‘Freedom Flotilla 2- Stay Human’ to set sail in late June

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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.

3 Responses

  1. Susan Johnson
    May 12, 2011, 8:30 pm

    Today I received the letter printed below from a friend who is sailing on the Audacity of Hope. The letter sounds as though it were written by AIPAC in support of Israel, not representatives of Congress working on behalf of their constituents

    The Audacity of Hope will carry people who are witnessing their belief in freedom for Gaza and the West Bank. The ships cargo? Letters, thousands of letters for the forgotten people of Gaza written by Americans who want them to know that,”Yes, many Americans support their right to Freedom”

    The letter from congress to the Prime Minister of Turkey states Gaza has plenty of everything, thanks to their generous jailers. Gaza if not only growing but exporting food…amazing, considering in 2009 Israel took 25-35% of Gaza’s farm land. Note the letter says nothing about Israel’s confrontational actions and their murder of participants in last years flotilla. The letter is an AIPAC letter that needs to be confronted.

    Those sailing on the Audacity of Hope ask you write a letter to your member of congress supporting the Flotilla, questioning the false statements in the congressional letter and providing the positive facts about Free Gaza and the Audacity of Hope.

    Washington, DC – On Wednesday, Reps. Steve Israel (D – NY) and Tom Cole (R – OK) led a bipartisan letter to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan urging the Prime Minister to stop another flotilla from departing Turkey for the Gaza Strip. Thirty-six Members of Congress signed the bipartisan letter, which asked the Turkish government to help find constructive alternatives for those wishing to provide aid to Gaza.

    “Another so-called aid flotilla to Gaza is nothing but an attempt to provoke Israel. The Turkish government can help prevent violence by saying ‘no.’ We are urging Prime Minister Erdogan to actively work to put a stop to this and join with Israel in providing real humanitarian assistance to Gaza,” said Rep. Israel.

    “Turkey plays an important role in the Middle East, and its democratic leaders have a unique opportunity to prevent the turmoil that could result from allowing another Gaza flotilla to confront the Israeli security blockade,” said Rep. Cole. “During this volatile time in the region, I urge Prime Minister Erdogan to work with Israel to avoid conflict and ensure legitimate aid is delivered without creating needless instability.”
    The full text of the letter is below.

    May 11, 2011

    His Excellency
    Recep Tayyip Erdogan
    Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey
    Ankara, Turkey

    Mr. Prime Minister-

    We write today to express our serious concern over reports that the so-called Free Gaza Movement and the IHH are planning to send another flotilla to Gaza in the coming weeks to provoke a confrontation with Israel. As members of the United States House of Representatives we ask you to help discourage these efforts and work with the Israeli government in a productive way as it continues to allow legitimate aid, but not weapons, to enter Gaza.

    The government of Israel has demonstrated a commitment to ensuring the basic needs of those living in the Gaza Strip are being met. Over the last year the capacity of existing land crossings has been increased; for example, capacity of the Kerem Shalom crossing has increased by 210 percent. More than 3600 supply trucks entered Gaza in the month of March alone, delivering tens of thousands of tons of goods, including food, clothing, medicine, and fuel. Over the past year, agricultural exports from the Gaza Strip have gradually increased and economic growth in Gaza reached 15 percent in 2010. These are all clear signs that Israeli policies are making a positive impact on the lives of the Palestinian people.

    As you know, the government of Israel has a right and a responsibility to protect the Israeli people, and we all realize that the threat facing innocent Israelis by weapons smuggled into Gaza is real. In March, Israeli naval forces intercepted the Victoria, seizing more than 50 tons of weapons, including mortar shells and bullets, destined for Gaza militants. During a 3-day period in early April, approximately 130 rockets and mortars were fired at the civilian population of southern Israel by Hamas and other terrorist groups. In one case, an advanced precision-guided rocket that had been smuggled into Gaza was fired at and hit an Israeli school bus.

    Israel, like any country in the world, must take whatever steps necessary to protect its citizens and that starts with preventing additional weapons from entering Gaza. If flotilla organizers carry out their confrontational plans, the Israelis will have little choice but to board the vessels and search for weapons. We fear violence could erupt just as it did last year.

    We are seeking your active participation in finding a resolution that prevents violence. On April 21, Ambassador Susan Rice, the United States’ representative to the United Nations, stated, “[t]he recent seizures of advanced weaponry underscore that Israel has clear security interests regarding cargo bound for Gaza”, and she urged member states to “use every legal means at their disposal to discourage additional flotillas to Gaza”. We echo those remarks and hope that your government can help work out a mechanism with Israel to allow legitimate humanitarian assistance to go to Gaza without provoking a needless confrontation. We are confident that Israel, as it has in the past, will continue to allow such aid to flow subject to appropriate security screening. By finding a constructive solution as an alternative to another flotilla, you have a unique opportunity to potentially save lives and be a force for stability at a particularly volatile time.

    36 members of Congress

  2. Les
    May 13, 2011, 11:35 pm

    The occupied territory of Israel has, from early days, included Congress and the US media.

  3. talknic
    May 16, 2011, 6:14 am

    This will be interesting. Currently American law students are taught that a ship is the sovereign territory of the flag under which it sails.

    If this is an American ship, Israel will be invading sovereign American territory if they board it without the captain’s permission.

    If Israel fires upon it, it will be an act of war against the USA.

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