Tag Archives: Siege of Gaza

Daily Gaza fishing flotilla blockaded by Israeli Navy, no fishing to supplement carefully measured aid starvation diet

Gaza fishermen being attacked by IDF gunboat with water cannon
The fishermen of Gaza are harassed daily by IDF gunships which shoot them outright when there are no Western witnesses present. The late Vittorio Arrigoni was one of the International Solidarity Movement who regularly accompanied fishing boats, forcing the Israelis to set aside their machine guns for water cannon when he was around. Of late activists have their own boat, the Oliva, to escort the fishing fleets. And today the Oliva was accompanied by another skiff commissioned by the Guardian. Their Jerusalem correspondent Harriet Sherwood tweeted the following adventure just now:

On boat heading out from Gaza port. Fishermen regularly fired on by Israeli military. Going to check.

Getting close to 3 mile limit for fishing. Israeli gunboat speeding towards us.

There are 7 boats in our group. 4 fishing boats, 2 press boats, 1 human rights group boat.

Israeli gunboat circling around. Siren sounding. Machine gun mounted at rear.

IDF coming very close. Sirens. Banking hard causing a lot of backwash for our small motor boat.

6 or 7 troops on bridge, all armed. We have cut our engines.

We are 2 or 2 and a half miles from shore so within fishing zone. IDF preventing us going further.

Phone signal going in and out. A 2nd IDF boat heading towards us.

Fishing boats are throwing lines. But very few fish this close to shore.

Guardian boat is flying under Barcelona FC flag….

Now 2 gunboats stopping us going further.

This is our GPS location: N31.5727176 and E034.37703. Can someone work out exactly how far we are from Gaza City?

Fishermen saying there are no fish. They want to go out another 50 metres. But that could provoke reaction. No boat willing to go first.

One fishing boat heading further out. But the guys are asking us (Guardian) to go in front for protection.

One IDF boat just circling our boats about 50m away. Other boat a bit further away.

A lot of resources devoted to a few tiny fishing boats.

Sea is calm today – except our little bit. Backwash creating lot of waves. They keep sounding siren. But we have all cut engines.

I’m told that the point of the IDF continually circling us is to create continuous waves and noise. Makes fishing harder.

One fishing boat just been swamped by backwash. They are giving up and going back to port.

One IDF boat appears to be heading away. The other coming closer.

Water canon military boat in distance. Maybe heading towards us. Hope not.

Both gunboats have moved off as water canon boat approaches.

Water canon boat maybe 200m away. Heading straight towards us. May have to put comms away for a bit.

Boats being water canoned. Very dangerous. The NGO boat almost went under.

Was mini hi-speed boat chase as we cut and run and the IDF chase.

IDF still firing on Oliva the human rights boat. They are trying to drown it says my translator.

We are keeping distance. Feel cowardly.

Amazing that the Oliva is still afloat.

We are within 3 mile limit so why is IDF doing this?

I will call them later to ask.

Other fishing boats yelling at us what are you still here. Go in, go in!

We are heading in. Water canon boat close behind.

All boats okay and heading back to port. No one hurt – but no fish either.

Water canon boat still firing its water into an empty sea.

Correction – one fishing boat passes and shows me its haul. 6 tiny ones. They are angry says my translator.

Water canon boat now firing on another group of fishing boats.

These fishermen are strangely euphoric – singing clapping dancing on their boats. Glad simply to survive I guess.

Back on dry land. 9.55am. Welcome back to safety says my translator, laughing ironically.

The Oliva, the water canoned boat, coming into port now with the other fishing boats.

The Oliva was rammed by the water canon boat and its engine damaged. The captain says all boats were within the 3 mile limit.

The fishing boats have gone back out. The Oliva’s captain is still bailing out his boat.

Captain says the engine fan is broken. It will cost around $4-500 to repair.

The gear is also damaged. This is the 3rd time the crew say.

Captain says they will go out again tomorrow if they can repair the engine. They have to find the parts, not easy in Gaza.

He says every time he goes out he expects to be attacked by water canon, live bullets, ‘whatever.’

That’s it from Gaza City port. I will be writing a piece for the Guardian and we have shot video. Over and out, as they say.

We’ll link to the Guardian article as soon as it’s out.

UPDATE: Rad the CPSGaza account.

Dignite Al Karama nears Gaza waters, reconnoitered by unidentified swiftboat UPDATE: Ship boarded, towed to Israel


3AM UPDATE: Israeli Navy has jammed communication, boarded Dignité, taken 16 into custody, and is towing vessel to Ashdod, Israel, actually occupied Palestine. Israel’s enforcement of illegal blockade of Gaza confirms Gaza occupation.

Facebook image of Vedette of unknown nationality which approached the French Freedom Flotilla participant before speeding off
Sole remaining vessel of the “Say Human” Freedom Flotilla II, Dignite Al Karama, is expected to enter Gazan waters after daybreak Tuesday, July 19. The French leisure craft left yesterday without unanimous approval of flotilla steering committee, but carries passengers from multiple international delegations, intent to let nothing delay breaking the siege of Gaza. See latest pictures.


The Dignite was boarded on international waters, at coordinates: 33º25 E, 31º25 N.

The Flotilla II steering committee apparently wanted to close the books on the 2011 aid convoy, in line perhaps with the US Audacity of Hope’s own five hour tour that left activists deserted on the Greek isles. Bravo to the Dignity for deciding that the freedom of Gaza doesn’t need postponing until the next stillborn mission.

Aboard the DIGNITY:

Stéphan Corriveau, Coordinator of Canadian boat to Gaza; Dror Feiler, spokesperson of Ship to Gaza-Sweden, President of the European Jews for a Just Peace, artist, musician, composer; Jérôme Gleizes, France, Europe Ecologie Les Verts; Jacqueline Le Corre, France, Médecin-Collectif 14 de soutien au peuple palestinien, member of Parti communiste francais; Jean Claude Lefort, former MEP, French Communist Party –PCF, president France-Palestine Solidarity Association (AFPS); Claude Léostic, spokesperson of Un bateau français pour Gaza; Yamin Makri, France, Collectif 69 de soutien au peuple palestinien; Omeyya Naoufel Seddik, Tunisian, Fédération des Tunisiens pour une citoyenneté des deux rives (FTCR), and Ligue tunisienne des Droits de l’Homme (LTDH), Phd in Political Science; Thomas Sommer-Houdeville, spokesperson of Un bateau français pour Gaza, Researcher, Political Sciecnce, Middle East Studies, at the Institut francais du proche Orient; Vangelis Pissias, spokesperson of Ship to Gaza-Greece, Professor at Technical University of Athens; Amira Hass, Israeli journalist – Haaretz; Ayyache Derradji, Journalist from Al Jazeera; Stéphane Guida, Cameraman from Al Jazeera; with Zacharia Stylianakis, Captain; Hilaire Folacci, Mariner; Yannick Voisin, Mariner; Jo Leguen, Navigator

