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Anxious activists prepare for Gaza flotilla launch
Published Monday 27/06/2011 (updated) 28/06/2011 12:43
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Palestinian fishermen work at the port of Gaza City [MaanImages, File]

ATHENS, Greece (Ma'an) -- It has been a tense few days for organizers and activists of the Second Freedom Flotilla.

The Israelis have issued a fiery warning to foreign journalists, saying that those who cover the flotilla are acting illegally and could be barred from entering the country for 10 years.

An unknown party has filed a complaint against the US Boat to Gaza and two other ships, a move that could delay or block the flotilla’s departure.

The Greek government appears to be buckling to Israeli political pressure, with the Coast Guard warning mariners to steer clear of blockade coordinates.

And the American government has distanced itself from the 36 American citizens who will be on the US Boat to Gaza.

But the activists -- who fear that they could face anything from tear gas to live ammunition -- remain as determined as ever to challenge the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip. In the words of one participant, they are “staying packed and ready to go.”

The "Audacity of Hope" will carry only letters. Participants plan to wear black t-shirts with white letters that read, “Unarmed Civilians.” As an organizer said, “The words we’re going to have are going to be stronger than the weapons they will have.”

True to this strategy, the 36 activists started Sunday’s meeting -- held in the conference room of a hotel in central Athens -- with clapping, dancing, and singing. To the tune of “This Little Light of Mine,” they sang new lyrics: “This little boat of mine, we’re gonna let it sail. All the way to Gaza, we’re gonna let it sail. Open up the waters, we’re gonna let it sail.”

Speaking to the group, Ann Wright remarked that Israeli pressure on the Greeks meant that the Israelis are "expanding that blockade all the way from Gaza to Greece.”

Wright, who is a former US army colonel and a retired State Department official, added that the group would announce their “demand that our boat be set free” at a news conference Monday.

In Washington, meanwhile, a small war of words played out as State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland dodged pointed questions about the flotilla and Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip.

One reporter pointed out at the Friday briefing that while the US has offered statements of support to Saudi women who engage in the provocative act of driving, it maligns the flotilla as provocative.

When asked if the Israeli blockade is a provocative act, Nuland responded, “I think we’ve gone as far as we’re going to go on this subject.”

She did not provide direct answers to the reporter, who repeated the question two more times.

When asked if the blockade was legal, Nuland answered, “I don’t have anything for you on legality here … we want to avoid the problems of last year, and we do believe that there are good and reliable channels for getting assistance to the people of Gaza.”

Nuland explained that the Rafah crossing represented one such channel. A reporter countered that Rafah was only opened recently.

Both the UN and human rights groups have called the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip a violation of international law.

Gisha, an Israeli NGO that advocates for Palestinian freedom of movement, points out that the opening of Rafah is inadequate. The crossing is not equipped to handle a large number of imports or exports and a limited number of people are allowed to pass, amongst other problems.

Speaking to Ma'an, Huwaida Arraf, a co-founder of the Free Gaza Movement, remarked that Friday’s news conference at the State Department exposed the “hypocrisy of American foreign policy.”

She added that the members of the flotilla “are not interested in perpetuating a humanitarian aid dependency cycle. This is about the human rights of the Palestinian people.

The US and Israeli governments’ insistence that organizers use established channels to deliver the aid, Arraf said, “is equivalent to saying to the Egyptian youth who were in Tahrir Square, ‘Use the established channels of Mubarak to voice your grievances.’”
1 ) Kate Hunter / USA
27/06/2011 02:52
Thank you for putting yourself on the line for human rights. As an American Jew, I am horrified by both my government and the Israeli government for the threats and hypocracy. I wish you safe journey and may world opinion protect you. Shalom, Kate Hunter

2 ) John / USA
27/06/2011 04:12
God bless each of those who have volunteered for the freedom flotilla.

3 ) Tom hruz / Canada
27/06/2011 05:20

4 ) southparkbear / usa
27/06/2011 05:23
carefull you may get more than you wished for

5 ) George / USA
27/06/2011 05:27
Despite anxiety the lyrics might alleviate their tense situation. I wish these clapping, dancing and singing are televised or videotaped so we can see them. I also like the t-shirts as described. It's clear the audacity of hope is a humanitarian mission. And it's clear that objectors to this mission lack human sense. Unarmed Civilians; what do the US and Israel want from them. They are not approaching to Israel borders. Israel says "we have withdrawn from Gaza". So it's not their borders.

6 ) Apostolos / USA
27/06/2011 05:30
Our State Department foreign policy - Freedom, dignity and independence, for all except for the GAZAN populace. It has been said the United States control the world and the AIPAC lobby controls the United States.

7 ) Julie / USA
27/06/2011 06:48
message to israeli regime: you do realize, that Jews all over the world want NOTHING to do with you, don't you?? for example, this ship with american jews who sail against you...or how about all the jews in tunisia who refused and rejected you when you begged them to move to israel during the recent revolution. you better start facing the music on this! calling them 'self-hating jews' for hundreds of thousands of jews worldwide who strongly condemn your zionazi ways is you hijacking Judaism!!

