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‘Freedom’ boat headed for Gaza is expected to be intercepted today

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On Sunday July 29, a group of masked, armed Israeli soldiers forced their way onto the Norwegian-flagged Al Awda vessel in international waters in violation of law. Participants, including the crew, as well as four journalists, were arrested on the open seas and forced into port at Ashdod.

“They slammed Herman the captain’s head against the wall again and again while threatening to take him to the ship’s belly and finish him off when no one is watching,” Yonatan Shapiro wrote in his scathing account of the event. “A fist in the face of Arne Birge the old mechanic. And the finest tradition: Electric shocks.”

At this point all of the Al Awda participants have been released and deported. Some face criminal charges. The Israeli authorities confiscated all of the medical supplies the boat was transporting to Gaza as well as all of the passengers’ phones, personal belongings, and equipment.

Another violent and unlawful interception will likely to happen within hours. The second boat in this summer’s Freedom Flotilla, the Freedom—sailing under Swedish flags—is at the moment of this writing (11:00 am EST) 56 nautical miles off the coast of Gaza, and is likely to be intercepted within hours.

The Freedom is transporting several international activists, independent journalists, and boxes of desperately-needed medical supplies. According to Ann Wright, a retired US Army colonel and a key leader in the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, 13,000 Euros worth of sterilized sutures, gauze, and other medical donations was divided between the two boats.

“They are just a drop in the bucket, compared to the need,” she says, “but it is a symbolic act that we acknowledge what difficult times the Gaza medical system is under.”

Living conditions in Gaza have become so dire that on Monday of this week 70 US legislators sent a letter to the Trump administration urging them to “immediately take action to alleviate the growing humanitarian crisis in the Gaza strip.”

“In Gaza, they write, “more than 50 percent of the children live beneath the poverty level, living on $1.74 US dollars per day. A report from the UN noted that 95 percent of tap water is not safe to drink, and last year warned that the Gaza Strip could become “unlivable” well before 2020.”

The letter also advocates that the US government “should also push our partners to ease the blockade on the movement of goods, equipment and people in and out of the territory, especially for materials and supplies related to critical projects like medicine, hospital supplies and water treatment.”

Joe Meadors, a survivor of the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty who has worked for decades with the USS Liberty Veterans Association was aboard the intercepted Al Awda; he was held in Givon prison, and deported to Texas.

“It is gratifying,” he says, “to see that members of Congress have finally come forward and publicly called for an easing of the inhumane and immoral restrictions imposed on them. Pressure on Congress must continue to ensure both the blockade and the occupation are completely ended.”

As he considers the fact that the Freedom and its passengers are now approaching Gaza’s waters, he says, “The Freedom Flotilla is sailing in international waters where the IOF has no jurisdiction and no authority to stop her.  Despite this, the Freedom will be boarded, forcefully commandeered, and made to sail to Ashdod where the crew will be forced to go ashore in a country where they have no intention of traveling to.  They will then be deported for trying to illegally enter Israel.  This is done to prevent the Freedom from delivering much needed medical supplies to the Palestinians in Gaza.  Rest assured, Freedom Flotillas will continue to sail.  Humanity demands they do.”

Kim Jensen

Kim Jensen ( is a Baltimore-based writer, poet, and educator who spends a great deal of time in historic Palestine. Her books include a novel, The Woman I Left Behind, and two collections of poems, Bread Alone and The Only Thing that Matters.

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2 Responses

  1. Misterioso on August 4, 2018, 2:32 pm

    Regarding Gaza:
    The International Committee of the Red Cross: “The whole of Gaza’s civilian population is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility. The closure therefore constitutes a collective punishment imposed in clear violation of Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law. The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, ratified by Israel, bans collective punishment of a civilian population.”

    “In practice, Gaza has become a huge, let me be blunt, concentration camp for right now 1,800,000 people” – Amira Hass, 2015 correspondent for Haaretz, speaking at the Forum for Scholars and Publics at Duke University.

    To quote Dov Weisglass, then PM Ariel Sharon’s senior adviser:
    “‘The significance of the [proposed] disengagement plan [implemented in 2005] is the freezing of the peace process,’ Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s senior adviser Dov Weisglass has told Ha’aretz. ‘And when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda….’ Weisglass, who was one of the initiators of the disengagement plan, was speaking in an interview with Ha’aretz for the Friday Magazine. ‘The disengagement is actually formaldehyde,’ he said. ‘It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians.’” (Top PM Aide: Gaza Plan Aims to Freeze the Peace Process, Haaretz, October 6, 2004)

  2. RoHa on August 5, 2018, 2:25 am

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