Next Gaza Freedom Flotilla will be an anti-globalist, anti-Apartheid Armada

Swedish-Greek Ship to Gaza JULIANO of the 2011 Freedom Flotilla II
Israel successfully defended its inhumane illegal siege of Gaza against the 2011 Freedom Flotilla, currently regrouping in Greece. Let’s recap: the French Dignite Al Karama awaits permission to leave Crete, the Swedish/Greek MV Juliano overcame sabotage which crippled the Irish MV Saoirse and unconfirmed others. The Canadian Tahrir was boarded by Greek commandos and towed back to Athens. The US Audacity of Hope repelled a shouting match with the Greek Coast Guard then surrendered into custody. Ready to form the next flotilla are the Spanish Guernica, French Louise Michel, and the Stefano Chiarini, Freedom for All and Methimus II. In the wings of course await the Mavi Marmara and the Rachel Corrie. Will this grow to an Armada? Israeli intransigence and its Hasbarapocalypse guarantee it.

Check these allied organizations to see how you can join the next voyage:

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.

Solidarity rally for Gaza Aid Flotilla II called off in Christian-Zionist Springs


Humanitarian rights activists aboard the Canadian Flotilla II aid ship bravely try to block the pilot’s view as Greek forces commandeer the TAHRIR before it reached international waters. While Greece is denounced for its complicity with Israel, the international press offered no live coverage, so few Americans knew it was happening. Meanwhile predominantly Christian-Zionist Colorado Springs urged Team USrael to #sinktheflotilla! Sorry local Judeo-Christo-holes, no dialog.
 
While the maritime aid convoy looks sunk, to the degree it received attention, the Flotilla II did raise awareness about the besieged Gazans. But more, the blocking of the aid ships, by USA, Greece, Turkey, litigious NGOs and unknown intelligence operatives, suggests that Israel is not a rogue state after all. The Flotilla II revealed the illusion of democracy, the farce of sovereignty, and the inhumanity of our global governors. By international humanitarian aid being denied Gaza by state power we see: this is what a police state looks like, globalized.


Arrest of those who blocked the wheel house.


A sweet photo of the Canadian activists looking forlorn, for a brief moment. However unceremoniously, by this weekend’s blocking of the Freedom Flotilla II, the cause of freedom for Palestine and for Greece is well advanced.

And best news, precious activists didn’t have to die by the hand of Israeli commandos, and live to repeat their promise, Gaza We Are Coming!

Banner day for IMF: enslaves Greece, blocks Flotilla II to free Gaza & rapes Strauss-Kahn accuser for second time


JULY 1, 2011- US Boat THE AUDACITY OF HOPE defies Greek Authorities, immediately blocked. Shortly after this photo was taken, the Audacity of Hope was surrounded by Greek coast guard ships, blocked by the same government that just voted twice against the will of its own people.

Irish MV Saoirse becomes 2nd victim of sabotage, cannot sail with Gaza Flotilla

So how do nonviolent, unarmed humanitarian activists protect themselves from weapons-wielding attackers? Not very well.
 
But they don’t have to. Afterward, they don’t even point a finger. And it’s working.

Via too many flat screens to stop, the world audience sees that Israel will stop at nothing to starve off its remaining Palestinians, neither violence, lawsuits, attempted murder, or slander, is too much to keep humanitarians from hindering Israel’s designs on Judea and Samaria.

Now I admit I favor just a little finger pointing, particularly when it’s too early to say, concrete evidence-wise, because that brings out something even less attractive. Accuse Israel immediately and guess what, they’ll indignantly try to put the blame on others. That’s ugly.

And they accuse you of antisemitism, even if you love Jews, but don’t favor the Zionist, mass-murdering variety.

Getting aid to the beleaguered Gazans may prove more difficult than a beeline Mediterranean cruise, but this mountain of a greater Palestinian cause is coming to Mohammed.

Delegitimizing Apartheid Israel is becoming as easy as taking candy from a baby-candy-taker. While the internet hasbarapocalypse foams at the mouth applauding what may or may not have been IDF divers who rigged the MV Saoirse to sink in mid voyage, or what may or may not have been Mossad undercover agents who relieved flotilla participants of their cellphones, the eagerness of Stand-With-Israel fans to stand with such tactics is compounding with self-antisemitism.

It’s becoming more and more clear, with obstacles like the corporate media stacked against critics of Israel, that a nonviolent strategy is tantamount to success against a lawless foe. Remember our TSA considers nail-clippers to be a weapon. your average ocean-going cabin cruiser arms itself with at least a speargun or two if there becomes a need to fend off would-be petty pirates. God forbid the Gaza Flotilla be caught with tools like that.

So how do flotilla activists keep a 24-hour watch against underwater demolition teams? How do elderly activists protect themselves from paid-hoodlums holding them up? The next flotilla will need an entourage of protectors I suppose, if this what happens to this flotilla doesn’t break the blockade of Gaza for good.

First look! US Boat to Gaza, Flotilla II blockade runner The Audacity of Hope


Democracy Now Producer Aaron Maté took a quick photo of the American boat scheduled shortly to sail with the upcoming aid flotilla to Gaza. How will President Obama respond to an effort named after his presidential campaign bestseller Audacity Of Hope? I’d suggest, by renaming his book, which he has to do anyway, the Audacity of Empty Promises. Obama has urged Palestinians to remain nonviolent, yet condemns the nonviolent convoy sailing to break Israel’s illegal siege and relieve the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Press intimidation, frivolous lawfare, and sabotage, it’s hasbarapocalypse

Flotilla2 boat to GazaYou’re looking at an underwater photo of the starboard propeller of the passenger ship “Juliano” berthed in Piraeus, Greece, waiting to sail with the “Stay Human” Freedom Flotilla II departing soon to break the siege of Gaza. Reports of sabotage babelfished, even as some flotilla participants quickly issued a retraction. As diver video documented, someone assailed the propeller shaft casing, luckily repairable, but Greek authorities could seize on the incident to delay the activists with an investigation, or insist on further inspections, using anticipation of sabotage to delay or forbid the voyage.

Whodunnit? Sooner than point the finger at whoever took the intelligence contract, better to focus on the flotilla’s irrepressible forward momentum. Notice how the Hasbara themes want to presage the relief effort’s dwindling relevance? Sabotage would grant Israel too easy success. You can’t kill activism but in the shadows.

