The flotilla that could

on 17 Comments

The other day I received a listserve email from Greta Berlin, co founder of the Free Gaza Movement, titled Message in a Bottle. It was an informal yet touching email about some passengers from the Audacity of Hope sending messages in bottles to children in Gaza before they left Greece. Although she didn’t mention it I recalled this Message in a Bottle video of children sending us messages to come to Gaza. Her simple email brought tears to my eyes and I wrote back and asked if we could publish it. I wanted to share it with you before sharing some of my thoughts (part rant) below.

The day before I left (I’m now back in France), the six of us who remained on board the boat decorated bottles and put messages in them for the children of Gaza. We added rice at the bottom of the bottles to keep them upright (just in case one miraculously got to Gaza). Then we went in search of a place to throw them into the sea.

Ann threw her bottle in next to the Audacity of Hope since she stayed to guard the boat, and the five of us set out in search of a good place to toss the bottles, finally walking down to the cargo area not too far from where our boat is moored. Missy asked the people in charge if we could throw out the bottles.

We would NEVER have been able to get near this cargo loading area in the U.S. without hard hats and permission from the harbor master, and, even then, we probably would have had to put the bottles through the X-ray machines. But… after a half hour of waiting, an official looking jeep drove up and a very impressive man got out… decked out in a white uniform, epaulets and a very fancy hat. We had no idea who he was, but he knew us for sure.

“If there is no gasoline in the bottles, you are welcome to throw them into the sea,”

We had quite an audience watching us as we wished the bottles a better fate than our boats and tossed them, one by one, into the sea.


Okay, I am a very sentimental person so I know something like this might not resonate with everyone but I want to use my privileged soapbox here to say a few words on my mind. There’s no amount of words to properly say thank you to all the people who’ve worked tirelessly to end this blockade. I feel like you are my family and when you are taking action even when I cannot be there I am with you in heart and spirit every step of the way. I know what we are doing here is so much bigger than us and I know we are standing on the shoulders of giants who came before us. Sometimes I have wondered if you are ever afraid, what you visualize when your head hits the pillow and where you draw your strength.

Someone just said something to me on the phone about how some people think the flotilla was a failure (!!!!?!!!!!) Are you kidding me? WHAT FAILURE?  You mean as opposed to the ‘winning-ness’ of 9 dead passengers? You mean because there wasn’t drama on the high seas? Something about all that money down the tubes or some ridiculous assertion like that. The flotilla is not over. We are all the flotilla, I’m the friggin flotilla as far as I am concerned and I am definitely NOT over. Every single heart, soul and mind out there not giving up on breaking this blockade is the flotilla, we ARE the flotilla.

The GOI and their minions were once again outed for being LIARS fantastical FABRICATORS, and how could anyone forget their pinkwashing gay-a-thon video?  Their hordes of hasbaristas and twitterqueens impersonating us spamming about Syria and Tibet Tibet Tibet accusing everyone and their brothers of being anti-Semites!

They’re going off the RAILS with flaming push back (reminding me what Omar said when he spoke of “the system will start cracking and then we’ll see a lot of dissent“)  and that’s exactly why I know we’ve got a winner on our hands here and that isn’t even the tip of the iceberg. Our little ‘Flotilla That Could’ went up against some of the most powerful military and political voices in the world and exposed exactly how swiftly and easily they turned the government of a financially broke nation into putty in their hands by outsourcing their atrocious blockade to Greece smack dab in the middle of the world stage for all to see! You can’t buy exposure like that with all the money in the world. This is gold, gold I tell you and it’s not over yet. I’m for squeezing as much blood out of this ‘turnip’ as we possibly can. We’re riding a wave of exposure and we’re nowhere near the apex.

They’re not just hyperventilating drama-queens with their hand wringing and fascist law making and continued daily theft and oppression, they have a REASON to be concerned because we couldn’t have dreamed up better BDS exposure against this apartheid rogue state than having the Knesset respond by punishing its own society, essentially shutting down freedom of speech which is exactly what this legislation is all about.

And the world wasn’t sleeping this time around. The msm was hyped up and ready this time around because our little flotilla has been poke poke poke poking the sleeping dragon.

Hell no the flotilla has not been a failure. You can’t buy this kind of exposure and lots of people who’ve previously been quiet are starting to wonder exactly what it is about Israel’s values we share. Is our special friend good for America? I think not!

