ABOARD THE MARIANNE BOAT
Human rights activists from world over and generations are aboard the Marianne Boat as part of “The Ship to Gaza” Freedom Flotilla III that seeks an end to Israel’s stranglehold on Palestinians.
In interviews with Anadolu Agency aboard the Marianne Boat, which departed from the Swedish Gothenburg port on May 10, the activists said that they were not only unfazed to the dangers posed by the ruthless Israeli military machine, but they were in fact upbeat and determined to reach the shores of Gaza with their messages of peace and love for all.
Kevin Knish, a 58-year-old Canadian activist, is one of the survivors of the lethal Israeli attack on the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship in 2010 that left several people dead.
“You can say I’m here for the unfinished business. The job is not done. They might have succeeded once to stop us and kill 10 of my good fellow activists, but they couldn’t kill my determination. I’m here today to try it again,” Knish said.
According to him, The Mavi Marmara incident had succeeded in taking the mask off Israelis and showed the world “what they were really made off: a cruel, brutal and inhuman occupation”.
“That experience has put things in perspective for me. If they treat us [activists] like that, [then] what about Palestinians? What about the people in Gaza? I can’t even think about it,” he said.
Knish said that he would strive to fulfill his goal no matter what the dangers might be. “I’m going to repeat this until I fulfill my goal. We will keep knocking on the door until we reach Gaza,” he said.
He also said that Palestinians were an inspiration for the world.
“For Palestinians, I want to tell them that I’m amazed at their tenacity, strength and unbreakable will. They are an inspiration for the world,” he added.
Kerstin Eklund, 21, is the youngest activist on board. She is a student of Middle Eastern studies, who became aware of the “inhuman” Israeli occupation and its tremendous effects on the Palestinian people, when she was 13.
“It all started when I had a discussion with my teacher about the Berlin wall. I thought it’s really weird and surprising that this took place in a European country and [that too] during a recent era,” Eklund said.
The Swedish activist said that her surprise turned to shock when her teacher told her that such terrible incidents were in fact still happening in the world today.
“My teacher told me that Israel was building a separation wall in Palestine… That was a turning point in my life,” she said.
“I’ve heard about the 2006 war, it was just photos and videos that I will see on news on TV. I’ve never reflected on it and thought about the bigger picture…My parents were already boycotting Israeli products, yet I didn’t analyze,” she continued.
The activist said she lived on a small Island in Sweden where the Palestinian cause was not a popular issue among locals.
But, Eklund said that ever since she had that discussion with her teacher, she started researching on the Palestinian issue and began calling up nongovernmental organizations.
“In October 2014, I made my first visit to Palestine. I wanted to see it [the occupation] with my own eyes,” she said.
About her reaction to the plight of Palestinians, she said that she was shocked. “Everyone I met there was happy or trying to be, but they all had a sad story to tell,” Eklund said.
“I’m taking part on this convoy because I think we should shed light on the rights of Palestinian people to move as they wish… I could’ve done it the easy way and travel by plane there, yet I’m doing this so that people of Gaza can have the same right as me,” the young activist said.
“They deserve the right to have freedom on their own land. It is like a big prison for them now,” she added.
She urged people like her to put pressure on politicians in their country and boycott Israel in order to put an end to the occupation.
“I’m no one special, I m a normal simple person like others, but I think that I have a responsibility to do something to break this siege,” she said.
The first “Gaza Freedom Flotilla” expedition in May 2010 ended in tragedy after Israeli commandos killed nine Turkish nationals and an American of Turkish origin in a raid on the flotilla ship, Mavi Marmara. Another person died in a Turkish hospital in 2014 after being in coma for almost four years.
The second “Gaza Freedom Flotilla” took place in 2012, which too was turned back.
The Marianne Boat is set to join other ships en route and plans to reach Gaza by mid-June. Boats from the Canadian Boat to Gaza, Greece Ship to Gaza, Freedom Flotilla Italia, Norway Ship to Gaza, South Africa Palestine Solidarity Alliance, Spain Rumbo a Gaza and Turkey’s Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) are part of the third attempt.
Israel has maintained a tight blockade of the Gaza Strip since 2007, when Palestinian group Hamas took over control of the territory, a move which has ravaged its economy and shaved off around 50 percent off its Gross Domestic Product.
(Source / 31.05.2015)