Fortunately the flotilla vessels are arrayed at various Mediterranean ports, and the identities are being kept secret, much as the internet chorus would like to track them by satellite. So far the flotilla organizer strategies have been impeccable.

Media reports of nonviolence classes counter Israeli anticipation of violence.

The American boat’s decision to bring only a cargo of letters appears to have been a savvy maneuver around the US DOJ’s predictable enforcement of its anti-terrorism statutes. Yes, Hamas was democratically elected, but on the books it’s a terrorist entity and supporting it materially will result in charges. It seems inconceivable, but surprise seems to be a recurring judicial theme. The US delegation comprises the antiwar movements most luminary, I have to credit them now for not being too reckless. Where would the rest of us be, if they are behind bars?

Next I expect we will see the wit behind naming their boat after President Obama’s bestseller Audacity of Hope. What’s that going to do for his Google-metrics? Obama won’t be able to mention it again, without drawing reference to the Gaza relief mission he didn’t support.

The flotilla2 organizers don’t hope to provoke Israel, nor shame the IDF to “Stay Human,” they want to sail the the people of Gaza.

Meanwhile, Israel asserts its right to besiege Gaza, to starve, harass and demoralize the Palestinians in hope that eventually they’ll just want to leave. And that’s why the flotilla must not pass.

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.

Libyan humanitarian aid ship to Gaza undaunted by Israeli Navy death threat

While Israel releases redacted portions of its internal investigation of the Mavi Marmara Massacre, another aid ship steams toward the Gaza Blockade. The cargo ship Amalthea carries humanitarian aid from Libya and is due to cross into Gazan waters on Wednesday, barring interception by the Israeli navy in international waters.

Israel was able to exert international pressure on various fronts to try to prevent the departure of the humanitarian cargo ship. It’s flagged in Moldova, and had to port in Greece before making its run to relieve the Siege of Gaza.

Was Gaza flotilla infiltrated by agent-provocateurs? Plausible, but whose?

It’s convenient to surmise that unexpected violence between activists and authorities must be the work of undercover provocateurs. With the fallout of the Mavi Marmara massacre reaching fever pitch, it’s hard to believe Israel would have engineered it thus; and far easier to imagine IDF infiltrators trying to steer flotilla organizers clear of headline-grabbing provocations.
I have a theory that terrorism-suspect and ultra-activist Ken O’Keefe is without doubt a provocateur. Working for whom? You and me.

By ours I don’t mean the us of A. I mean people of conscience.

Ken O’Keefe is the former US marine who renounced his citizenship after fighting in the Gulf War. Among many actions he’s participated in since then, O’Keefe led the bus caravan to Iraq during the lead up to that war, when it was hoped dotting Iraq with Westerners would be the human shield that deterred a US=British attack.

O’Keefe was among those on the Mavi Marmara, in particular fending off the commandos. He recounts how he helped disarm the soldiers and stash their sidearms for later use as evidence. The clips weren’t “emptied” into the Israelis at all, but stashed separately to prevent anyone from using or being accused of using the guns.

If anything O’Keefe served as provocateur to the activists’ courage, to step up a try to avert Israel’s interception of the humanitarian aid.

But on the theme of provocateurs, there are some schools of thought worth deliberating. (to be continued)

Condemnation of Israeli state piracy

New Israeli flagCOLO. SPRINGS- Join IMPROMPTU PROTEST OF US-ISRAEL MILITARIZED REPRESSION. Protest Israel’s deadly raid on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. Called by Coloradans For Peace, Colorado Springs, Acacia Park, NOON. Pro-Palestinian, Free-Gaza, and all anti-imperial voices welcome. This Memorial Day, remember the USS Liberty!

Israeli pirates commandeer Freedom Flotilla, kill, injure, unarmed activists

Although it had turned away from the coast, Israeli commandos boarded the Gaza Freedom Flotilla at 4am. Turkish TV is reporting two dead, thirty injured on the 600 passenger ship Mavi Marmara.
 
UPDATE: Israeli media reports 10 deaths, ships to be hauled to Israeli port instead of Egypt where reporters are waiting.

Hello London, Hello London. Warships hailing convoy in international waters


AT 23:00GMT, two Israeli ships are approaching IHH Mavi Marmara, drones heard overhead, satellite connection becoming interrupted. Passengers have donned life jackets, some prepare gas masks, maybe equipment Israel may prefer not reach Gaza. Descending on Freedom Flotilla: one large destroyer is visible, three total on radar. Challenger I reports being contacted as well. Blinking lights of something hovering above. Abbas Al Lawati writing from Marmara.
UPDATE: Inflatables approaching ship as communications cease.

Last tweets from ShiptoGaza-Greece aboard Eleftheri Mesogeios:

Live ammo fired against the ships from helicopters and zodiacs – both pass ships boarded by israeli forces

Eleftheri Mesogeios” is the only ship still not captured

All ships are boarded except Eleftheri Mesogeios

“Eleftheri Mesogeios” denies to clomply to orders from israeli navy and awaits instructions by the Greek government

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.

Unusual mechanical failures delay, but fail to scuttle, Gaza Freedom Flotilla

First the MV Rachel Corrie suffered a breakdown shortly after leaving port. Then the Challenger I lost its steering mechanism and another Greek ship has to return to port. Though derided by Israeli critics as “tin buckets,” the ships had been certified sea-worthy before the convoy set sail. Suspicions about system failures can wait until proper investigations. Cyprus denied the Challenger permission to harbor for repairs, so its passengers were transshipped to the Mavi Marmara, and the convoy delayed its rendezvous. The revised timing will deny the Israeli navy a chance to attack during the night. The relief ships will not be approaching the contested waters off Gaza until after daybreak.

As it did during earlier relief convoy efforts, Cyprus responded to pressure from Israel and refused to allow convoy ships to assemble at its ports. This time the Greek Authority of Cyprus enforced a ban against the Freedom Flotilla vessels from entering its waters. WitnessForGaza has a video of a Cypriot helicopter keeping the Challenger I at bay, even though it was becoming increasingly disabled and need to reach a safe harbor.

What can you do to protect the convoy?

Subject: Call For Action As The Flotilla Faces Serious Threats From Israel

“People are very aware that the Israeli authorities and indeed others are playing all sorts of mind games, with threats alternating with so called offers, which would include surrendering the aid into Israeli hands, something which the participants of the flotilla find entirely unacceptable”

Speaking from the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, Kevin Ovenden from Viva Palestina outlined some of the concerns and realities currently been faced by over 750 people on board the 9 ships sailing towards Gaza.

The last of the ships departed from Turkey at midnight last night, and they are all currently in International waters in the Mediterranean Sea. Their journey is faced with incredible danger, given the threats that have been issued by the Israeli Government. They have stated that they will stop this Flotilla at all costs, even by force if necessary. Their safety is in grave danger, and the time has come for the international community to stand up for their safety and well being.

