Second Gaza flotilla to sail from Turkey by the end of June
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News | 5/30/2011 12:00:00 AM | ERISA DAUTAJ ŞENERDEM
More than 1,000 people from 100 countries will set sail in the last week of June on a new attempt to break Israel's Gaza blockade, human-rights activists announced Monday.
More than 1,000 people representing some 100 countries will set sail in the last week of June on a second international flotilla attempting to break Israel’s siege on the Gaza Strip, human-rights activists announced Monday.
“We will not allow Israel to set up open prisons and concentration camps,” Vangelis Pisias, the coordinator for the participating team from Greece, said Monday at a press conference organized by flotilla activists, adding that the group intended to show the world that problems can be solved peacefully.
“Palestine is in our heart and could be the symbol of a new era in the region,” Pisias said.
The announcement of the new flotilla came a day before the one-year anniversary of the date when Israeli commandos raided ships participating in a previous aid mission, killing nine Turkish activists onboard the vessel Mavi Marmara.
The press conference was organized on the ship, which has been anchored for some time in Istanbul’s shipyard in the Kasımpaşa neighborhood.
Some 15 ships will sail toward Gaza in the last week of June, carrying approximately 1,500 activists from about 100 countries. The first flotilla, which set sail in May 2010, contained about 700 activists from 38 countries on six ships. The Mavi Marmara will be among the 15 vessels carrying humanitarian aid, as well as medical, school and construction materials, along with other ships departing from the United States, Canada, Spain, France, Italy, Greece and Ireland.
“We do not believe that Israel will make the same mistake [as last year, to attack the flotilla]... We will sail peacefully, everything will be open,” said Hüseyin Oruç, a representative of the Humanitarian Relief Foundation, or İHH, which is one of 22 national networks in the coalition organizing the international flotilla.
Oruç also responded to the Israeli government’s efforts to get other countries’ governments to stop their citizens from participating in the flotilla. “We are living in democratic countries, where all rules are defined. No government has the right to tell us not to join the flotilla,” he said, adding that the activists are acting within the norms of both national and international laws.
“We are not violating the law. Israel needs to understand this is the democratic right of all people of the world,” Oruç said.
Israel’s May 31, 2010, raid killed nine people aboard the Mavi Marmara, including Furkan Doğan, an American of Turkish descent, and eight Turkish citizens. Activists participating in the second flotilla, called “Freedom Flotilla II – Stay Human,” renewed their calls in a joint statement Monday for their governments to do their utmost to ensure that Israel does not repeat its attack.
“We contacted our government last week to inform them that we are joining the flotilla and to tell them that we expect them to tell Israel not to attack the ships. They said they had done this, and that they would not advise that we should not go,” Dror Feiler, the Israel-born-and-raised spokesman from the Swedish group, told the Hürriyet Daily News on Monday. Some 30 Swedish activists will join the flotilla, and hundreds more would have liked to participate if there had been enough room, Feiler said. He added that the flotilla would be carrying 600 to 700 tons of cement, one of the goods that is not allowed to enter Gaza.
“We contacted the U.S. government last Monday, and the first thing they gave us was a travel warning to Gaza,” Ann Wright told the Daily News on Monday, adding that more than 60 U.S. activists would join the flotilla nevertheless. She said they would ship 10,000 to 15,000 letters from Americans to the Palestinian people.
“We are going to carry the thoughts of the American people [to Gaza],” Wright said.
Despite their determination, activists also revealed some fear about joining the new flotilla. “You should fear young men and guns,” Wright said, adding that she hoped Israel would respond to the group’s nonviolence and that the Israeli military would recognize the flotilla was threat to Israel’s policies but not to them.
“I try not to have too much fantasy [regarding my safety during the trip], as there are many factors. We know, however, that we will be peaceful on our part; we will check all our ships and all our passengers and we know well what we are taking into the ships,” Feiler said. He added that this time the organizers would try to mix up people from different countries on the boats, so there would be “no scenario of good and bad ships.”
“I have already broken down the wall of fear,” Muhammet Zeida, a member of the Israeli parliament who also joined the first flotilla in 2010, told the Daily News on Monday, adding that he hoped Israel would not make any “stupidness” this time.
Zeida is still being judged by an Israeli court for “having put at risk the Israeli state and military, for cooperating with Israel’s enemies and for having carried a weapon,” which he said was just a fantasy of the Israeli authorities.