To the Audacious passengers, crew, land crew, communication, rapid response, and supporters thank you from the bottom of my heart. To Palestinians, always, for your Dignity and Sumud. Greta, thanks for your emails. They lift my spirits in immeasurable ways. I’m sharing just one more…You all rock my world.

We, the members and land crew of the Audacity of Hope, have woven together a cloak of friendship, one that will last forever, no matter where we travel and what we continue to do with our lives. Like the cloak Queen Penelope of Ithaca wove every day, then unraveled every night as she waited for Odysseus to return from the battle of Troy, our cloak can be woven, then unwoven every night, the individual threads reassembling as we wait to sail to Gaza again.

And Gaza, like a Palestinian Penelope, weaves its own fabric of resistance and hope, another cloak that reaches out its tentacles to ours, wrapping seaweed threads across the sea, bundling onto us into the soft warm folds of children’s laughter and a mother’s sighs.

We are being called by the siren song of Gaza, a 21st century symbol of the struggle for freedom.

That call can be heard when we dream at night, the song of quiet determination and hope. And, like Odysseus, we won’t forget where our boats should be heading, and we won’t be deterred any more than he was, for we all have Gaza fever now. It cannot be cured until Palestine is free and all boats can sail to Gaza.

Penelope waited for ten years, weaving, then undoing her work each night, telling the many suitors vying for her hand that she could not entertain their offers until the cloak was done. She held her people together, as her patient fingers pulled the threads through the spindles, then unraveled them; a symbol of resistance that has turned her into a heroine of Greek legend.

It’s perhaps appropriate that we tried to leave from Greece, making our own legend of stalwart determination to sail to Gaza, just as Odysseus tried to get home to Ithaca to be with his beloved Penelope. Poseidon may have been the Greek God of the sea for centuries, but he went missing when we set sail, (to the utter disgrace of the noble Greek history of freedom of the seas, a history immortalized in the Odyssey and the Iliad). The next time, he will be with us.

We will return, our cloak finished only when we see the shores of Gaza.

About Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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17 Responses

  1. Kris
    July 16, 2011, 9:29 am


  2. annie
    July 16, 2011, 9:44 am

    hey, who edited my thanks to phil and adam out of there?


  3. justicewillprevail
    July 16, 2011, 10:47 am

    Great stuff, annie, A tonic for everybody, and well argued.

    • annie
      July 16, 2011, 12:35 pm

      hey thanks justice. my wish is that everyone of the passengers and the teams working in the backgrounds gets to read it so they know how much they’re appreciated.

  4. mig
    July 16, 2011, 10:49 am

    Tibet yes. Maybe its just me, but i havent ever heard or seen any chinese explanation that they occupy Tibet because Israel occupy palestinian areas.

  5. annie
    July 16, 2011, 1:29 pm

    btw, that photo up there is of Crew member Jenny Linnell from the UK.

    this just in

    Action Alert, July 16th-
    Call State Dept Emergency Operations Center
    about Conditions on The Audacity of Hope!

    Ann Wright 011 30 694 165 7310
    Regina Carey 011 30 694 203 6296
    Jenny Linnell 011 30 694 224 6648

    Athens, July 16, 2011 – Day 16 of the imprisonment of the U.S. Boat to Gaza, The Audacity of Hope, at a U.S. Embassy shared pier near Piraeus, Greece, just outside of Athens.

    The U.S. Embassy has done absolutely nothing to help us in 100 + degree heat at a U.S. Government shared pier! No shore power, no alternatives provided (like another pier). No consular visits to see the conditions for themselves. NOTHING, ABSOULTELY NOTHING!!!

    This weekend, please call the State Department 202-647-4000 and ask for the 24 hour Emergency Operations Center. Tell them that 3 people are still enduring the inhumane, dangerous conditions on the boat.

    All are women–2 Americans and 1 UK citizen. They are:

    Regina Carey from San Rafael, California, is a consultant specializing in strategic planning and planned giving. In her lifetime commitment to human rights she has focused her time and energy to the Rights of the Indigenous (original people), Water Rights and Peace. She is a co-founder of the Black/Jewish Dialogue Group in Marin County, California. She has been an active participant in the World Social Forum and the UN Conference Against Racism (Durban, South Africa).