Tomorrow, Saturday, the flotilla should be sailing into Gaza, however, given the threats issued, the likely hood of this happening is looking uncertain at this stage. We are calling on everyone to contact various political leaders to ask them to do everything in their power to ensure the safety of these brave people, and to stand up and add their voice in support of this humanitarian flotilla.

Does Israel’s STAND WITH US stand against humanitarian aid to Gaza?

Hey! Let’s seize this opportunity to get around the usual US media blackout on sympathy-for- Palestine activism. American members of Stand With Us, the Israeli outreach group on American college campuses, do YOU stand against the relief convoy defying Israel’s naval blockade to bring humanitarian aid to the besieged Palestinians of Gaza? StandWithUs is forming an IDF-booster fleet to protest the Gaza Freedom Flotilla as it seeks passage between the Israeli navy ships.

Stand With Us accuses the convoy organizers of trying to make Israel look bad. By holding Gaza under siege, who exactly is pretending not to look bad? If Israel’s navy indeed raids the convoy ships and arrests all on board, Israel’s image will be degraded further.

Now add yahoos in the water, egging on their soldiers, or more probably, protesting that they’re not beating the activists severely enough. Won’t that mirror the settler behavior in the West Bank, where they torment the Palestinians under the protection of the IDF? And when prevented by the soldiers, the settlers take their anger out on the Palestinians again.

It appears Israel’s Stand With Us club intends to make all their members look bad.

Why would anyone block humanitarian relief? If indeed the peace activists are trying to give Israel a black eye, let them pass.

What can you do? Contact a local chapter of Stand With Us and as them if they are lobbying for solidarity with such an activity as their counter-flotilla.

Here’s an excerpt from the Jerusalem Post in which StandWithUs leaders deny there’s a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Enjoy:

“What the other anti-Israel flotilla is doing is ignoring human rights abuses and focusing on a fake situation,” Michael Dickson, StandWithUs Israel Director, told The Jerusalem Post Thursday.

Dickson believes the European flotilla cares more about hurting Israel than helping the Palestinians in Gaza.

Lior Meyer, a StandWithUs Project Manager planning the counter flotilla, hopes their demonstration will show that Gaza is under Hamas siege, rather than Israeli occupation.

“I hope they’re not expecting anything. When someone’s surprised by the truth it’s only a good thing,” Meyer said, claiming that few people know the nature of Hamas’s control.

Dickson said that the European activists’ aid could have reached Gaza in one day instead of one week if they weren’t interested in making a publicity statement.

“I think that the key thing is that this is not some fare minded mission coming in that cares for peace. Their flotilla is driven by hate rather than peace. They don’t really care about the victims who live under Hamas in Gaza and the south of Israel,”

The Gazan People’s Front or People’s Front of Gaza less funny than Nazirene

A Gaza Flotilla PR mishap, as minor as a participant speaking out of place, was seized upon by one reporter to suggest rivalry between co-sponsors of the relief convoy due to convene Saturday at Gaza’s door. When an interviewee said “Free Palestine Movement” instead of “Free Gaza,” the reporter recalled scenes from Monty Python’s Life of Brian and the mortal rivalry between the “People’s Judean Front” and the “People’s Front of Judea,” often understood to lampoon the PLO and it splinter groups. Haha. But why didn’t the reporter mention Python’s other irreverent terrorist gang also fighting the Roman occupation: the uber-Zionist Nazirene? Because Otto and the Nazirene, that’s right, not Nazarene, were cut from the video when control was wrestled from Monty Python for the rights.

Why the offense? Because they wore swastika-like Stars-of-David and they goose-stepped? Because they followed a small-mustached leader named Otto who dreamed of a racially pure state for Jews only?

I’m surprised that more Monty Python fans aren’t livid at the suggestion the classic has been censored for all posterity. But only those who saw Life of Brian in the theater, or can pick up an out-of-print paperback of the screenplay, would know what lines successive viewers don’t hear to memorize.

Lines like these between Eric Idle and Graham Chapman:

OTTO: It’s time, you know … Time that we Jews racially purified ourselves … We need more living room. We must move into the traditionally Jewish areas of Samaria.

BRIAN: What about the Samaritans?

OTTO: Well, we can put them in little camps. And after Samaria we must move into Jordan and create a great Jewish state that will last a thousand years.

Imagine a Zionist depicted using Hitler’s expression “living space!” Lebensraum meant a homeland where the German people could live unmolested, with room for their population to grow.

Associating Zionists with Nazis has always meant courting trouble. Does it sound incredible that defenders of Israel would take a knife to Monty Python’s work? Know any other blockbuster movies of the late 70s which mysteriously shed memorable scenes when they reemerged on video?

Criterion recently released a DVD with extras that purport to include the deleted scenes, you can see them on Youtube, but they are actually outtakes with bits missing still, in particular the lines above.

I wrote about this at length in an earlier post, when I came upon the missing dialog just by chance. In that post I also transcribed the full text of the censored scenes.

Back to the joke made at the Free Gaza Movement‘s expense. Hopefully the organizers can laugh it off. Really Jerusalem-based reporter Jackie Rowland was making hay of an email shown to her by a participant being compelled to switch the word “Palestine” for “Gaza” because they were not authorized to speak officially for the “Free Gaza Movement.” With any improvised collection of activists, only those tasked should speak for the whole. Especially someone who may have been admonished beforehand not to present themselves as a spokesman.

I cannot presume to know what were the motives in this instance, but it’s been my experience that characters bent on disrupting the work of activists often put themselves before the cameras to sabotage the message. Leaders have to guard against that tactic.

The reporter should have know as much. Imagine interviewing Rush Limbaugh and taking him at his word that he represented the White House.

The activist should have made that fact more clear. It certainly was disingenuous of the reporter however, because it would be easy to confirm that there was no such group, instead of concluding that rival non-profits were vying for taking credit for the convoy. In that way Jackie Rowland’s article seemed like a mean-spirited laugh.

The groups which have brought the multi-million dollar enterprise together that is the Gaza Freedom Flotilla appear to me to be far from adversaries, otherwise how could this be the ninth unified attempt?

The same cannot be said for Fatah and Hamas of course, nor of the extremists in Israel.

monty-python-life-brian-ottoThe latest reports have the relief convoy meeting in the international waters off of Gaza on Saturday. The story has been playing well in the international press, and is beginning to see daylight in the US. Apart from those with a Zionist slant, two decent reports emerged today in the WSJ and Time.

