‘Free­dom Flotilla’ sets sail from Sweden

Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - • By JULIANE HELMHOLD

Three ships linked to the Free­dom Flotilla Coali­tion left Gothen­burg in Sweden on Tues­day, deter­mined to break the block­ade of Gaza, The Jerusalem Post’s sis­ter pub­li­ca­tion Maariv re­ported.

The flotilla was led by a fish­ing boat named Al-Awda (Ara­bic for re­turn), which left the Nor­we­gian port of Ber­gen on April 30, and also in­cluded the He­ria (Ara­bic for free­dom) and Maird, named af­ter Ir­ish No­bel Peace Prize lau­re­ate and BDS ac­tivist Mairead Maguire, who was on board a 2010 flotilla.

In the com­ing weeks, a fourth ship called Pales­tine is ex­pected to join the flotilla, which will pass through ports in Den­mark, Ger­many and the Nether­lands. The crew, which con­sists of ac­tivists from 20 coun­tries, in­clud­ing Is­rael, will change sev­eral times dur­ing the jour­ney.

Ac­cord­ing to Canada Boat to Gaza web­site, the flotilla is ex­pected to reach the Gaza Strip within 75 days.

“In re­sponse to the bru­tal Is­raeli block­ade, for seven years the Free­dom Flotilla Coali­tion has car­ried out non­vi­o­lent di­rect actions aimed at rais­ing in­ter­na­tional aware­ness and putting pres­sure on the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to end the block­ade,” a state­ment on the web­site reads.

“We sail this year for the right to a just fu­ture for Pales­tine... We will con­tinue to put pres­sure on our gov­ern­ments and protest their com­plic­ity with Is­rael’s crimes against hu­man­ity. We sail again to stand with the Pales­tini­ans of Gaza, as they de­mand their free­dom of move­ment and their right to a just fu­ture in their land,” the state­ment con­tin­ues.

One of the ac­tivists join­ing the flotilla will be Ye­hu­dit Ilani, spokes­woman for Joint List MK Ha­neen Zoabi, who is ex­pected to board the Al-Awda. Ilani was also part of the 2016 women’s flotilla but left the ship early for what she de­scribed as lo­gis­ti­cal rea­sons.

On Tues­day night, be­fore the flotilla left Gothen­burg, a sol­i­dar­ity cer­e­mony was held in the Swedish city with the par­tic­i­pa­tion of hun­dreds of left-wing ac­tivists from Scan­di­navia and other Eu­ro­pean coun­tries to mark the launch of the flotilla.

The cer­e­mony co­in­cided with “Nakba Day,” the “Day of Catas­tro­phe” that marks the es­tab­lish­ment of the State of Is­rael in 1948.

Is­rael’s de­clared pol­icy is not to al­low any protest flotil­las to reach Gaza. In the past, the navy took con­trol of all the ves­sels as they ap­proached the Strip. There were also re­ports of mys­te­ri­ous mishaps that dis­rupted flotilla ships at ports of ori­gin.

In 2010, Is­rael Navy com­man­dos raided the Gaza-bound Mavi Mar­mara ves­sel, were at­tacked by ac­tivists, and killed 10 Turk­ish ac­tivists.

In 2015, the navy in­ter­cepted the Swedish fish­ing boat Mar­i­anne av Göte­borg some 85 nau­ti­cal miles off the Gaza Strip coast. The ves­sel’s pas­sen­gers in­cluded MK Basel Ghat­tas (Joint List) and for­mer Tu­nisian pres­i­dent Mon­cef Mar­zouki.

In 2016, the Zay­touna-Oliva, part of the Women’s Peace Flotilla, was towed to Ash­dod, and the for­eign ac­tivists on board were de­ported from Is­rael.

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