Tag Archives: Blockade

Solo Gaza relief ship Dignite Al Karama presses on for the dignity of Palestine

Freedom Flotilla II, Stay Human
Not only have nation states refused to sanction humanitarian relief missions to illegally besieged Gaza, events this week prove they are unanimous in prohibiting even citizens doing it themselves. Yet, one brave vessel has eluded sabotage, lawsuit, bureaucracy, and Greece’s Coast Guard paramilitaries. French Freedom Flotilla II participant DIGNITE AL KARAMA presses on alone to break the siege of Gaza. Without media escort, television cameras or witnesses, the crew of eleven, joined by print reporter Quentin Girard, will have only their cellphones to apprise the world audience of their progress against the bellicose reception which Israel has promised awaits any transgressors of its 63 year occupation and subjugation of Palestine, including its open-air prison called Gaza.
 
UPDATES: Dignite incercepted by Greek Coast Guard while refueling in Ormos Kouremenos, Crete. Taken under escort to Xinthya, where it’s promised they will be able to leave in the morning. Translation of French article below.

Flotilla for Gaza: The “Dignity” intercepted by Greek coast guard.

For two hours, late Wednesday afternoon, the “Dignity” is moored at Ormos Kouremenos, a small port in the far east of Crete. It needs to replenish fuel one last time before sailing to Gaza.

Suddenly, as it has already replentished 1,000 liters and is awaiting a second delivery, a gunboat of the Greek coast guard emerges. The passengers immediately understand. In this small bay where there are only fishing boats made of wood, they know it is there for them. The gunboat approaches, also an unmarked car.

The Coast Guard ask politely for our papers. Thus began a two-hour discussion and document control board where everything is carefully checked. Activists trample board.

“It’s too bad”, everyone is thinking. This was the last step before the big crossing. A dozen men in uniform, very polite, surround the Dignity. The phone calls multiply, presumably to refer to a distant authority. The Coast Guard require passports, they carefully register the names.

They don’t find much wrong with the boat. The captain didn’t have a logbook and the marina’s entry fee, 30 euros, hadn’t yet been tendered. Except that in this small fishing harbor, there was no place to declare one’s arrival. We must wait. Passengers prepare to eat, the menu that night, chicken pasta, coppa and lentils.

“We’re Very Sorry”

Eventually the Coast Guard announced that we must follow them to another port to sign authorizations and that the “Dignity” will be able to leave the next morning. It’s 10PM.

In the meantime they keep the boat’s papers to make photocopies. They ensure that there is no problem. One of them apologized repeatedly: “Sorry.” Omeyya Seddik, one of the passengers replied, “You’re doing your jobs, that’s normal.”

The “Dignity” is off again into the night toward the port of Xinthya, escorted by the Coast Guard boat which heads off without delay. Too fast. Many times it seems to disappear into the night as if really she doesn’t want to be followed.

The passengers do not know how to react. What to do? Keep a slim hope? Or immediately broadcast our circumstances and risk making it certain we will not be able to leave as promised. They doubt, they got the impression there were only Greeks among the Coast Guard and the people who were roaming around taking pictures.

Three days they are at sea, three days playing cat and mouse without knowing really if there was a cat. The dignity might perhaps not get to Gaza. It was the only ship of the “Freedom Flotilla” that managed to sail and keep up the hope of getting to Gaza. It went a little further than others, probably not enough. “We remain committed” they declare. “Tomorrow if we can go, we will continue to Gaza.”

RADIO INTERVIEW: Quentin Gerard explains: “This boat has become a strong political symbol.”

AWAITING CONFIRMATION: Swedish aid ship JULIANO still hopes to make a convoy. (Broadcasting live at http://ustre.am/zQHM)

As it stands, authorities have blocked or sabotaged 9 of the 10 vessels known to be sailing in the aid convoy. They are: The Audacity of Hope, Tahrir, Saorise, Juliano, Guernica, Louise Michel, Dignite Al Karama, Stefano Chiarini, Freedom for All, and the Methimus II.


Aboard the DIGNITE: Activists: Olivier Besancenot, Annick Coupé, Nabil Ennasr, Jacqueline Le Corre, Nicole Kiil-Nielsen, Osama Mouftah, Julien Rivoire, Omeyya Seddik; crew: Hilaire, Vincent and Yannick; not pictured: photographer/reporter Quentin Girard.

See their pictures at Liberte.fr.