Gaza Freedom Flotilla sea rendezvous


Two vessels from the Gaza-bound humanitarian aid convoy met up this morning between the Aegean Islands of Amorgos and Astypalaia. The Swedish/Greek cargo Ship To Gaza FREE MEDITERRANEAN (formerly the Sofia) is now cruising along side the SFENDONI, a passenger ship for the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza. More pictures at Xstefanou’s the Press Project and at Equal Society.
(Below are updated photos of the growing fleet.)


FREE MEDITERRANEAN (Formerly SOFIA)


SFENDONI


APION


CHALLENGER I


MAVI MARMARA


ISRAELI NAVY

Israeli yacht club sends Anti-Freedom Flotilla to protest Gaza relief convoy


PICTURES! -Some very expensive yachts sailed from Herziliya Yacht Club in a feint of indignation that an international social justice effort was showing favoritism toward Palestinians. No Gaza yacht club could be reached for a response. Commodore Guy Bechor, an outspoken Zionist, led the ostentatious flotilla in protest of the humanitarian aid convoy attempting to break the siege of Gaza, which he belittled as “rusty tin cans.”

The banners for their private regatta? TURKEY=IRAN? and FREE GILAD, an interesting conceit. 1.5 million Gazans are being blockaded to coerce the release of one Israeli POW. That’s a ratio similar to the disproportionate casualties of the 2008 Gaza “War.”

While soldier Gilad Shalit is considered a hostage of Hamas, he was an IDF soldier captured by the resistance. Israel holds 8,000 Palestinians in detention, not counting all the residents of Gaza.

The Gaza Massacre, like the ongoing siege itself, is recognized as an illegal act of collective punishment. A fact apparently lost on the Yerziliya skippers. Likewise the disconnect they display in presuming to insult the Turkish leader by associating him with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Though the yacht flotilla raised fears of creating an embarrassing confrontation with the humanitarian fleet, in reality it was a single day affair. The Israeli counter protesters were informed that the entire coast of Gaza has been cordoned by the Israeli navy. The pretext it will use to try to arrest the Freedom Flotilla blockade runners.

Bechor’s website G-planet celebrates all the press they received, I don’t see the harm in giving them more. These pictures speak a thousand words, almost as many days as Gaza has been under illegal siege.

See more pictures at Bechor’s Facebook album. The irony of the singular concern for Gilad Shalit might have caused Bechor to think twice about the message. All photos of yachts featuring the banners about Shalit have been curiously scrubbed, but they remain on some Turkish news sites.

Bechor list dozens of Turkish media outlets which covered his anti-relief regatta, demonstrating a strategy of aiming to undercut Turkish public support for what it predominantly its humanitarian effort. While several of the outlets might be Hasbara properties echoing Israel PR, most of the articles about the Israeli counter-protest make as much fun of it as we.

For the record, here is the port at Gaza, absent of yachts. The relief convoy will even have to improvise docks for unloading their supplies.

Robert Fisk and the language of power, danger words: Competing Narratives

Celebrated reporter -and verb- Robert Fisk had harsh words, “danger words” he called them, for host Al-Jazeera where he gave an address about the language of power which has infected newsman and reader alike. Beware your unambiguous acceptance of empty terms into which state propagandists let you infer nuance: power players, activism, non-state actors, key players, geostrategic players, narratives, external players, meaningful solutions, –meaning what?
I’ll not divulge why these stung Al-J, but I’d like to detail the full list, and commit not to condone their false usage at NMT, without ridicule, “quotes” or disclaimer.

Fisk listed several expressions which he attributes to government craftsmen. Unfortunately journalists have been parroting these terms without questioning their dubious meaning. Fisk began with a favorite, the endless, disingenuous, “peace process.” What is that – victor-defined purgatory? Why would “peace” be a “process” Fisk asks.

How appropriate that some of the West’s strongest critics are linguists. Fisk lauded the current seagoing rescue of Gaza, the convoy determined to break the Israeli blockade. He compared it to the Berlin Airlift, when governments saw fit to help besieged peoples, even former enemies. This time however, the people have to act where their governments do not.

I read recently that the Gaza Freedom Flotilla might be preparing accommodations for Noam Chomsky to join the passage. Won’t that be an escalation? I imagine if Robert Fisk would climb aboard too, it would spell doom for any chance the relief supplies would reach the Gazans. A ship convoy with Chomsky and Fisk on board would present an opportunity that an Israeli torpedo could not resist.

Here is his list. If you can’t peruse the lecture, at least ponder these words with as much skepticism as you can. The parenthesis denote my shorthand.

peace process (detente under duress, while enduring repression)

“Peace of the Brave” (accept your subjugation, coined for Algeria, then France lost)

“Hearts and Minds” (Vietnam era psych-ops, then US lost)

spike (to avoid saying: increase)

surge (reinforcements, you send them in you’re losing)

key players (only puppets and their masters need apply)

back on track (the objective has been on rails?)

peace envoy (in mob-speak: the cleaner)

road map (winner’s bill of lading for the spoils)

experts (vetted opinions)

indirect talks (concurrent soliloquies, duets performed solo in proximity to common fiddler calling tune)

competing narratives (parallel universes in one? naturally the perpetrator is going to tell a different tale, disputing that of victim’s; ungoing result is no justice and no injustice) examples:
occupied vs. disputed;
wall vs. security barrier;
colonization vs settlements, outposts or Jewish neighborhoods.

foreign fighters (them, but always us)

Af-Pak (ignores third party India and thus dispute to Kashmir)

appeasers (sissies who don’t have bully’s back)

Weapons of Mass Destruction (not Iraq, now not Iran)

think tanks (ministry of propaganda privatized)

challenges (avoids they are problems)

intervention (asserted authority by military force)

change agents (by undisclosed means?)

Until asked otherwise, I’ll append Fisk’s talk here:

Robert Fisk, The Independent newspaper’s Middle East correspondent, gave the following address to the fifth Al Jazeera annual forum on May 23.

Power and the media are not just about cosy relationships between journalists and political leaders, between editors and presidents. They are not just about the parasitic-osmotic relationship between supposedly honourable reporters and the nexus of power that runs between White House and state department and Pentagon, between Downing Street and the foreign office and the ministry of defence. In the western context, power and the media is about words – and the use of words.

It is about semantics.

It is about the employment of phrases and clauses and their origins. And it is about the misuse of history; and about our ignorance of history.

More and more today, we journalists have become prisoners of the language of power.

Is this because we no longer care about linguistics? Is this because lap-tops ‘correct’ our spelling, ‘trim’ our grammar so that our sentences so often turn out to be identical to those of our rulers? Is this why newspaper editorials today often sound like political speeches?

Let me show you what I mean.

For two decades now, the US and British – and Israeli and Palestinian – leaderships have used the words ‘peace process’ to define the hopeless, inadequate, dishonourable agreement that allowed the US and Israel to dominate whatever slivers of land would be given to an occupied people.

