Tag Archives: Quentin Girard

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?

French craft DIGNITY breaks for Gaza, leads Flotilla II until rest allowed to go

French cabin cruiser La Dignite - Al Karama
UPDATED– In a flurry of conflicting tweets, French Flotilla II member DIGNITE AL KARAMA made for the open sea, beyond the reach of Greek authorities currently detaining the AUDACITY OF HOPE, TAHRIR, LOUISE MICHEL, GUERNICA, JULIANO and others. Reporter Quentin Girard has been communicating the DIGNITY’s progress, its eight activists electing last night to complete their run all the way to Gaza.

The French vessel escaped Greece on a technicality, as a pleasure craft, the Dignity is not confined by the regulations being used to block the larger Flotilla participants. Aboard the Dignity with Girard, are Olivier Besancenot, Julien Rivoire, Omeyyaa Sedic, Nicole Kiil-Nielsen, Annick Coupé, Nabil Ennasr. (Both Coupé and Besancenot are registered on Twitter, but neither has communicated yet.)

Girard’s most recent tweets, translated:

July 5, 3:02
All is well thank you 🙂 but we were in an area where reception was bad.

July 5, 3:15
Despite what we can read, the Dignity is still in international waters. It will be there in one hour.

July 5, 7:41
The passengers of the Dignity have finally come to the decision (only now really) to go to Gaza.

July 5, 8:19
TF1 should attempt to rejoin Dignity and embark.

July 5, 8:43
We’re moving again after a “media” pause on the high seas. 15 hours of sea left before I might go silent. Kisses!

July 5, 12:19
Into the night the DIGNITY continues its advance. In the distance, small lights.

July 5, 13:38
Not really enough beds for everyone, so I sleep under the stars on the upper deck. beautiful sky.

In their original French:

05.07 3:02
tout va bien merci 🙂 mais on était dans un endroit où ça captait mal.

05.07 3:15
Malgré ce qu’on peut lire le Dignité n’est pas encore dans les eaux internationales. Il y sera dans une heure.

05.07 7:41
Les passagers du Dignité viennent de prendre enfin (seulement maintenant vraiment) la décision d’aller jusqu’à Gaza

05.07 8:19
TF1 devrait tenter de rejoindre le Dignité et embarquer dessus

05.07 8:43
On bouge à nouveau après une pause “média” en haute mer. C’est parti pour 15h de mer, où je risque d’être silencieux. Des bises.

05.07 12:19
Dans la nuit le dignité avance toujours. Au loin, des petites lumières.

05.07 13:38
Pas vraiment de couchettes pour tout le monde, donc je dors à la belle étoile, sur le pont supérieur. Beau ciel

Below is the Girard’s July 5 article in the LIBERTE.FR (auto-translated, sorry, until I can review it)

En route to Gaza, “Dignity” is appealing to the media

The French ship of the “freedom flotilla” sailing in international waters off the coast of Greece. The crew decided to go to Gaza.

By QUENTIN GIRARD special envoy on the “Dignity”

16 hours in Greece, somewhere in international waters, on Tuesday afternoon. After much discussion, the Dignity passengers finally made their decision. They will go to Gaza. A bit surreal moment where the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, they set up banners and make an official statement.

When they left the industrial port of Salamina, Monday morning, they did not really know how far they try to go. There, as they finally arrived in international waters a little to 15 hours – after wet night in a small cove – they say they are determined. “We’re going to Gaza. The French and international community officially announced that they supported us regardless of our decision, “enthuses Julien Rivoire, one of the spokesmen of the campaign. “But to get there, we also need the media, as TV join us to show our work and safety issues,” he continues.

In the distance we see no island, not even a few freighters, these little black spots that usually reassuring scattered throughout the year. “We wanted to show that we could block the Greek blockade, says Julien Rivoire. It once was that we wondered what we were doing then. ”

Return to France? Impossible

That same morning, the discussion was intense as ever on the Dignity. What to do? Return to France? Impossible for them. Go to another country such as Tunisia symbolic to wait, to show that it is a stopover? Why not, it’s better, they say. But no. The only viable solution they think is necessary. Go to Gaza. “You have the dignity to the end represents French and international committees,” argues Olivier Besancenot.

“The important thing that determines the political feasibility, technical feasibility, must be as representative as possible and supported,” Nabil Esnari continues, President of the Association of Muslims in France. “We do not want to be seen as Islamic-leftist Khmer-green-act in our corner,” says the MP-Europe Ecology Nicole Kiil-Nielsen.

“My preference would be to go to Gaza without delay,” takes on Olivier Besancenot position as others. “Our protection is proof that we exist, we continue to move forward. We can not afford to become a ghost ship. ”

There remains the question of technical means. The Dignity is a small yacht of 15 meters long, categorized craft. It was originally one of the smaller boats in the fleet. He has no self to go off the ridge to Gaza. It would necessarily need to be refueled and water en route. Hence the difficulty that there will in the coming hours to coordinate the political ambitions and technical means.