Updated Facebook page statement of DIGNITY delegation:
La déclaration des camarades à bord du bateau

Message of the French delegation on board the Dignité Al Karama: The Freedom Flotilla is not dead!

Our presence at sea, on the Dignity-Al Karama, permits us to carry on the message of the international campaign of the Freedom Flotilla II and of the French Un Bateau Pour Gaza campaign. The statements by the Israeli authorities proclaiming the end of the Freedom Flotilla II, praising the Greek government acts as freedom of expression and actions of a civil society are now dead words.

We are at sea, and the collected national coalitions are not giving up.

States should no longer be complicit in this criminal blockade, and cannot silence the urge of civil society that simply demands, through this nonviolent action, the enforcement of law by permanent lifting of the blockade of Gaza.

We call on all justice-loving citizens to strengthen the effort, to allow the Dignity-Al Karama and all boats of the flotilla to go to Gaza.

Girard latest Tweets:

July 6, 3:36
Besancenot at the helm, small salad, sea of oil. Nickel.

July 6, 3:37
On the boat we wonder about the latest of the mercato and of the Tour de France. Any news?

July 6, 5:29
@JAntiwilders Dignity Is still heading to Gaza.

July 6, 5:29
@yanouz FT1 will not be on the boat evidently.

July 6, 6:19
@GirardTh Not too much wind, calm sea, it’s a change from the Atlantic.

July 6, 6:33
@JpKphotographer Yes, will you follow me? We need press agency photos.

July 6, 11:09
Did the Greek-Swedish ship manage to leave the port of Athens? Really?

In the original French:

3:36 – 06.07
Besancenot à la barre, petite salade, mer d’huile. Nickel.

3:37 – 06.07
Sur le bateau on s’inquiète des dernières nouvelles du mercato et du tour de France. Des news?

5:29 – 06.07
@JAntiwilders dignity is still heading to Gaza.

5:29 – 06.07
@yanouz F1 ne viendra pas sur le bateau apparemment.

6:19 – 06.07
@GirardTh pas trop de vent, mer calme, ça change de l’Atlantique.

6:33 – 06.07
@JpKphotographer oui, tu me rejoins? Ils ont besoin de photographes dagence de presse.

11:09 – 06.07
Le bateau greco suédois aurait réussi à sortir du port d Athènes? Vrai?

Gaza we are coming

Gaza we are comingPlans are once again underway for another attempt to run the blockade of Gaza. Two ships are set to sail from Lebanon today or tomorrow, despite intimidation from Israel –which worked to prevent the aid ship INFANTS OF GAZA scheduled to leave from Iran. As a result, the Israeli navy is maneuvering to intercept, as it did for the recent Libyan AMALTHEA, and the Irish RACHEL CORRIE before that. Israel is even preparing “Flotilla 13,” the Shayetet commandos who killed nine activists on the Mavi Marmara in May. If it does leave, the Lebanese convoy will consist of a ship named MARYAM, carrying only women and nuns, and the JULIA (the Naji Al Ali) carrying journalist and Reporters Without Borders. It’s hard to imagine what reception the journalists are intent to document, Israel can hardly surpass itself with brutality, so will it be news?

Meanwhile another flotilla is in the works for September, which may include Spanish footballers. Canadian activists have announced efforts to contribute a Canadian ship, and US activists are raising funds for an American ship, to be named “The Audacity of Hope,” after President Obama’s autobiographical self-promotion. Personally I think the pay-it-forward Nobel Prize to Obama paid squat. Obama couldn’t even muster outrage over Israel’s murder of the Freedom Flotilla activists, nor would he sanction an international investigation. Why credit him with any part of the rescue of the Palestinians of Gaza?

Naji Al Ali docked in LebanonThe naming of “Maryam” or Mariam, after the Virgin Mary is already being resisted by the Israeli press, which is referring to the ship by its previous identity JUNIA. No doubt the all-woman ship will present a challenge to the brutality-prone IDF.

The confusion over the identity of Julia/Junia may be part of the subterfuge meant to evade Israel sabotage which succeeded in hampering the Freedom Flotilla’s CHALLENGER I and II.

GAZA WE ARE COMING is the title of a documentary made about the earlier attempts to break the siege of Gaza by sea. The project is more complicated than you might think, having to avoid the MOSSAD at every turn. Each successive wave has involved bigger ships, so far, taken as prizes by Israel. Will a sovereign government finally step forward to provide official escort to a convoy?

