'Jewish boat to Gaza' leaves Turkish Cyprus
FAMAGUSTA, Cyprus – Agence France-Presse | 9/26/2010 12:00:00 AM |
A boat named ‘Irene’ carrying Jewish activists from Israel, Europe and the US leaves from Turkish Cypriot port to defy an Israeli blockade of Gaza. An 82-year-old passenger who survived the Nazi Holocaust says he felt duty-bound to attempt the voyage, which is expected to take around 36 hours
A boat carrying Jewish activists from Israel, Europe and the United States set sail from Turkish Cyprus on Sunday bound for Gaza in a bid to run Israel's blockade of the Palestinian territory.
The boat, named “Irene,” left the port of Famagusta, Turkish Cyprus in the early afternoon carrying eight activists, three of whom are crew members, and two journalists.
Reuven Moskovitz, an 82-year-old passenger who survived the Nazi Holocaust, told AFP he felt duty-bound to attempt the voyage, which is expected to take around 36 hours. "It is a sacred duty for me, as a [Holocaust] survivor, to protest against the persecution, the oppression and the imprisonment of so many people in Gaza, including more than 800,000 children," Moskovitz said.
Yonatan Shapira, a former Israeli soldier and a crew member on the British-flagged sailing boat, said they were not looking for a confrontation. "We have a policy of non-violence and non-confrontation. But if the Israeli army stops the boat, we will not help them take it to Ashdod," he said, referring to a port in southern Israel where other blockade runners have been taken after being stopped by the navy.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has repeatedly warned that Israel will intercept any ship nearing Gaza, which is run by the Islamist movement Hamas. "The boat's cargo includes symbolic aid in the form of children's toys and musical instruments, textbooks, fishing nets for Gaza's fishing communities and prosthetic limbs for orthopedic medical care in Gaza's hospitals," said a statement from the organizers, Jews for Justice for Palestinians.
It quoted Richard Kuper, a member of the organizing group, as saying: "The Jewish Boat to Gaza is a symbolic act of protest against the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and the siege of Gaza, and a message of solidarity to Palestinians and Israelis who seek peace and justice. Israeli government policies are not supported by all Jews. We call on all governments and people around the world to speak and act against the occupation and the siege.”
In May, Israeli forces tried to stop a six-ship flotilla heading for Gaza but the raid went badly wrong, and nine Turkish activists were killed, prompting a wave of international condemnation. Last week, a report by the U.N. Human Rights Council found there was clear evidence to back prosecutions of Israel for killing and torture when its troops stormed the lead ship, the Mavi Marmara.
In a scathing report, it also threw out Israel's argument that the aid activists were violent, thereby justifying the decision by Israeli soldiers to open fire. Israel rejected the report out of hand as "biased" and "one-sided."
Israel says its commandos only resorted to force after they were attacked when they rappelled onto the deck of the Mavi Marmara, but pro-Palestinian activists on board say the soldiers opened fire as soon as they landed. A separate inquiry into the incident has been set up by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and several more inquiries into the raid are also being pursued by Israel and Turkey.