A small creek, goats, and … Sea

But they want confident. The twelve passengers (1) are refreshed by their two days at sea after a week of pitfalls in Athens. Although the coup, the Greek landscapes provide a particular coloration to the adventure. In the capital locked up in meeting rooms to multiply the points and plan protests, the mood was serious and solemn. Not even have time to visit the Acropolis.
There hard to escape the Greek islands. On the night of Monday and Tuesday, the Dignity was anchored in a cove of a small island. In the morning, passengers were woken up by goats with bells tinkle merrily. A shepherd ran along the cliff, the whoop, some small white houses with blue shutters, of steep cliffs, the water so beautiful … “In the morning, you go through three stages,” said Olivier Besancenot. “First you wake up, you do not know where you are, then you look around you and you say,” oh yes, it’s beautiful. ” And just after you wonder what’s next meeting, what is the plan that will be put in place. ”

The Plan: Gaza, having embarked with TVs. Maybe he will change in the coming hours. Meanwhile, the Dignity vogue. Engine noise makes deaf. The smell of fuel oil a little drunk. In front, nothing. The sea, just the sea.

(1) On board were three crew members, eight activists – Olivier Besancenot addition there are Nicole Kiil-Nielsen, MP, Europe-ecology, Annick Coupe, spokesman for the union Solidarity trade union, or Nabil Ennasr, President the Collective of Muslims in France – and a journalist, the author of these lines.

The earlier July 4 Liberte.fr article:

On board the “Dignity”, en route to Gaza

A French ship with a few activists on board, including Olivier Besancenot and Annick Coupé, eventually left Athens and headed to Gaza despite the obstacles. The “flotilla to Gaza” is reduced to its simplest expression. The story of our special correspondent on the deck of “Dignity.”

By QUENTIN GIRARD special envoy on the “Dignity”

“The pins in the plastic, it will not be possible,” said Olivier Besancenot, in full session yourself. 11 hours on Monday, in a small Greek port. The Dignity Al Kamara, one of two ships of the French committee for Gaza, left at dawn the creek near the industrial town of Salamina, where he had hidden for three days. In another cove where he made a first step, the passengers – including Besancenot, so – try to install the satellite antenna to communicate with the outside world.

3 o’clock this morning, Julien Rivoire, a member of the NPA and a spokesman for the campaign called “Wake the captain, we’re back.” Between them and the small annex that links with the boat, watchdogs of the port or adjacent businesses. They bark violently at night. They fail to wake the whole neighborhood. Tunisian Omeyyaa Sedic and Julien Rivoire, equipped with the latest load required, can not pass. Latest in a series of tragicomic events that marked the week of the fleet. “We’re not James Bond, it is OSS 117” is trying to be amused Julien Rivoire finally climbing on Dignity.

Plaisance

Sunday evening, the decision was made. It was long in coming, interspersed with calls to Iniohos Hotel where the rest of the delegation. A consensus is emerging: the Dignity attempt to leave no matter what. This small yacht 13 meters long, having left France ten days ago, has a status of “craft” and is theoretically not subject to the same prohibition to start than other boats of the delegation.

On Friday, an American ship tried starting one. Saturday, the captain was imprisoned. It could several years in prison for having left without permission. After several announcements bullies, to show their determination and their will as strong as ever to go to Gaza to bring humanitarian assistance, the committees have defected last one after the other. Masters of Spanish ships and Canada have announced that they did not want to take as many risks as they were sure they could not be more than thirty meters. The former president of Greenpeace France, Alain Connan, captain of the main French ship Louise Michel, after long hesitation, agreed with this position, some attracted by the Greek jails.

He went to ask permission to start at the harbor. Refused of course. The passengers were then organized a demonstration on the deck of Louise Michel. They simulated a departure. They should all file a complaint for obstruction of freedom of movement in the afternoon.

Parano

5 o’clock this morning, the Dignity springs. The sun is not up yet. Some cargo ships moving in the distance. Around him, two or three carcasses that rust for too many years, the ferry may be ready to leave but which seem, at dawn, desperate still. Twelve boats, twenty-two different nationalities and several hundred passengers announced, the fleet is now reduced to three crew members, eight militants – Olivier Besancenot addition there are Nicole Kiil-Nielsen, MP europe-ecology, Annick Coupe, spokesman for the union Solidarity trade union, or Nabil Ennasr, president of the Collective of Muslims in France – and a journalist, the author of these lines.

The Dignity enters the channel. In the distance, lights, shadows indistinct, but no coastguard. Surprise among the passengers. They believed they were identified and a small star suddenly arise between two cargo ships to stop them. For two days, each gull, each fishing boat, each jet-ski with the big guys who spend every man piss in the night under the white lights of the port is an opportunity when paranoid.

To starboard there. A port, nothing. In the distance behind, already, the lights of Athens. The sun appears between two hills. After a week of failure or disruption, and the blows of fate have joined forces to keep them in port, for the first time the French committee actually managed something in Greece. They feel like defeat stress, even if they are tired, even if the tension is palpable at times between them, although discussions and waiting endlessly sometimes not.

