Revolution #239, July 17, 2011

U.S. & Israel Block Freedom Flotilla to Gaza

This is such a crime against the soul of humanity. We can’t stand this. Who are we as human beings if we can even bear this? We cannot bear it. And we must not.

—Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple and many other works, explaining why she has participated in the Freedom Flotilla II to break the siege of Gaza.

The Freedom Flotilla II was made up of people from 22 countries aboard 10 ships. Its plan was to set sail from Greece in late May or early June to display international opposition to Israel’s siege of Gaza. This was timed with the one-year anniversary of the first Freedom Flotilla, when, on May 27, 2010, Israeli commandos stormed the Turkish flotilla boat Mavi Marmara, shooting to death nine participants in the movement to bring aid to the people of Gaza.

As the flotilla activists mobilized to set sail from various Greek and European ports, two of the ships were sabotaged with damage that made them unable to sail. And an Israeli Zionist legal group filed frivolous charges in Greek court saying that the U.S. ship was un-seaworthy. Greek authorities carried out a formal inspection and the charges were shown to be false, but this greatly delayed the ship’s planned departure.

The world’s major powers worked in concert to threaten the flotilla. Israel falsely claimed that dangerous materials and weapons were going to be smuggled into Gaza.

The U.S. State Department threatened “that delivering or attempting or conspiring to deliver material support or other resources to or for the benefit of a designated foreign terrorist organization, such as Hamas, could violate U.S. civil and criminal statutes and could lead to fines and incarceration.” The so-called “Quartet” (the U.S. and Russian governments and the imperialist-run institutions, the European Union and the United Nations) which is trying to dictate negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, called July 2 “on all governments concerned to use their influence to discourage additional flotillas....”

On July 1, the U.S. ship in the flotilla, named by organizers “The Audacity of Hope,” set sail from a Greek port, but within minutes it was intercepted by the Greek Coast Guard as commandos pointed guns at the activists. When back at the dock, the captain was arrested (and later released without charges). The Canadian ship was also halted by the Greek military as it set sail. U.S. ship activists protesting peacefully in front of the U.S. Embassy in Athens to demand the release of all the ships and the U.S. captain were detained and later released. These Greek government actions were described by activists as Israel’s “outsourcing” of the oppression of the Palestinian people and of the siege of Gaza.

As we go to press, the flotilla ship from France Dignité/Al Karama succeeded in leaving a Greek port headed to Gaza, while eight other ships remain detained in Greece and one other in a Turkish port where it had been sabotaged.

A U.S./Israeli Enforced Open-Air Prison

Organizers of the U.S. boat to Gaza issued a statement that pointed out in part:

“This is an important moment in history.... Gaza is essentially an open-air prison under a U.S.-backed Israeli blockade.

“The U.S. government is complicit through established policies that uncritically support Israel in its brutal attack on the Palestinian people and on those who attempt to intervene on their behalf. We in the United States must continue to step up and do our part. We must join with others from across the world to support an end to the collective punishment of 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza.”

Gaza is a tiny strip of land sandwiched between the state of Israel and the Mediterranean Sea. Most people in Gaza are the families of Palestinians who fled there as refugees because of the “Nakba,” the Arabic word for catastrophe that is used to describe the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestinians that set up the settler-colonial state of Israel. Israel began a military occupation of Gaza in 1967 after a second war to grab more of Palestine, and withdrew its full-time military occupation in 2005 after 37 years. But Israel (with the ongoing collaboration of the Egyptian government) continues to tightly control the border. In 2007, the Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas was elected to run the Palestinian government in Gaza. In response, Israel began a total blockade of Gaza. The Gaza economy, such as it was, collapsed.

From December 2008 through January 2009, Israel carried out a deadly and massively destructive military assault against Gaza. The United Nations agency for Palestine refugees, UNRWA, reports that “A total of 1,393 Palestinians, including 358 children, were killed, more than 5,300 were injured, and some 60,000 shelters were demolished or damaged,” and that today 80 percent of Gazan households, some 750,000 people, are dependent on food aid from the UN.

A June 2011 report from UNRWA says broad unemployment in the second half of 2010 reached 45.2 percent, one of the highest in the world. It goes on to report that “the abject poor living on just over 1 dollar a day, has tripled to 300,000 since the blockade was imposed....”

All this gives a picture of the importance of the movement to end the blockade of Gaza, and the outrageous injustice of the threats and attacks on the Freedom Flotilla orchestrated by Israel and the U.S.

For more in-depth coverage of the flotilla, see “Gaza Flotilla Faces Barriers,” July 4, 2011, online at

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