June 29, 2011
The boats involved in the Freedom Flotilla II have started to set sail for Gaza. Last year this peaceful protest against Israel’s behaviour in Palestine resulted in the deaths of 9 civillians after Israel illegally boarded the ships in international waters. This year Israel is trying more insidious means to stop the flotilla before it physically stops them.
This time, as Freedom Flotilla II sets sail over the next week, with 10 ships carrying many of the same activists who travelled last year, including Swedish writer Henning Mankell, American human rights campaigner Hedy Epstein, and writer and academic Alice Walker, the Israeli government’s response will be closely watched.
This week Ron Prosor, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, wrote a letter saying: “Israel calls on the international community to do everything in their ability in order to prevent the flotilla and warn citizens … of the risks of participating in this type of provocation.” The purpose of the flotilla, he said, is “to provoke and aid a radical political agenda”. He later added: “We are very determined to defend ourselves and to assert our right to a naval blockade on Gaza.”
“The threats of violence won’t deter us,” says Huwaida Arraf, one of the flotilla organisers. “Nobody is going in to this lightly, but we feel it has to be done. Israel has to realise its violence against us is not going to stop our growing civilian effort to challenge its illegal policies. The size of this flotilla, the number of people involved in organising it, even after Israel killed nine of our colleagues last year, is testament to that.”
Israel started with the letter to the UN, since then it has threatened any journalist who joins the flotilla with deportation and a 10 year ban from israel which was only revoked after an international outcry and now an Israeli group has now resorted to attempting to delay the sailings through a group in Greece by complaining to the greek authorities that boats are not seaworthy which then requires the authorities to hold the boats and investigate. There has also been an allegation of sabotage against the boats in Greece, a claim that is not being denied by the Israeli authorities
Israel and its allies have been working hard to head off the planned flotilla, which is hoping to enter the waters off Gazain the next week. Col.. (ret) Ann Wright, who’s organizing a US vessel named the Audacity of Hope for the flotilla, says her ship has been detained in Athens on spurious charges that it’s not seaworthy. She says that charge was made by an Israeli legal group.
Now the Juliano is held up. Mikael Löfgren, a spokesman for Ship to Gaza Sweden, says the damage was discovered at 6:30 in the eveningAthens time today, and that divers probably cut the propeller in the past 24 hours.
“The reports I’m receiving is that it’s certain that it was sabotage,” says Mr. Löfgren, reached by phone inSweden. “The propeller and [propeller shaft] has been cut and we have divers that have filmed the damages. Experts have said there’s no doubt” that the damage was deliberate.
He says that repairing the damage will take a few days. As to who is responsible, he declined to speculate. “We simply don’t know who did it, but it’s obviously a hostile act,” says Löfgren.
So how can a couple of hundred people who are unarmed and carrying supplies through international waters be such a threat? Perhaps because shining a light to expose the truth of the brutality of Israel towards the people of the land they have occupied and to those who try to support them may finally trigger an outcry that will force Israel to loosen its stranglehold on the people of Palestine.
We can only hope.
Below is an approximate list of the Freedom Flotilla II – Stay Human participants
Spain- Gernicka, 30 passengers
France – Louise Michel, 24 passengers, 6 journalists
France- Dignity, 10 passengers, 1 journalist
Australia/Belgium/Canada/Denmark/Germany – Tahrir, 48 passengers, 9 journalists
Italy/Netherlands/Germany/Switzerland/Malaysia – Stefano Chiarim, 65 passengers, 5 journalists
Ireland- Saoirse, 20 passengers, 2 journalists
European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza- Freedom for All, 15 passengers
Greece/Sweden/Norway – Juliano, 25 passengers, 4 journalists
Greece/Sweden/Norway – Methimus #2 cargo boat, 15 passengers
United States- The Audacity of Hope, 40 passengers, 10 journalists
For more information on the flotilla and its progress you can read about it at freegaza.org or at Witnessgaza.com, Tahrir.ca and FreedomFlotilla.eu and join them on twitter and Facebook or donate to help.
January 15, 2009
Thursday, 15 January 2009 09:26
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For more information, please contact:
(Cyprus) Lubna Masarwa, +357 97 625 828
(Cyprus) Mary Hughes, +357 99 081 767
(Gaza) Ewa Jasiewicz, +972 598 700 497
(Mediterranean Sea, 15 January 2009) – The Israeli navy today threatened to kill unarmed civilians aboard a mercy ship on its way to deliver medical supplies and doctors to besieged Gaza.
The Free Gaza Movement ship, SPIRIT OF HUMANITY, left Cyprus Wednesday morning carrying doctors, journalists, human rights workers, and parliamentarians. The ship also carried over a ton of desperately needed medicines donated by the European Campaign to Break the Siege, and intended for overwhelmed hospitals in the Gaza Strip. At the request of the ship’s organizers the passenger list and manifest were publicly released, and Cypriot authorities searched the boat prior to its departure in order to certify that it only carried humanitarian items. The organizers also sent an official notification to the Israeli government of their intent to break through the blockade of Gaza.
At roughly 3am UST (1am GMT), in international waters 100 miles off the coast of Gaza, at least five Israeli gunboats surrounded the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY and began recklessly cutting in front of the slow-moving civilian craft. The Israeli warships radioed the SPIRIT, demanding that the ship turn around or they would open fire and “shoot.” When asked if the Israeli navy was acknowledging that they intended to commit a war crime by deliberately firing on unarmed civilians, the warships replied that they were prepared to use “any means” to stop the ship.
An earlier attempt by Free Gaza to deliver doctors and medical supplies ended on 30 December when Israeli gunboats deliberately and repeatedly rammed the DIGNITY, almost sinking that ship. Rather than endanger the lives of its passengers, the SPIRIT is now returning to Cyprus.
Israel’s reckless and shocking threats against an unarmed ship on a mission of mercy are a violation of both international maritime law and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which states that “the high seas should be reserved for peaceful purposes.”
CALL the Israeli Government and demand that it immediately STOP attacking the civilian population of Gaza and STOP using violence to prevent human rights and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people.
Mark Regev in the Prime Minister’s office:
+972 2670 5354 or +972 5 0620 3264
Shlomo Dror in the Ministry of Defence:
+972 3697 5339 or +972 50629 8148
The Israeli Navy Spokesperson:
+ 972 5 781 86248
The Free Gaza Movement, a human rights group, sent two boats to Gaza in August 2008. These were the first international boats to land in the port in 41 years. Since August, four more voyages were successful, taking Parliamentarians, human rights workers, and other dignitaries to witness the effects of Israel’s draconian policies on the civilians of Gaza.
Sailing for Humanity
At 10:30 this morning, under bright blue Mediterranean skies, the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY sailed from the port of Larnaca.
Undeterred by Israeli threats of interception at sea, 21 passengers and crew waved to friends and press on shore, committed to our mission of delivering doctors, journalists, human rights observers and a shipment of medical supplies to assist the civilian population of Gaza during this emergency.
Israel has an obligation to protect the civilian population that it occupies” stated Free Gaza delegation leader Huwaida Arraf. “Since
Israel continues to violate this obligation, we will continue to do whatever we can to deliver badly needed medical supplies, food, and to
transport medical personnel, journalists and human rights workers to help and to witness the devastation Israel has wrought.”
The physicians on board include a reconstructive plastic surgeon and an orthopaedic surgeon and another physician. All three doctors will
bring crucial assistance to the exhausted and overwhelmed hospital staff in Gaza where emergency resources don’t begin to meet the need.
You can keep up to date with the progress of the crew of the Spirit of Humanity by clicking on any of the following links over the next few days.