Freedom Flotilla set to sail into stormy waters
POLL POSITION: Australian and British activists preparing for the second Freedom Flotilla to Gaza are hoping that it won’t end in bloodshed like last year when nine people lost their lives.
Israel currently maintains an illegal military blockade of the Gaza. This blockade and occupation by the Israeli military severely limits the flow of food, medicine and people in and out of Gaza, leaving hundreds of thousands of Gazans reliant upon humanitarian aid.
Australian youth worker Michael Coleman is one of the Flotilla participants and he says that the Flotilla aims to draw international attention to the ongoing “collective punishment of the population of Gaza” and to deliver humanitarian aid.
The ships of the Flotilla will carry medical supplies and other humanitarian aid, as well as messages of solidarity to the people of Gaza.
All those partaking in the Flotilla have spent the past week in Greece where they have undergone intensive non-violence training.
This year’s participants hope they will not see a repeat of events of last year’s Flotilla, when Israeli armed forces intercepted and boarded the boats, killing nine activists and injuring many more.
The participants in the current Flotilla feel that their training will assist in preparing them for whatever situation they may face during their mission.
“Apart from the focus on non-violence direct action (NVDA) we also ran through some possible scenarios: sabotage, being boarded, naval standoff, use of chemical weapons, being detained,” said Coleman.
“These where discussed in great detail and you could see the crew all processing these possibilities and while I think we are all intimidated, none of us will be deterred from answering the challenge the [IDF] made to the international solidarity movement by attacking the last flotilla.”
“We are completely committed to non-violence and will offer no active resistance should our boat, the Tahrir, be attacked. We will give Israeli forces no pretext for any assault,” he said.
Still, this public commitment from all of the activists aboard the Flotilla has not satisfied Israel who have said they intend to intercept any vessels that appear intent to breach their blockade of Gaza.
The Australian Government have been told by Israeli authorities that Embassy officials that want access to any Australians detained during the Flotilla will be limited or even denied entirely.
The Australian Government says Israel’s position to limit consular support to Australians is “concerning”, however concluded, “the extent to which we will be able to help you will ultimately be determined by the Israeli government”.
And this position from Israel stands for all foreign nationals detained during the Flotilla (including journalists).
So, British Flotilla participants must be hoping that Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron will maintain the rage he expressed soon after Israel attacked the last Flotilla.
Cameron told Parliament during Question Time in June 2010: “What has happened is completely unacceptable. We should be clear about that and we should also deplore the loss of life.”
“We should do everything we can to make sure this doesn’t happen again – and I stressed this point in a conversation with President Netanyahu of Israel.”