Thursday, May 27, 2010

Israel to Freedom Flotilla: No pasaran!

Palestine Monitor
26 May 2010
Whilst the humanitarian aid convoy Freedom Flotilla is en route to Gaza, Israel has announced severe measures to counter the activists. The Ashdod port is expected to be turned into a “giant interrogation room”, where activists will be interrogated before being expelled.

Freedom Flotilla en route to Gaza

Three cargo ships. Ten thousand tons of reconstruction materials, medical and school supplies. Over eight-hundred passengers, fifty nationalities and one aim: breaking the siege on Gaza. This is the nine-vessel Freedom Flotilla: another action as part of “the blockade busting”. It is a multinational grassroots effort to deliver humanitarian relief aid to the besieged Gaza and to raise awareness of Israeli policies.

What is Israel’s response?

Israeli authorities have declared that they will not allow the Freedom Flotilla to reach Gaza with its cargo. Israel is using both diplomatic pressure and the threat of military force to try to block the initiative. According to the Israeli press, the navy has been training to prevent the ships from reaching Gaza. Ma’ariv, a Hebrew language daily tabloid published in Tel Aviv, reported this week that preparations had been completed at Ashdod port to block the flotilla: the port is expected to be turned into a “giant interrogation room” where activists are to be sent. The police, the GSS (General Security Service of Israel), and the Ministry of Interior’s Oz unit have set up a detention and interrogation facility capable of handling hundreds of people. According to Ma’ariv, “Every Israeli citizen on board will be arrested and questioned by the police, Palestinian citizens will be questioned by the police and GSS, and foreign nationals and diplomats will be handed over to the Oz unit for handling and will be expelled to their countries of origin”.

Growing tensions between Israel and Turkey

Turkey, which has politically sponsored the Freedom Flotilla, urged Israel to allow the humanitarian convoy to enter Gaza and to lift the blockade. During a press-conference, Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, said that “Tensions should be avoided and the siege on Gaza lifted.” Turkey, which is a NATO member, is a close ally of Israel, but following Operation Cast Lead, tensions have grown between the two countries. The Turkish Government has promised reprisals if the Israeli Navy prevents the Freedom Flotilla from reaching the Gaza Strip.

JPG - 168.1 kb
Courtesy: Freedom Gaza

Counter-flotilla of Israelis

Hundreds of Israelis in yachts and boats lifted anchor on Saturday May 22 from Herzilyia, a coastal city north of Tel Aviv, launching a counter flotilla. Among other acts of protest, participants waved panels describing “barbaric Hamas” and signs showing Armenian genocide, in response to Turkey’s critical position towards Israel and aimed at embarrassing Turkey’s government.

JPG - 73.1 kb
(Counter-flotilla of Israelis)

Ships sailing toward Gaza

The first ship, the MV Rachel Corrie, a 1200-ton cargo ship, set sail from Ireland in Mid-May on its way to the Mediterranean Sea and is presently off the coast of Portugal. The second left Istanbul, Turkey, on Saturday afternoon, carrying seven-hundred passengers. Sponsored by the Turkish humanitarian organisation, Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH), this second ship will join additional boats coming from three other countries in the Mediterranean. The flotilla will then turn towards Gaza and is expected to reach Gaza City port by Friday.

Among the passengers:

Ann Wright, retired U.S. Army Reserve Colonel, former U.S. diplomat, and active Gaza Freedom Marcher, will be joining the crew. Colonel Wright says, "The Israeli siege of Gaza is illegal and a violation of international law. We demand that the Israeli, Egyptian, United States and European governments end this siege. If the governments will not stop the siege, it is up to the citizens of the world to break it – and that is what we will do!"

Joe Meadors, a decorated Navy veteran and a survivor of the 1967 attack on U.S.S. Liberty, and Edward L. Peck, a retired US Ambassador, also will be joining the delegation to Gaza, as part of the Free Palestine Movement, a California based human rights organisation that helped to purchase one of the ships.

It’ll be like old home week” said Meadors, recalling the Israeli attack he survived 43 years ago. “I’m determined to land with this internationally coordinated effort on the shores of Gaza to deliver relief to the 1.5 million inhabitants suffering under the Israeli-led illegal blockade”. Ambassador Peck explained that “many Americans oppose Israeli’s oppressive policies in Palestine and especially in Gaza.”

International and institutional support


Irish passport holders (must) be treated respectfully and be allowed complete their mission”, said Green Party spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Defence, Senator Mark Dearey, who has personally inspected the cargo onboard the M.V. Rachel Corrie. Senator Dearey position complemented that of Mr Breifne O’Reilly, the Irish Ambassador in Tel Aviv, who travelled to the Israeli Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem “to ensure a peaceful outcome which will enable the safe delivery of these humanitarian supplies”.


Helen Pettersson, Social Democratic member of the Swedish Parliament, submitted a written inquiry to Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, asking what measures the government intends to take to protect the Freedom Flotilla initiative. An audience with the Foreign Minister was also requested by Mehmet Kaplan, of the Green party, in order to discuss plans that would be adopted by Swedish government and the EU to ensure safety of the passengers and cargo.

UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees

John Ging, Head of United Nation’s Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in the Gaza Strip, who recently called once again upon the international community to break the siege on Gaza, said, “We believe that Israel would not intercept these vessels because the sea is open, and many human rights organisations have been successful in previous similar operations, proving that breaking the siege on Gaza is possible.”

Israeli organisation Gush Shalom

The Israeli organisation Gush Shalom has called on the Israeli government to allow the aid convoy to reach Gaza. The statement released by the group says: “The State of Israel has no interest in footage of its navy violently assaulting peace activists at sea flooding television screens all over the world. It is time to remove the suffocating siege.”

Well wishes from Noam Chomsky

The Freedom Flotilla Coalition is comprised of: Free Gaza Movement (FG), European Campaign to End the Siege of Gaza (ECESG), Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH), Ship to Gaza Greece, Ship to Gaza Sweden, and the International Committee to Lift the Siege on Gaza, with hundreds of groups and organizations around the world supporting the effort.

Witness what happens on board the boats:


  1. Usually with a story like this, with implications for international relations, there would be mainstream press and film crews all over the place, getting in the way. I just wonder if any of the big news outlets has a reporter travelling with the flotilla.

  2. My question answered?
    " Western news organizations have a meager amount of interest in activist endeavors such as the Freedom Flotilla. The only thing that really grabs the mainstream media’s attention is Israel’s heavy-handed way of responding to such activism."

    i.e., no conflict, no story.