Determination

Of course, they know that this little boat is not much. That Israel, obviously, has won the game this time and that the only issue that remains is to show that they have tried everything, it’s not a “fucking failure”, as stated Besancenot. Certainly they know that it is unlikely to go to Gaza, especially alone. Unless a Greek ship to join them. The committee led by Vengelis Pissias announced that they had a new, third, a “surprise” that the authorities do not know. But they have promised so many things since the beginning of last week …

The Dignity vogue. It will reach international waters in a few hours if not arrested by the Coast Guard before. There, passengers will make official statements. They expressed their determination against the blockade of Gaza and denounced the attitude of the international community against them. They then announce the next steps. If there is a sequel.

June 25 Le Monde article:

Gaza flotilla II imminent departure

A year after the arrest of a murderer off the first convoy of Israel, a new international fleet prepares to sail to Gaza to try to break the blockade imposed on the Palestinian enclave. Unlike last year, two French ships involved in the operation.

The first of these ships, the “Louise Michel”, is currently in Greece. The second, “Dignity-Al Karama” sailed this morning from the Ile-Rousse in Corsica. I get on one of them and try to deliver on this blog Monde.fr the story of the expedition.

A campaign launched in October 2010

This project, called “A French boat to Gaza” would not be possible without the 600,000 euros of the money raised during the campaign launched in October under the leadership of the combined platform of French NGOs for Palestine and the National Collective for a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Nearly 70 organizations (associations, political parties and unions) were involved in mobilization. From Lille to Marseille via Strasbourg, Toulouse or Alencon, speakers and activists around the country. Three-week tour in February. “It was a real success,” testifies Julien Rivoire, a member of the New Anti-Capitalist Party and the coordinating committee of the campaign. “It happened in the markets with a sound truck, banners, leaflets and a bank. In Toulouse, the Mirail, 600 euros were collected in two hours. It was during the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions. There was a particular climate, people were saying ‘it is possible to make a difference “.

SNOWBALL EFFECT

Driven by this momentum, mobilizing snowballed, quickly exceeding traditional activist circles. Events, exhibitions, film screenings or symbolic release of paper boats … In the end, more than 1,500 events are held across France. Donations tributary. “We never imagined that the movement would take on such a scale,” comments Maxim Guimberteau, communications officer of “A French boat to Gaza.”

“I feel that this campaign has awakened people. A real fervor has replaced the fatalism that had won many former activists involved in the pro-Palestinian,” observes Alain Bosc, and member of the Cimade Coordinating Committee of “A boat to Gaza”. Very relayed in associations, the initiative has been enthusiastically received in poor neighborhoods and in particular “to the French families of Arab origin, sensitive to the Palestinian question and the fate of the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip.”

90% of individual donations

Many structures such as the Christian Catholic Committee against Hunger and for Development (CCFD-Terre Solidarity) or the Christians of the Mediterranean have also mobilized their networks. An appeal, launched at the initiative of the Archbishop of Sens-Auxerre and bishops of Troyes and La Rochelle, was sent to all dioceses to encourage the faithful “to a special place in their personal prayer and a community for the second flotilla of freedom to achieve its objectives in the service of peace. ”

The result of all collected 600 000 euros, 90% of donations come from individuals. According to organizers, “most people participated at 5, 10 or 50 euros.” Added to the contributions of the signatory organizations, grants from several local and payment of the foundation “A world for all.” All support checks were made payable to the Movement against Racism and for Friendship between Peoples (MRAP), which opened a special account to centralize. “Everything was done in a transparent, ensures the collective. We have not accepted money from foreign countries or associations.”

46 PEOPLE IN FRENCH VESSELS

The funds raised were allocated to the purchase of two vessels, the formation of crews, and communications expenses. “Chartering vessels is what has been the most difficult in the end, recognizes Alain Bosc. We’re not owners, there have been some setbacks.”

Finally, 46 people are expected on board. Alongside the militants of the various associations involved in the campaign, carrying several personalities from the political or voluntary, as Olivier Besancenot (NPA), the Communist deputy in Le Havre, Jean-Paul Lecoq, MEP Nicole Kiil-Nielsen (EELV) the Breton sailor Jo Le Guen, or Julien Bayou, the collective “Out of colonialism.”

From June 25 FRANCE3

The “Dignity-Al Karama”, a 19-meter boat flying the French flag, left the waters of the Ile-Rousse to 11:15. It must join in the next ten to twelve days boats that make up the flotilla to Gaza.

“The entire fleet will sail next week from various Mediterranean ports,” Julien Rivoire told AFP a committee member coordinating the French countryside. Ships, including two freighters carrying medical supplies, “should reach the port of Gaza at the end of next week,” he added. Among them, a cargo bought a quarter of France and the rest of Sweden, Norway and France, making the “Dignity” the only boat in the fleet entirely French.

“We hope we can do it so as to breach the blockade,” said Omeyya Seddik, a passenger on the “Dignity”, reached by telephone by the AFP, for whom “joy is the feeling that dominates the time of departure. “This fleet is part of “the natural continuation of the revolution for freedom and democracy,” in Arab countries, said Seddik, of Tunisian origin.

Before taking off, a passenger on the boat at the stern hoisted a Palestinian flag and made the “V” for victory.