The international steering committee for Freedom Flotilla 2 recently released a statement announcing that its sail date has been pushed back to the third week of June, at least partly because of the June 12 Turkish elections. The committee also announced the addition of a Swiss-German boat to the flotilla, making the total number of boats 15, more than twice as big as last year’s flotilla. Countries participating will include France, USA, UK, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Greece, Turkey, and other countries
The flotilla is sailing despite a recent Israeli Defense Forces broadcast that reported that the country would prevent the second freedom flotilla from reaching Gaza “at all costs.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently called on UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as well as the European Union to put pressure on groups to stop the impending flotilla. In response, the flotilla Steering Committee released a statement on April 11 that called on governments, the international community and the United Nations not to succumb to Israel’s intimidation.
The flotilla is also occurring after Egypt’s recent announcement that it will permanently open the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip. The upcoming and past boat missions, however, are primarily challenging Israel’s maritime and naval blockade on the Gaza Strip, which is particularly devastating to one of Gaza’s key industries, fishing.
The flotilla will include an American boat named the Audacity of Hope. The U.S. Boat to Gaza Coalition has recently launched a letter writing campaign called “To Gaza With Love.” American citizens are encouraged to write letters addressed to the Palestinians of Gaza stating their solidarity. U.S. Boat describes, “Whether it’s a letter from a U.S. mother to a mother in Gaza, a child in the U.S. to a child in Gaza, or letters from students, teachers, business people, religious leaders to their counterparts in Gaza, the siege cannot withstand the power of our words to break through.”
The entire flotilla recently changed its name to “Freedom Flotilla- Stay Human”, in memory of the recently murdered Italian activist Vittorio Arrigoni. Arrigoni, who was one of 44 activists to participate in a boat mission to Gaza in 2008, stated that the day he arrived in Gaza was the happiest of his life.
Daryl Meador is a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a member of Students for Justice in Palestine.