By Chandra Muzaffar

09 July 2011

It is a shame that the Greek authorities have gone all out to prevent Freedom
Flotilla 2 from sailing from Greece to Gaza. In the latest incident, a French
motor yacht, the Dignite al Karama that managed to slip out of Greek waters on
the 5th of July 2011 has been stopped by Greek coast guards. Earlier, the
captain of a US boat, the Audacity of Hope, was detained after the boat was
intercepted while attempting to break the Greek ban. The captain, John Klusmer,
was released on the 5th of July. A Canadian ship, Tahrir, with activists from
Canada, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland and Turkey, was also prevented from leaving
for Gaza on the 4th of July.

The Greek government, it is alleged, has succumbed to tremendous pressure from
not only the Israeli regime but also certain governments in Europe and the
United States. It has sworn to “prevent breach of Israel’s naval
blockade.”  Greece’s current economic woes have made it even more
vulnerable to external pressures.

Turkey, it appears, has also yielded to pressure from the US and Israel. The
Mavi Marmara,  which was at the forefront of Flotilla 1 in May 2010,was
supposed to join Flotilla 2. At the eleventh hour, it cancelled its

It is not just pressure upon governments that has hobbled Flotilla 2. Two of
the ships berthed at Piraeus, the port of Athens, were damaged, it is believed,
by saboteurs. A law suit filed in a Manhattan Court in the US by a father and
son claiming to be victims of a Palestinian terrorist attack in 2002 sought to
delay the flotilla from sailing. A warning letter  was also sent to
maritime insurance companies that had provided insurance to the flotilla.
Another warning letter was sent to the giant communications firm, Immarsat, not
to provide communication services to the flotilla.

The US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, accused the flotilla of provocation.
United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, tried to persuade governments to
stop the delivery of humanitarian aid via the Freedom Flotilla 2. Leading US
media outlets criticised the flotilla for allegedly threatening Israel’s

In spite of all this, we would regard Flotilla2 as a relative success for a
variety of reasons — even if it has not been able to deliver its much needed
aid to the besieged people of Gaza. The flotilla drew 300 over activists from
22 countries which in itself is an achievement. The passengers on the US ship,
the Audacity of Hope, included a notable holocaust survivor, Hedy Epstein,
among other Jews. It is significant that on the 4th of July— US Independence
Day— the American passengers on the boat called for the independence of the
US from Israel. The flotilla also elicited the support of Nobel Peace
laureates. Four of them, all  women — Mairead Maguire, Rigoberta Menchu
Tum, Jody Williams and Shirin Ebadi—  in an open letter to the UN
Secretary-General called upon him to “ support this non-violent, international
humanitarian effort.”  A number of NGOs from all over the world have
expressed support for, and solidarity with, Flotilla2. Even a segment of the
mainstream media— not always sympathetic to the Palestinian cause— was
appreciative of the flotilla’s attempt to help the Palestinians.

The men and women who were part of Flotilla2 and all the others who made it
possible deserve our applause for their commitment and their courage. Today,
more than at any other time in the past, we have reason to be optimistic about
their struggle and the valiant struggle of the Palestinian people and all those
who champion their noble cause.

What is important is to ensure that this struggle remains peaceful and
non-violent— and perseveres till it triumphs.

Dr. Chandra Muzaffar is President of the International  Movement for
a Just World (JUST) and Professor of Global Studies at Universiti Sains
Malaysia.  He is a member of Peace for Life working group.


8 July 2011.




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