    Crew member Jenny Linnell, is a British citizen from Devon, England, and was a Free Gaza crew member in 2008 on the first boat that broke the naval blockade of Gaza. She stayed in Gaza for a year and worked with the International Solidarity Movement. Her exit from Gaza into Egypt a year later took over 6 weeks because she had arrived by boat. She holds a “Day Skipper” license from the Royal Yachting Association and founded a sailing collective called “Learning the Ropes”.

    Ann Wright is a former U.S. diplomat with 16 years in the State Department and Deputy Chief of Mission (Deputy Ambassador) at 4 U..S Embassies (Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia) and who got the State Department’s award for Heroism for her actions protecting civilians during the civil war in Sierra Leone. She resigned in March, 2003 in opposition to Bush’s war on Iraq.

  6. patm
    July 16, 2011, 3:35 pm

    I was just going to post the above alert, annie. Gad, those three women are not having a good time, and there they are in a boat sitting at a U.S. Government shared pier. Jeeez!

  7. DICKERSON3870
    July 16, 2011, 8:05 pm

    RE: “They’re [the gov’t of Israel is] going off the RAILS with flaming push back…” ~ Annie

    ROBERT BAER (Former CIA Official): Israel is “truly out of control.”
    SEE: “Former CIA Official: Israel Will Bomb Iran in September” ~ By M.J. Rosenberg, 07/15/11
    LINK – link to

    • DICKERSON3870
      July 17, 2011, 3:20 am

      P.S. FROM JUSTIN ELLIOTT, 07/01/11:

      (excerpts)…Reached by phone at the Aspen Ideas Festival, [Jeffrey] Goldberg told me that he believes the article [by him in the The Atlantic last August] captured the “high level of anxiety” about Iran he encountered during a month reporting in Israel last summer…
      …Goldberg still believes that in certain circumstances the current Israeli government would attack Iran’s nuclear sites. “Meir Dagan is doing what he’s doing now because he’s scared of an Israeli attack,” he said. “If you don’t think Bibi Netanyahu is crazy enough to launch an attack on Iran, you don’t understand this prime minister.”…

      SOURCE – link to

  8. JohnAdamTurnbull
    July 17, 2011, 3:52 am

    And we’re not done yet. I learned last night (Saturday evening in Greece) that the French ship Dignite Al-Karama left the easter Greek Island of Kastellorizo. Apparently they are now in international waters and have only the IDF to contend with.

    Amira Hass has filed here this morning: link to

    • annie
      July 18, 2011, 1:12 am

      thanks john. crossing my fingers. anyone have any updates?

      • Sumud
        July 18, 2011, 1:18 am

        John’s article says three Haaretz and three Al Jazeera journos also on board, so I guess they’ll be the first news orgs with any updates..

      • annie
        July 18, 2011, 2:02 am

        actually i just read an update @ their twitter

        BateauGazaFr BateauGazaFr
        The night on board the Dignité Al Karama went well, it’s a new day starting
        34 minutes ago


        i’m going out of my tamale. wish phil or adam was awake (east coast time, too late to call) to publish something on the front page. in the morn i suppose. well, i just got a copy of the first press release from the euro team!

        maybe we can just jam up the comment feed w/ this thread and get people’s attention. i know i’m going to be staying up late and following this like flies on shit.

        very exciting!!!

  9. patm
    July 17, 2011, 8:36 am

    “Gaza: A plea to cease attack met with threats of violence at sea”

    International Solidarity Movement, Gaza Strip Posted: July 14, 2011

    “Following yesterday’s assault by the Israeli navy upon a trawler observing Israeli aggression in the three mile fishing radius along the Gaza coast, today warships again targeted two US observers and their Palestinian captain and threatened them that their next attempt at sailing would be fatal.”

    link to

  10. seafoid
    July 17, 2011, 11:43 am

    This just in:

    Israel’s alien – far superior to the the local- *European NOT ARAB * fast growing NOT BACKWARD trees catch fire again, this time in West Jerusalem .

    link to

    The trees are living burning proof of the bullshit, arrogance, ignorance and short sightedness that Israel and Zionism are based on.

    • Chaos4700
      July 18, 2011, 1:20 am

      Pretty much. There’s a reason why pine needles didn’t evolve in an arid climates.

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