span the nation
from Halifax and Montreal to Vancouver. Included are activists, doctors,
authors, educators, engineers, unionists, husbands and wives, Christians,
Jews and Muslims, committed for social justice.
- They state:
- "The Canadian Boat to Gaza is a project launched
by Canadian civil society activists (wanting) Canadian (participation)
in the international effort to end the Israeli blockade of Gaza."
- They'll challenge Israel's illegal siege, enlist broad
support, and increase awareness of Gazan suffering.
- Dozens of organizations endorse them, including:
- -- the Arab Cultural Forum
- -- the Palestinian NGOs' Network (PNGO);
- -- Amnesty International Windsor
- -- the Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians;
- -- the Boycott Israeli Apartheid Campaign (BIAC);
- -- Canadians, Arabs and Jews for a Just Peace (CAJJP);
- -- CodePink, Canada; and
- -- Not in Our Name, among others.
- Belgium to Gaza (BelgiumGaza.org) headlines "Set
sail to a liberated Gaza, navigate for justice," saying it's a "platform
of Belgian organizations and individuals" working to challenge Israel's
illegal siege. It uses Flotilla I's motto, saying:
- "We people of the world will do what our governments
refuse to do!"
- It's also in fundraising mode to raise $300,000, asking
supporters to be as generous as possible.
- "Ship Two Gaza Norway (STGN) is a politically and
religiously independent organization for individuals and organizations
that work to ensure that international law" applies to Gaza.
- It sent other boats in August 2008 from Cyprus with 44
passengers from 17 countries. It succeeded despite Israeli efforts to sabotage
it. No one was harmed. One participant on arrival, El-Farra Musheir, a
diaspora Palestinian, said:
- "For the first time in my life, I came to Gaza without
being humiliated, without having to ask Israel for permission. We did it.
We (finally) made it. Now others must join us and do (it), too."
- Other missions followed, five in all preceding Cast Lead.
In December 2008, the Israeli navy rammed the boat Dignity in international
waters, causing heavy damage, besides firing machine guns into the water
to intimidate passengers on board.
- Mission leader, Huwaida Arraf, co-founder of the International
Solidarity Movement (ISM), an activist pro-Palestinian group, later explained
her determination to help, saying:
- "We cannot sit still and wait for Israel to stop
killing people. When the world's countries and international institutions
have the responsibility to stop such crimes, (but choose) to be impotent,
(then) we, world citizens" must act. "Our common humanity simply
requires it of us."
- They and others keep doing it despite Israel responding
harshly - interdicting, harassing, arresting, imprisoning, killing nine
or Mavi Marmara activists, and threatening violence against future missions.
- Ship Two Gaza Norway will join Flotilla II. Those wishing
to participate should contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- ShiptoGaza.se stands in solidarity with Gazans. Once
funds are raised, it will "send a ship with necessities from Scandinavia
via ports in Europe and the Mediterranean to Gaza."
- On November 7, spokespersons Dror Feiler and Mehmet Kaplan,
both aboard Flotilla I, "will travel to Israel to submit a police
report on behalf of all eleven Swedish passengers." A lawsuit was
also filed against the IDF, state of Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu,
and Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, alleging "armed robbery and/or
larceny, kidnapping, deprivation of freedom and assault."
- Asian Muslims to Gaza
- On October 4, Haaretz ran an AP story headlined, "Hundreds
of activists from Muslim countries planning new Gaza-bound flotilla,"
- Around 500 activists from "dozens of Muslim countries,"
including Pakistan, Iran, Syria and Turkey "aim to break the blockage
by December 27."
- On December 2, they'll leave from India by land, cross
Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and Syria, "then try to reach Gaza by sea."
The Turkish Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Aid
(IHH), bogusly called an extremist Islamic terrorist group, will sponsor
the Turkish leg of the trip. IHH provides humanitarian aid "to spread
justice and good. (It) fight(s) violation(s) of anyone's basic liberties
and human rights (and) perpetuat(es) good anytime and anywhere."
- A Final Comment
- FreeGaza.org has global volunteers. Besides the above
countries, they're in Argentina, Australia, Chile, Denmark, England, France,
India, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Poland, Spain, the United Arab
Emirates, and elsewhere.
- More flotillas are coming until Gaza is free, the siege
ended, rebuilding can begin, and what passes for normal life can resume.
- Banned from Gaza since November 2006, Haaretz writer
Gideon Levy asks "all Israelis to be outraged - or at least understand
what is being perpetrated in their name, so they may never have the right
to claim: we did not know." That applies everywhere, flotilla activists
in the vanguard, galvanizing mass awareness and outrage for justice.
- A hopeful sign: On November 26, the International Middle
East Media Center reported that (on 11/25) the 30-vehicle "Road to
Hope" convoy reached Gaza with aid and 101 activists, including eight
Flotilla I survivors.
- Egypt tried to obstruct them, then relented. Supplies
included medical aid, educational materials and equipment, blankets, toys,
and vehicles. Momentum keeps building for sustained help until Gaza's siege
is lifted, a hopeful sign indeed.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the
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