I first queried this expression, and its provenance, at the time of Oslo – although how easily we forget that the secret surrenders at Oslo were themselves a conspiracy without any legal basis. Poor old Oslo, I always think! What did Oslo ever do to deserve this? It was the White House agreement that sealed this preposterous and dubious treaty – in which refugees, borders, Israeli colonies – even timetables – were to be delayed until they could no longer be negotiated.

And how easily we forget the White House lawn – though, yes, we remember the images – upon which it was Clinton who quoted from the Qur’an, and Arafat who chose to say: “Thank you, thank you, thank you, Mr. President.” And what did we call this nonsense afterwards? Yes, it was ‘a moment of history’! Was it? Was it so?

Do you remember what Arafat called it? “The peace of the brave.” But I don’t remember any of us pointing out that “the peace of the brave” was used originally by General de Gaulle about the end of the Algerian war. The French lost the war in Algeria. We did not spot this extraordinary irony.

Same again today. We western journalists – used yet again by our masters – have been reporting our jolly generals in Afghanistan as saying that their war can only be won with a “hearts and minds” campaign. No-one asked them the obvious question: Wasn’t this the very same phrase used about Vietnamese civilians in the Vietnam war? And didn’t we – didn’t the West – lose the war in Vietnam?

Yet now we western journalists are actually using – about Afghanistan – the phrase ‘hearts and minds’ in our reports as if it is a new dictionary definition rather than a symbol of defeat for the second time in four decades, in some cases used by the very same soldiers who peddled this nonsense – at a younger age – in Vietnam.

Just look at the individual words which we have recently co-opted from the US military.

When we westerners find that ‘our’ enemies – al-Qaeda, for example, or the Taliban -have set off more bombs and staged more attacks than usual, we call it ‘a spike in violence’. Ah yes, a ‘spike’!

A ‘spike’ in violence, ladies and gentlemen is a word first used, according to my files, by a brigadier general in the Baghdad Green Zone in 2004. Yet now we use that phrase, we extemporise on it, we relay it on the air as our phrase. We are using, quite literally, an expression created for us by the Pentagon. A spike, of course, goes sharply up, then sharply downwards. A ‘spike’ therefore avoids the ominous use of the words ‘increase in violence’ – for an increase, ladies and gentlemen, might not go down again afterwards.

Now again, when US generals refer to a sudden increase in their forces for an assault on Fallujah or central Baghdad or Kandahar – a mass movement of soldiers brought into Muslim countries by the tens of thousands – they call this a ‘surge’. And a surge, like a tsunami, or any other natural phenomena, can be devastating in its effects. What these ‘surges’ really are – to use the real words of serious journalism – are reinforcements. And reinforcements are sent to wars when armies are losing those wars. But our television and newspaper boys and girls are still talking about ‘surges’ without any attribution at all! The Pentagon wins again.

Meanwhile the ‘peace process’ collapsed. Therefore our leaders – or ‘key players’ as we like to call them – tried to make it work again. Therefore the process had to be put ‘back on track’. It was a railway train, you see. The carriages had come off the line. So the train had to be put ‘back on track’. The Clinton administration first used this phrase, then the Israelis, then the BBC.

But there was a problem when the ‘peace process’ had been put ‘back on track’ – and still came off the line. So we produced a ‘road map’ – run by a Quartet and led by our old Friend of God, Tony Blair, who – in an obscenity of history – we now refer to as a ‘peace envoy’.

But the ‘road map’ isn’t working. And now, I notice, the old ‘peace process’ is back in our newspapers and on our television screens. And two days ago, on CNN, one of those boring old fogies that the TV boys and girls call ‘experts’ – I’ll come back to them in a moment – told us again that the ‘peace process’ was being put ‘back on track’ because of the opening of ‘indirect talks’ between Israelis and Palestinians.

Ladies and gentlemen, this isn’t just about clichés – this is preposterous journalism. There is no battle between power and the media. Through language, we have become them.

Maybe one problem is that we no longer think for ourselves because we no longer read books. The Arabs still read books – I’m not talking here about Arab illiteracy rates – but I’m not sure that we in the West still read books. I often dictate messages over the phone and find I have to spend ten minutes to repeat to someone’s secretary a mere hundred words. They don’t know how to spell.

I was on a plane the other day, from Paris to Beirut – the flying time is about three hours and 45 minutes – and the woman next to me was reading a French book about the history of the Second World War. And she was turning the page every few seconds. She had finished the book before we reached Beirut! And I suddenly realised she wasn’t reading the book – she was surfing the pages! She had lost the ability to what I call ‘deep read’. Is this one of our problems as journalists, I wonder, that we no longer ‘deep read’? We merely use the first words that come to hand …

Let me show you another piece of media cowardice that makes my 63-year-old teeth grind together after 34 years of eating humus and tahina in the Middle East.

We are told, in so many analysis features, that what we have to deal with in the Middle East are ‘competing narratives’. How very cosy. There’s no justice, no injustice, just a couple of people who tell different history stories. ‘Competing narratives’ now regularly pop up in the British press. The phrase is a species – or sub-species – of the false language of anthropology. It deletes the possibility that one group of people – in the Middle East, for example – are occupied, while another group of people are doing the occupying. Again, no justice, no injustice, no oppression or oppressing, just some friendly ‘competing narratives’, a football match, if you like, a level playing field because the two sides are – are they not – ‘in competition’. It’s two sides in a football match. And two sides have to be given equal time in every story.

So an ‘occupation’ can become a ‘dispute’. Thus a ‘wall’ becomes a ‘fence’ or a ‘security barrier’. Thus Israeli colonisation of Arab land contrary to all international law becomes ‘settlements’ or ‘outposts’ or ‘Jewish neighbourhoods’.

You will not be surprised to know that it was Colin Powell, in his starring, powerless appearance as secretary of state to George W. Bush, who told US diplomats in the Middle East to refer to occupied Palestinian land as ‘disputed land’ – and that was good enough for most of the American media.

So watch out for ‘competing narratives’, ladies and gentlemen. There are no ‘competing narratives’, of course, between the US military and the Taliban. When there are, however, you’ll know the West has lost.

But I’ll give you a lovely, personal example of how ‘competing narratives’ come undone. Last month, I gave a lecture in Toronto to mark the 95th anniversary of the 1915 Armenian genocide, the deliberate mass murder of one and a half million Armenian Christians by the Ottoman Turkish army and militia. Before my talk, I was interviewed on Canadian Television, CTV, which also owns the Toronto Globe and Mail newspaper. And from the start, I could see that the interviewer had a problem. Canada has a large Armenian community. But Toronto also has a large Turkish community. And the Turks, as the Globe and Mail always tell us, “hotly dispute” that this was a genocide. So the interviewer called the genocide “deadly massacres”.

