French rally in support of Freedom Flotilla 18Jun11 June 19, 2011
Nerves were a bit high, as technical issues prevented the boat from being present, but protesters involved say they are determined to sail as early as next weekend.
Last year Israeli soldiers killed nine pro-Palestinian activists and wounded 50 others when a Turkish boat tried to delivering aid to Gaza. A UN fact-finding mission concluded that Israel’s actions were illegal, declaring that six of the passengers were arbitrarily executed, and others tortured.
Freedom Flotilla 2 is expected to be twice the size of its predecessor, with nearly 1,000 activists and 20 different boats. The date is tentatively set for June 25, but that could change as many of the boats will sail from Greece, which has a major strike planned for that day.
Israel imposed a blockade by land, air and sea after Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007, claiming it wanted to stop the flow of rockets and weapons into Gaza, but at what price? According to the UN, the level of abject poverty among Gazans has tripled since the blockade, with 61% of households not having enough food and over 45% of the workforce without the job; that’s one of the highest unemployment rates in the world.
Analysts say Israel’s lobbies will continue to put pressure on the governments of Turkey, France and Greece to prevent the boats from sailing.
Israeli officials have said that no boat will be permitted to enter a Gazan port, even if their cargo is just humanitarian aid and goodwill. Activists are determined to go, but it’s not yet certain if they will be permitted to leave, or to return safely.