Aussie activists join flotilla to Gaza 15Jun11 June 17, 2011

SBS World News -   15 June 2011

Three Australians will be putting their lives on the line when they board a boat hoping to stop the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza, the NSW Greens say.

“(They) are putting their welfare on the line to take part in a peaceful humanitarian mission to bring aid to the people of Gaza,” said the party’s leader David Shoebridge.

Last year nine activists were killed when Israeli marines stormed the flagship of an international aid flotilla bound for Gaza.

One of the Australians taking part, former Greens MP Sylvia Hale, said she hoped for a “more moderate” response when she takes part in the Freedom Flotilla 2.

“The Israeli government has shown by its past actions that it’s prepared to shoot first and ask questions later,” she said.

“We don’t expect gentle handling.”

The threat of violence, however, has only encouraged activists with over 500,000 applying to be part of the flotilla.

“Violence encourages further acts of resistance, the flotilla last time was comprised of six ships this time I understand there are 12,” Ms Hale said.

The trio, which also includes youth worker Michael Coleman and Vivienne Porzsolt of Jews Against Occupation, has called on the Australian government to protect them.

Mr Coleman said the passengers on board the boat would be acting “completely lawfully”.

“We will give Israeli forces no pretext for any assault.”

While Mr Coleman said the boat will be carrying medical supplies and messages of goodwill, Israel maintains that attempts to breach the naval blockade are political rather than genuinely humanitarian.

It has offered to transfer any bona fide aid shipments directly to Gaza, provided it can inspect the cargo to prevent arms smuggling to Hamas and other militant groups.

Ms Porzsolt, whose parents were Jewish refugees, said she is joining the flotilla because she “cannot abide” Israel’s treatment of Gaza.

“It is in defiance of international human rights and international law and I cannot abide that they are doing these things in my name,” she said.

The three Australians will be joining around 1000 other activists on the flotilla.

They are calling on Prime Minister Julia Gillard to demand Israel not attack them.

“Turkey has warned Israel against a repetition of last year’s lethal attack on the first Freedom Flotilla – our government must do the same,” Ms Hale said.

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