Posts Tagged ‘Flotilla’

South African convoy on its way to Gaza through Africa

Gaza-bound land convoy reaches Sudan  By Isma’il Kushkush, For CNN July 28, 2011 — Updated 1556 GMT (2356 HKT)

Land convoy from South Africa is bound for Gaza

The convoy has crossed seven countries so far. Prospects for driving across Egypt are uncertain, organizers say

A humanitarian land convoy heading to Gaza from South Africa reached Port Sudan, Sudan on the Red Sea Wednesday and is destined to become the first relief mission to Gaza from Africa. “I was inspired last year by the convoys that went to Gaza from Europe, so we asked ourselves; why not from Africa?” said Sheikh Walid al-Saadi of the South African Relief Agency (SARA).

After eight months of preparation, the land convoy which consists of ten trucks, explained al-Saadi, departed Durban, South Africa on June 26 and has passed through seven countries thus far including Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan. It is to unload its shipment of humanitarian aid in Port Sudan on ships that will head to Suez, Egypt where members of the convoy will receive their trucks after flying to Egypt from Sudan.

The convoy has received the support of several South African leaders including Bishop Desmond Tutu who said in a YouTube video message: “I want to congratulate SARA and wish them well. You are helping to do God’s work; God bless you.”

Gaza has been under a land, sea and air blockade by Israel since 2007. Israeli authorities say the blockade is to limit rocket attacks fired from Gaza and to prevent Hamas authorities who govern the Gaza from obtaining weapons and funds. Egyptian authorities had maintained a blockade on Gaza from 2007 to 2011.

Last May, United Nations Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos said that the blockade of Gaza has resulted in a stifling of economic activity and a serious decline in education, health care and water and sanitation services.

The Africa to Gaza Aid Convoy’s mission follows recent attempts by European and American ships to reach Gaza as part of a coalition known as Freedom Flotilla II but were blocked from doing so. They include the American ship The Audacity of Hope flotilla that was prevented by Greek authorities from sailing to Gaza from Athens and the French ship Dignite-Al-Karma that was intercepted by an Israeli naval ship.

Last year, Israeli commandos prevented the Gaza Freedom Flotilla from reaching Gaza from Turkey and bordered the ship Mavi Marmara. The raid on the ship led to the death of nine Turkish activists. “We are a peaceful convoy on an aid mission,” affirms al-Saadi. “We can’t predict what is going to happen, we know there’s pressure on the Egyptian government, but you never know.”

According to al-Saadi, the Egyptian government has not allowed the convoy to drive on Egyptian land and has requested they go straight via sea from Port Sudan to Al-Arish near the Egyptian-Gaza border. “[But] the ships from Port Sudan can only go to Suez, so we are trying to solve this problem,” he says.

The trip from South Africa to Sudan has had its challenges, al-Saadi explains. “We were delayed at some borders for no clear reasons and some of the roads were very bad,” he says. “We got to a place between Zambia and Tanzania that was full of pot holes; I think if one of the trucks had fallen into one you would’ve needed a crane to take it out.”

The convoy’s shipment, al-Saadi continues, is carrying aid to the people of Gaza including “one hundred and twenty two generators, diapers for the elderly and children, cloths, stationery, and we intend to buy medicine in Egypt.” Palesa Rasekoala, 46, an architect and member of the convoy says “after the last Gaza War, the images I saw, of legs being amputated without anesthesia, for me, that was it, I don’t’ know the details, but I know a wrong is being done.”

Rasekoala, a granddaughter of South African ANC activists, continued: “As a South African and after what we went through and coming out of that and having the support of the world, and as a Christian, I had to take a stand.”






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.


Alice Walker: on why she is joining the flotilla to Gaza

Alice Walker: Why I’m joining the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza

Pulitzer prize-winning American writer Alice Walker is on board an international flotilla of boats sailing to Gaza to challenge the Israeli blockade. Here she tells why

Alice Walker

Saturday 25 June 2011

US writer Alice Walker in Gaza City in 2009.

US writer Alice Walker in Gaza City in 2009.  Photograph: AP

Why am I going on the Freedom Flotilla II to Gaza? I ask myself this, even though the answer is: what else would I do? I am in my 67th year, having lived already a long and fruitful life, one with which I am content. It seems to me that during this period of eldering it is good to reap the harvest of one’s understanding of what is important, and to share this, especially with the young. How are they to learn, otherwise?

Our boat, The Audacity of Hope, will be carrying letters to the people of Gaza. Letters expressing solidarity and love. That is all its cargo will consist of. If the Israeli military attacks us, it will be as if they attacked the mailman. This should go down hilariously in the annals of history. But if they insist on attacking us, wounding us, even murdering us, as they did some of the activists in the last flotilla, Freedom Flotilla I, what is to be done?

There is a scene in the movie Gandhi that is very moving to me: it is when the unarmed Indian protesters line up to confront the armed forces of the British Empire. The soldiers beat them unmercifully, but the Indians, their broken and dead lifted tenderly out of the fray, keep coming.

