Gaza-bound Freedom Flotilla departs amidst Israeli threats 26Jun11 June 26, 2011
by Emma ManciniÂ Â -Â Â Alternative Information CenterÂ Â -Â Â 23 June 2011
Under the shadow of Israeli government and navy threats, the ten boats of the Freedom Flotilla II are preparing to leave for the Gaza Strip to break Israelâs five year siege on the area and to provide humanitarian aid, toys, school supplies and medicine to the more than 1.5 million Palestinian residents of Gaza.
Dedicated to the memory of Italian activist Vittorio Arrigoni who was killed in Gaza on 14 April 2011, the aim of the 500 activist-strong flotilla is to draw global attention to the Israeli siege against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
âThe initiative of the Freedom Flotilla is absolutely legal and nonviolent. We reject strongly all the ridiculous insinuations of Zionist propaganda about weapons inside our boatsâ says the National Coordinator of Freedom Flotilla Italia.
Italyâs National Coordinator further requested that Italy assist with an immediate mobilisation in the event that Israeli threats materialise in a repeat of last yearâs attack, in which Israel killed 9 Turkish humanitarian activists, wounded dozens and deported hundreds. âWe appeal to all the friends of the Palestinian people,â the Coordinator said,â to be ready for an instant mobilisation if the Israeli government decides to attack the Freedom Flotilla. In case of an attack, we invite you to demonstrate in Rome at the Israeli embassy, in Milan at the Israeli consulate and in all the most important Italian citiesâ.
Israeli threats are raining down as Israel declares its intentions to prevent the arrival of the Freedom Flotilla on the Gaza coast. On Tuesday 20 June, during a ceremony in the harbor of Haifa, Israeli Navy Chief Admiral Eliezer Marom said clearly that the flotilla will be stopped on the open seas. âA dangerous anti-Semitism is hidden beside humanitarian aids,â says Marom. âThey are looking for a media provocation in order to delegitimize Israel.â The admiral indicated that the flotilla is a tool for Hamas interests and that to let the international boats reach Gaza would open a free passage to the Gaza Strip and âHamas could receive an uncontrolled quantity of weapons and threaten Israel with missilesâ.
According to the Italian news agency Ansa, Israeli intelligence believes that activists from Yemen and Jordan could attack their soldiers if they stop the boats. Yet the Israeli Navy looks ready. Over the past few days the Israeli army has been involved in paintball activities along the Mediterranean coasts, focusing on new control techniques in order to limit the number of people killed.
The boats to Gaza will bring between 500 and 600 activists from 22 different countries. The Turkish ship Mavi Marmara will not joint Freedom Flotilla, citing damages sustained from last yearâs attack, which would prevent the ship from sailing. However there is some speculation that the real reason for cancellation of the trip is related to the Turkish government and its new approach to Israeli-Turkish relations.
U.S. citizens will also take part in the flotilla on a boat named âThe Audacity of Hope.â Â American Jews represent 28% of the 36 passengers on board. âItâs important that there are Jews on the boat,â says Richard Levy, a Jewish attorney from New York. âThe Jewish lobby in our country is very strong. We canât support the Israeli siege, it is morally and legally unacceptableâ.
The Stars and Stripes boat will also deliver thousands letters of friendship and solidarity from the American civil society to the Palestinian population. The Audacity of Hope announced this initiative in a letter to President Obama who is discouraging U.S. citizens from joining the flotilla both for security reasons and in an effort to prevent further provocation of a close U.S. ally.
translated to English by the Alternative Information Center (AIC)