Of course, I spotted her specific problem straight away. She could not call the massacres a ‘genocide’, because the Turkish community would be outraged. But equally, she sensed that ‘massacres’ on its own – especially with the gruesome studio background photographs of dead Armenians – was not quite up to defining a million and a half murdered human beings. Hence the ‘deadly massacres’. How odd!!! If there are ‘deadly’ massacres, are there some massacres which are not ‘deadly’, from which the victims walk away alive? It was a ludicrous tautology.

In the end, I told this little tale of journalistic cowardice to my Armenian audience, among whom were sitting CTV executives. Within an hour of my ending, my Armenian host received an SMS about me from a CTV reporter. “Shitting on CTV was way out of line,” the reporter complained. I doubted, personally, if the word ‘shitting’ would find its way onto CTV. But then, neither does ‘genocide’. I’m afraid ‘competing narratives’ had just exploded.

Yet the use of the language of power – of its beacon-words and its beacon-phrases -goes on among us still. How many times have I heard western reporters talking about ‘foreign fighters’ in Afghanistan? They are referring, of course, to the various Arab groups supposedly helping the Taliban. We heard the same story from Iraq. Saudis, Jordanians, Palestinian, Chechen fighters, of course. The generals called them ‘foreign fighters’. And then immediately we western reporters did the same. Calling them ‘foreign fighters’ meant they were an invading force. But not once – ever – have I heard a mainstream western television station refer to the fact that there are at least 150,000 ‘foreign fighters’ in Afghanistan. And that most of them, ladies and gentlemen, are in American or other Nato uniforms!

Similarly, the pernicious phrase ‘Af-Pak’ – as racist as it is politically dishonest – is now used by reporters when it originally was a creation of the US state department, on the day that Richard Holbrooke was appointed special US representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan. But the phrase avoided the use of the word ‘India’ whose influence in Afghanistan and whose presence in Afghanistan, is a vital part of the story. Furthermore, ‘Af-Pak’ – by deleting India – effectively deleted the whole Kashmir crisis from the conflict in south-east Asia. It thus deprived Pakistan of any say in US local policy on Kashmir – after all, Holbrooke was made the ‘Af-Pak’ envoy, specifically forbidden from discussing Kashmir. Thus the phrase ‘Af-Pak’, which totally deletes the tragedy of Kashmir – too many ‘competing narratives’, perhaps? – means that when we journalists use the same phrase, ‘Af-Pak’, which was surely created for us journalists, we are doing the state department’s work.

Now let’s look at history. Our leaders love history. Most of all, they love the Second World War. In 2003, George W. Bush thought he was Churchill as well as George W. Bush. True, Bush had spent the Vietnam war protecting the skies of Texas from the Vietcong. But now, in 2003, he was standing up to the ‘appeasers’ who did not want a war with Saddam who was, of course, ‘the Hitler of the Tigris’. The appeasers were the British who did not want to fight Nazi Germany in 1938. Blair, of course, also tried on Churchill’s waistcoat and jacket for size. No ‘appeaser’ he. America was Britain’s oldest ally, he proclaimed – and both Bush and Blair reminded journalists that the US had stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Britain in her hour of need in 1940.

But none of this was true.

Britain’s old ally was not the United States. It was Portugal, a neutral fascist state during World War Two. Only my own newspaper, The Independent, picked this up.

Nor did America fight alongside Britain in her hour of need in 1940, when Hitler threatened invasion and the German air force blitzed London. No, in 1940 America was enjoying a very profitable period of neutrality – and did not join Britain in the war until Japan attacked the US naval base at Pearl Harbour in December of 1941.

Ouch!

Back in 1956, I read the other day, Eden called Nasser the ‘Mussolini of the Nile’. A bad mistake. Nasser was loved by the Arabs, not hated as Mussolini was by the majority of Africans, especially the Arab Libyans. The Mussolini parallel was not challenged or questioned by the British press. And we all know what happened at Suez in 1956.

Yes, when it comes to history, we journalists really do let the presidents and prime ministers take us for a ride.

Today, as foreigners try to take food and fuel by sea to the hungry Palestinians of Gaza, we journalists should be reminding our viewers and listeners of a long-ago day when America and Britain went to the aid of a surrounded people, bringing food and fuel – our own servicemen dying as they did so – to help a starving population. That population had been surrounded by a fence erected by a brutal army which wished to starve the people into submission. The army was Russian. The city was Berlin. The wall was to come later. The people had been our enemies only three years earlier. Yet we flew the Berlin airlift to save them. Now look at Gaza today. Which western journalist – and we love historical parallels – has even mentioned 1948 Berlin in the context of Gaza?

Look at more recent times. Saddam had ‘weapons of mass destruction’ – you can fit ‘WMD’ into a headline – but of course, he didn’t, and the American press went through embarrassing bouts of self-condemnation afterwards. How could it have been so misled, the New York Times asked itself? It had not, the paper concluded, challenged the Bush administration enough.

And now the very same paper is softly – very softly – banging the drums for war in Iran. Iran is working on WMD. And after the war, if there is a war, more self-condemnation, no doubt, if there are no nuclear weapons projects.

Yet the most dangerous side of our new semantic war, our use of the words of power – though it is not a war since we have largely surrendered – is that it isolates us from our viewers and readers. They are not stupid. They understand words, in many cases – I fear – better than we do. History, too. They know that we are drowning our vocabulary with the language of generals and presidents, from the so-called elites, from the arrogance of the Brookings Institute experts, or those of those of the Rand Corporation or what I call the ‘THINK TANKS’. Thus we have become part of this language.

Here, for example, are some of the danger words:

· POWER PLAYERS

· ACTIVISM

· NON-STATE ACTORS

· KEY PLAYERS

· GEOSTRATEGIC PLAYERS

· NARRATIVES

· EXTERNAL PLAYERS

· PEACE PROCESS

· MEANINGFUL SOLUTIONS

· AF-PAK

· CHANGE AGENTS (whatever these sinister creatures are).

I am not a regular critic of Al Jazeera. It gives me the freedom to speak on air. Only a few years ago, when Wadah Khanfar (now Director General of Al Jazeera) was Al Jazeera’s man in Baghdad, the US military began a slanderous campaign against Wadah’s bureau, claiming – untruthfully – that Al Jazeera was in league with al-Qaeda because they were receiving videotapes of attacks on US forces. I went to Fallujah to check this out. Wadah was 100 per cent correct. Al-Qaeda was handing in their ambush footage without any warning, pushing it through office letter-boxes. The Americans were lying.