The United Nations has ruled the siege of Gaza to be illegal. Israel itself pretends that Gaza is autonomous, thus the naval blockade cannot be a pretext to protect Israeli waters. Debates in the media about who’s in the right are merely charades.

As navy stalks Gaza Freedom Flotilla, Israeli measures already effective


First among the Israeli navy’s expressed strategies to confront the international relief convoy approaching Gaza was to “pick off the participants before they could join the convoy.” Today only five of intended nine ships have made it to the rendezvous. Sailing from Ireland, the MV Rachel Corrie has been impeded by propeller trouble, while both Challenger I and II suffered irregularities with their steering hydraulics. Suspicions of sabotage are not assuaged by fact that the healthier Turkish ships were not as easily accessible to agents. Less expected was the move, with the cooperation of Greek Cyprus, to prevent key passengers of the convoy to join the ships. Most predictable: media silence.

The Israeli navy has dubbed its anti-flotilla mission “Operation Sky Winds” and released this action plan:

The planned offensive includes four stages;

1. Warning stage; the navy will try to stop the ships from reaching a “line” dubbed
as a red line, should the ships reach the designated line, they will be warned and informed that they “violate the law”.

2. Boarding and controlling the ships; should the ships fail to adhere to the demands of the navy, the navy will attack and control the eight ships carrying nearly 800 activists. The ships will then be taken to Ashdod Port and the activists will be detained in a huge tent installed for this purpose.

3. Deportation by air; Israeli soldiers and policemen would order the detained activists to sign statements accepting to be deported to their countries, and will be deported by air via the Ben Gurion Airport.

4. Arrest before deportation; those who refuse to sign deportation statements, will be arrested, sent to medical examination, then transferred to the Nahshon Brigade which belongs to the Israeli Prison Administration before being sent to Be’er Sheva Prison and likely other prisons.

They will be prosecuted and deported at a later stage.

It’s a picture worth a thousand ships

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minster Ayalon and Turkish ambassadorAt first the story read like diplomatic sensitivities ruffled by no more than your typical office power feng shui: the Turkish ambassador to Israel was not seated at a height commensurate with his host, the flag of his nation was not displayed, the Israeli deputy minister would not shake his hand. Rather it was Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon himself who called the reporters’ attentions to the intentional affronts, lest it was not obvious enough from the photograph. To what do the Turks owe Israel’s displeasure? Turkey’s PM has been criticizing Israel’s crimes in Gaza, to no greater degree than has been confirmed by the UN Goldstone Report. Here’s to hoping that Turkish pride will answer appropriately.

It’s been a traditional role of ambassadors to suffer their host’s anger at a perceived provocation. Didn’t Ivan the Terrible once send emissaries packing after he’d nailed their hats to their heads? Often in less diplomatic times, envoys were beheaded, to usually ruinous result. In modern times, suffering indignity to foreign dignitaries is enough to send your message. But today too, media images have come to have a greater reach across the world. I’m thinking in particular the Muslim populaces. Let’s see what kind of posture of subservience Israel can expect of Turkey.

Said one Turkish parliamentarian: “The word scandal is not enough to describe this move.” And it seems unlikely that Israel will apologize, Ayalon already responding: “In terms of the diplomatic tactics available, this was the minimum that was warranted given the repeated provocations by political and other players in Turkey.”

Perhaps Israel was emboldened by Egypt’s recent display of obedience to the mission of starving Gaza. Israel’s violent repression of the people of Gaza is meeting with growing criticism, and perhaps they expect Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to heel dutifully.

What might the minimum of responses be from Turkey, given the sway the US holds over its actions, in light too of its aspiration to rise through the EU?

With Egypt’s intention to fortify its Gaza border to curtail tunneling, and its announcement to permit no further aid from reaching the besieged Palestinians, the path remains only for someone to reach Gaza by sea. I’m hoping it will be the Turks.

Why couldn’t a Sea Shepherd Conservation Society type flotilla mount a seaborne rescue of Gaza? I’d bet televising such an adventure would find a bigger audience than Whale Wars.

Aid groups have been trying, with sporadic success, to breach Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza coast. Perhaps it’s time for a nation to lend some military vessels to the task. Why not? The United Nations considers Israel’s embargo of Gaza to be illegal. Why shouldn’t a local power sail right before the Israeli warships to escort relief supplies to the Gazans? Let’s see whose ships will look down on whose.

israel-humiliates-turkey-ambassador

UPDATE: Here it is, the Free Gaza Movement is putting together a flotilla!