The flotilla that could

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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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