Wadah is, of course, wondering what is coming next.

Well, I have to tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that all those ‘danger words’ I have just read out to you – from KEY PLAYERS to NARRATIVES to PEACE PROCESS to AF-PAK – all occur in the nine-page Al Jazeera programme for this very forum.

I’m not condemning Al Jazeera for this, ladies and gentlemen. Because this vocabulary is not adopted through political connivance. It is an infection that we all suffer from – I’ve used ‘peace process’ a few times myself, though with quotation marks which you can’t use on television – but yes, it’s a contagion.

And when we use these words, we become one with the power and the elites which rule our world without fear of challenge from the media. Al Jazeera has done more than any television network I know to challenge authority, both in the Middle East and in the West. (And I am not using ‘challenge’ in the sense of ‘problem’, as in ‘”I face many challenges,” says General McCrystal.’)

How do we escape this disease? Watch out for the spell-checkers in our lap-tops, the sub-editor’s dreams of one-syllable words, stop using Wikipedia. And read books – real books, with paper pages, which means deep reading. History books, especially.

Al Jazeera is giving good coverage to the flotilla – the convoy of boats setting off for Gaza. I don’t think they are a bunch of anti-Israelis. I think the international convoy is on its way because people aboard these ships – from all over the world – are trying to do what our supposedly humanitarian leaders have failed to do. They are bringing food and fuel and hospital equipment to those who suffer. In any other context, the Obamas and the Sarkozys and the Camerons would be competing to land US Marines and the Royal Navy and French forces with humanitarian aid – as Clinton did in Somalia. Didn’t the God-like Blair believe in humanitarian ‘intervention’ in Kosovo and Sierra Leone?

In normal circumstances, Blair might even have put a foot over the border.

But no. We dare not offend the Israelis. And so ordinary people are trying to do what their leaders have culpably failed to do. Their leaders have failed them.

Have the media? Are we showing documentary footage of the Berlin airlift today? Or of Clinton’s attempt to rescue the starving people of Somalia, of Blair’s humanitarian ‘intervention’ in the Balkans, just to remind our viewers and readers – and the people on those boats – that this is about hypocrisy on a massive scale?

The hell we are! We prefer ‘competing narratives’. Few politicians want the Gaza voyage to reach its destination – be its end successful, farcical or tragic. We believe in the ‘peace process’, the ‘road map’. Keep the ‘fence’ around the Palestinians. Let the ‘key players’ sort it out.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am not your ‘key speaker’ this morning.

I am your guest, and I thank you for your patience in listening to me.

Live webcam on Gaza Freedom Flotilla Turkish passenger ship Mavi Marmara


GAZA FREEDOM FLOTILLA- DAY TWO. You can follow events from a live webcam on the Turkish passenger ship MAVI MARMARA, with camera pointing over bow. The Swedish/Greek cargo ship SOFIA is still livestreaming her loading in Athens. We await details of Algerian cargo AL-JAZAIR, Turkish cargos GAZZE and DEFNE Y, German passenger yacht CHALLENGER I and the Irish MV RACHEL CORRIE.
(Details on each relief convoy ship at this post.)

We probably cannot expect the webcams to broadcast as the flotilla nears the Israeli Navy. This is explained in article on Media Line which interviewed FreeGazaOrg’s Greta Berlin:

In an attempt to curtail a public relations disaster of armed troops confronting the civilian ships, the Israel Navy is expected to jam the satellite transmission and otherwise use electronic warfare to quash all coverage and photos of the event.

“They have turned off our satellite phones. They have blocked our transmissions. We have live stream videos and we will continue to broadcast as long as we can. As long as it is on live and the signal suddenly goes out, then I think the world clearly knows what is happening and what Israel is doing.”


Aboard MAVI MARMARA


SOFIA in port.

Relief convoy to bring media Armada


What this Freedom Flotilla has over previous relief efforts like the Viva Palestina caravans is a momentum building in the international press. It’s the big ship effect that works for gunship diplomacy, brought to bear this time to enforce social justice, too big to ignore.
(Update 5/24: Australia’s Sidney Morning Herald has three articles: 1. the Turkish sendoff 2. Elvis Costello honoring the BDS cultural boycott, and 3. an in-depth story featuring the trademarked media logo BUSTING THE BLOCKADE!)

Admittedly America’s is a Zionist media. That’s where I suppose the social media campaign must wag the Zionist dog, to mix pun with metaphor. It’s going to help no doubt that the Israeli press is already awash with anticipation.

Where the last Viva Palestina humanitarian convoy crossed continents before the BBC begrudged it coverage, the 2010 Freedom Flotilla, including ShiptoGaza and the Free Gaza Movement have already hit BBC radar. The IHH efforts are being joined by a cargo ship which just left Algiers.

Here are the latest photos from Turkey, a Convoy to Gaza blog being updated by UK activist Lorbital, and Tox’s notes about DAY ONE of relief convoy, day 1075 of Gaza Siege.

With Israel vowing to stop them, and the Freedom Flotilla determined to push through, the showdown will have Western media outlets unable to maintain their news blackout. This will be no USS Liberty pummeled by sneak attack with no witnesses permitted to break the story. The Gaza relief convoy numbers nine ships, with more adventurers joining the escort no doubt, a measure of supporters’ anticipation of an inevitable catharsis for the siege.

The inertia looks good to me. Press releases are flying announcing who’s joining the convoy (now a USS Liberty survivor), and European diplomats are issuing statements that they expect Israel to give the convoy safe passage. Wait until the ships are making the final crossing from Cyprus for heavyweight supporters such as George Galloway or Hugo Chavez to weigh in.

Israeli welcome flotillaThe Israeli press is already running circles. A fleet of Israeli sailboats from the Herziliya Marina is preparing to greet the relief convoy with banners that say HAMAS SUCKS to counter whatever humanitarian message they worry the “peace activists” might score. There’s some speculation that Israel would fare better PR by letting the aid through.

A fortuitous coincidence places White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel in Israel when the blockade-runners are due to arrive. By Israel, I actually mean the Occupied Territories. Emanuel was trying to book the Western Wall for his son’s barmitzvah. Plans were changed due either to threats from the ultra-right because of US criticisms of continuing settlement building, or because US officials are prohibited from conducting personal business outside of Israel’s Green Line.

Algerian relif convoy shipThe cargo ship which sailed from Algeria today is the al-Jazair. More info on this ship as we find it.

ShiptoGaza Sweden has uploaded more pictures of the loading of the charming Sofia in Athens.

Turkey’s third convoy vessel has been identified as the massive cargo ship Defne Y (IMO: 7725518), loading in Istanbul and due to join the Gazze and Mavi Marmara in Cyprus.