Alongside this image of brave followers of Gandhi there is, for me, an awareness of paying off a debt to the Jewish civil rights activists who faced death to come to the side of black people in the American south in our time of need. I am especially indebted to Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman who heard our calls for help – our government then as now glacially slow in providing protection to non-violent protesters – and came to stand with us.

They got as far as the truncheons and bullets of a few “good ol’ boys'” of Neshoba County, Mississippi and were beaten and shot to death along with James Chaney, a young black man of formidable courage who died with them. So, even though our boat will be called The Audacity of Hope, it will fly the Goodman, Chaney, Schwerner flag in my own heart.

And what of the children of Palestine, who were ignored in our president’s latest speech on Israel and Palestine, and whose impoverished, terrorised, segregated existence was mocked by the standing ovations recently given in the US Congress to the prime minister of Israel?

I see children, all children, as humanity’s most precious resource, because it will be to them that the care of the planet will always be left. One child must never be set above another, even in casual conversation, not to mention in speeches that circle the globe.

As adults, we must affirm, constantly, that the Arab child, the Muslim child, the Palestinian child, the African child, the Jewish child, the Christian child, the American child, the Chinese child, the Israeli child, the Native American child, etc, is equal to all others on the planet. We must do everything in our power to cease the behaviour that makes children everywhere feel afraid.

I once asked my best friend and husband during the era of segregation, who was as staunch a defender of black people’s human rights as anyone I’d ever met: how did you find your way to us, to black people, who so needed you? What force shaped your response to the great injustice facing people of colour of that time?

I thought he might say it was the speeches, the marches, the example of Martin Luther King Jr, or of others in the movement who exhibited impactful courage and grace. But no. Thinking back, he recounted an episode from his childhood that had led him, inevitably, to our struggle.

He was a little boy on his way home from yeshiva, the Jewish school he attended after regular school let out. His mother, a bookkeeper, was still at work; he was alone. He was frequently harassed by older boys from regular school, and one day two of these boys snatched his yarmulke (skull cap), and, taunting him, ran off with it, eventually throwing it over a fence.

Two black boys appeared, saw his tears, assessed the situation, and took off after the boys who had taken his yarmulke. Chasing the boys down and catching them, they made them climb the fence, retrieve and dust off the yarmulke, and place it respectfully back on his head.

It is justice and respect that I want the world to dust off and put – without delay, and with tenderness – back on the head of the Palestinian child. It will be imperfect justice and respect because the injustice and disrespect have been so severe. But I believe we are right to try.

That is why I sail.

The Chicken Chronicles: A Memoir by Alice Walker is published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson. A longer version of this article appears on Alice Walker’s blog:


American Flotilla on its way to Gaza


Despite the warnings and threats to those about to sail to Gaza, THEY’RE ON THEIR WAY , AND THEY WON’T TURN BACK!

American flotilla passengers set to challenge U.S. support for Gaza blockade

by Alex Kane


The pressure is mounting on the second “Freedom Flotilla” to Gaza.  Anti-flotilla lawsuits in New York and Toronto have been filed, the Israeli government is ramping up its propaganda efforts and the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship is no longer sailing following U.S. pressure.

But the American passengers are still determined to sail on The Audacity of Hope later this month, and they are now on their way to Greece to complete the initial leg of their journey before setting off to the Mediterranean from an undisclosed port.

And if there was one important and unifying message the American flotilla passengers conveyed yesterday at a press conference where they took questions from reporters, it was this:  the U.S. Boat to Gaza effort is a direct challenge to American support for Israel and its crippling blockade of Gaza.

Gabriel Schivone, an Arizona resident and activist, said that he will be wearing a Star of David around his neck on his journey to Gaza to “symbolize the root meanings of Judaism that are not emphasized enough, namely welcoming a stranger as you were a stranger, helping free the slave as though you were once enslaved.  So rather than travel to contribute to more death and suffering, I choose to travel there to directly and nonviolently protest the support and participation of my own government in these crimes.”

Schivone is joining 36 other Americans who are off to Gaza.  Hundreds of people from some 20 countries are set to take part in the flotilla aiming to break Israel’s blockade.

“We have a special responsibility,” said Richard Levy, a labor and civil rights lawyer joining the boat.  “Our country is not supporting what [Bashar] Assad is doing.  It is not supporting what [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad is doing…But the fact is, we are the main supporters of what Israel is doing in the Middle East.  And that support has been destructive not only to the Palestinian people but to this country in a very, very large way.”

Levy also reported details of a meeting U.S. flotilla activists had with the State Department in which they provided details about the mission and asked for protection.  The activists also wanted to “talk policy issues,” which the State Department declined to meet with them about.

A State Department spokesperson told reporters June 1 “that groups and individuals who seek to break Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza are taking irresponsible and provocative actions that entail a risk to their safety.”

Shortly after the meeting, according to Levy, the State Department sent them a communique that “warned people not to go on the flotilla, that Israel could be expected to use force, and that Israel expected to enforce its blockade.”

“The State Department is on notice, the president is on notice,” said Levy. “Communications have been made with all levels of the State Department and the administration to let them know that this is a boat of U.S. citizens on a peaceful mission, and that we expect the United States government to speak to Israel or to do what it needs to do to protect its citizens.”


This article originally appeared in Mondoweiss

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