8 ) Robert Haymond / Israel/Canada
27/06/2011 08:31
Perhaps these "peace volunteers" could do something really useful here in the Mideast, say sailing ships to Syria and protesting against genuine oppression. Wait a minute, it's Israel, Jews, and we all know that Jews have no rights to inhabit the Mideast under their own government, only Muslims. Okay, now I understand, go for it, "peace activists."

9 ) Mel / Gaza
27/06/2011 12:18
Robert, you have once more exhibited your lack of knowledge here. What do you call the oppression of the Palestinians at the hands of Israel? Is that not a "genuine oppression"? Furthermore, the Middle East is not inhabited only by Muslims. Perhaps you are not aware that many Christians live here as well as a minority of Jewish people. The Christians here are also Palestinians and suffer from the same "genuine oppression" by Israel!

10 ) Richard / Wales
27/06/2011 15:04
May god bless you all and keep you safe,my respect to you and the people of Gaza.

11 ) Eli F. / Israel
27/06/2011 16:11
A Flotilla of "Useful Idiot's"...The border crossing with Egypt is open, if they REALLY wanted to bring in supplies, no problem. This is just another media stunt by a bunch of fools, to try to de-legitimize Israel. No mention of Gilad Shalit that been held captive WITHOUT ANY Red Cross visitations, for 5 yrs. Nor the continuos rocket shelling of Israeli Southern towns. Nor..Ready for the punchline....Did ANY of these Cretins EVER read the Hamas Charter: Calling for the murder of Jews, WORLDWIDE!

12 ) D K / USA
27/06/2011 16:36
Most of the peace activists on the US Boat to Gaza are American Jews, not self hating at all. They love and respect themselves very much, they are sailing to show the world that not all jews have lost their humanity.

13 ) ali / pakistan
27/06/2011 16:55
To Mr. Robert Haymond: How long have Syria been occupying another land and has set up an Apartheid State? It's the occupation. It's the checkpoints. It's the suffering of civilians for more than 60 years under Israeli occupation, and frequent brutal incursions. It's not abut Jews but human rights, the same way Jews struggled against Nazis. Jews are on this boat and they are on the right side of history.

14 ) Frank / USA
27/06/2011 17:04
To my Brothers and Sisters who are trying to sail to Gaza. The Government of the United States would rather perform fellatio on the zionists than protect it's citizens. I wish you a safe journey.

15 ) Robert Haymond / Israel/Canada
27/06/2011 19:42
The usual hate messages and misinformation from Julie. In 1948, there were 110,000 Jews from Tunasia, most of whom emigrated (had to leave) after our War of Independence. today, there is a population of 1,000. As to the diaspora Jews, the support for Israel remains high (but Jews are not all of one mind about Israel) and a good number of new immigrants come from the USA, Canada (as I did) and from western Europe. Julie is so antithetical to Israel that she can never be objective and accurate.

16 ) Robert Haymond / Israel/Canada
27/06/2011 19:47
You may state that you are Jewish, Kate, but stop using Hebrew salutations such as "Shalom" because it doesn't sit well with you and your desire to meld into the Gentile world with your highhanded socalled nobility. You know nothing about Israel and, it appears, you will never will. Your need to fit in will make you accepted by people who despise Jews but, eventually, like the Kapos in the concentration camps, they will do away with you when you are of no more "use" to them.

17 ) Richard / Canada
27/06/2011 20:19
The problems in Syria are a product of Israeli aggression so your point is?

18 ) Kanuk 25 / Canada
27/06/2011 20:23
Hillary Clinton asserts quite disengenuosly that Israel has a " a right to defend itself". Has the United States ever accorded that same right to the countries it has invaded in the last century? To the current five mid-east nations under U.S. seige?
When Native and indigenous peoples in the Western Hemisphere were defending their lands from European invaders what was their ultimate fate? A famous phrase from that era was : "White man speaks with forked tongue. That has not changed, has it?

19 ) Joe Fattal / USA
27/06/2011 20:34
For Israel is only a matter of honor and they are not afraid to shoot anyone men, or women to uphold that honor. So lets be clear, this is hooliganism and brutishness on the part of Israel. The IDF of course is the only one to recognize the blockade but no one else. Israel's idea of the blockade was to stop Hamas from firing rockets, but rockets still fly over their heads. The real reason is the Palestinians in Gaza vote to elect Hamas something Israel reject.

20 ) Nadim / UK
28/06/2011 00:39
Robert Haymond: your poor attempt at irony ("we all know that Jews have no rights to inhabit the Mideast under their own government, only Muslims") overlooks this fact: Palestinians- or "Muslims" in your reductionist analysis- voted for their own govt. So Israel declares Gaza Strip, not Hamas but the entire population, a hostile entity. Bombs them and their civilian infrastructure to smithereens. And if you're so concerned, take a boat to Syria yourself rather than criticise people

21 ) Tal Barzilai / USA
28/06/2011 02:56
If some looked at the causes rather than the effects, then they would understand why Israel has the naval blockade. The reason was to prevent Hamas from having weapons smuggled in for having direct access to the Mediterranean Sea. Many of the boats are told to dock over in Ashdod for inspection. Some of them refused to hear the warnings and were boarded. They have video evidence of being attacked first before taking out their guns. BTW, Israel does give humitarian aid to the Palestinians.
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