Despite official Israeli continuing threats to use violence to stop international support from reaching Gaza by sea, 5 more ships carrying passengers from France, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Italy will join Freedom Flotilla 2 in late June. The European Campaign to End the Siege of Gaza (ECESG), one of the flotilla’s sponsors revealed that the ships will carry country-level legislators and members of the European Parliament among their passengers, which will number in the hundreds.
“I am sure the recent Israeli fire on the Malaysian ship, the Spirit of Rachel Corrie, was meant as warning for the flotilla, but we will not be deterred,” said Anouar Gharbi, a member of the ECESG.
He added that, ” the ruling South African government also fought back against early attempts to end apartheid, but eventually it was forced to change by the power of the people. Veterans of that fight for human rights say that the Israeli apartheid in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is even worse, and it will take the same kind of international solidarity to bring it down.”
So far, France, Germany, Britain, Italy, Ireland, Belgium, Norway, Holland, Switzerland, Greece, Sweden and Spain
The Spirit of Rachel Corrie, a Malaysian-owned ship sponsored by the Perdana Global Peace Foundation will be carrying pipes to help repair the devastated sewage system in Gaza, was intercepted and attacked by the Israeli naval forces on May 16. Passengers included seven Malaysians, two Irishmen, two Indians and one Canadian.
The ship was forced to dock at Egyptian waters one and a half nautical miles from the Gazan shore. It remains there today. Nine flotillas have attempted sail to Gaza since August 2008 to break Israel’s illegal stranglehold, three of which have been co-sponsored by the ECESG.
Five of those flotillas were successful in entering Gaza; however, they were violently intercepted on the past four voyages — including last year’s, which was organized by the Freedom Flotilla Coalition — an international Coalition that brought all of the sponsors under one umbrella. On May 31, 2010, the Israeli military attacked the six-ship Freedom Flotilla, as it was called, killing nine of the passengers on the lead boat, the Mavi Marmara.
Gharbi noted that the Freedom Flotilla 2 — using the slogan “Stay Human” in honor of Vittorio Arrigoni, an Italian peace activist killed in Gaza earlier this year — will include the largest number of ships yet (still being finalized, but more than 12 ), which this time will depart from ports throughout the Mediterranean. The three new ships just announced will leave from Marseille, France; Genoa, Italy; and a port yet to be named in Germany. Other European countries to be represented in the flotilla are Sweden, Belgium, Greece, Spain, the UK and Ireland. Elsewhere, ships are being sent by delegations from the United States, Canada, Latin America, Africa and Asia.
Israel has controlled and humiliated the Palestinian people for 63 years. Since then more than 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes or fled out of fear following the creation of Israel in 1948. That control intensified in 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip. Although Israel withdrew its settlers from Gaza in 2005, it has continued to control the inhabitants’ lives; since 2007, it has prevented most human traffic in and out of the densely populated Strip, while restricting imports and banning virtually all exports. The impact: More than 75 percent of Palestinians in Gaza live under the poverty line.
“There is nothing in international law that supports Israel’s four-year-long blockade of Gaza, or its attacks on humanitarian shipments in international or Palestinian waters. In fact, as stated by the normally neutral International Committee of the Red Cross, Israel’s collective punishment of the residents of Gaza is itself a clear violation of international humanitarian law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention.” Said Gharbi. “
(gazatvnews.com / 26.05.2011)