July 18, 2011
“Gaza, we are coming!” So states a press release by the ‘Freedom Flotilla II’. The French vessel ‘Dignity-Al-Karama,’ part of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla carrying sixteen activists and journalists, left a port in Crete on July 16, flying the French flag with papers saying their intended destination is the Island of Rhodes. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Considering all of the obstacles that have faced this and the other ships trying to leave various ports to meet in the Mediterranean Sea to challenge the Gaza blockade, including the US ‘Audacity of Hope ‘ and the Canadian ‘Tahir,’ it was apparent why the deception was necessary. The ‘Dignity’ is a joint venture of activists and journalists from ten ships that is meant to represent the whole fleet now attempting to reach Gaza.
An attempted departure by the MV Juliano, belonging to Swedish, Norwegian and Greek interests, was also prevented from sailing out of Greece this past week to join the “Freedom Flotilla II – Stay Human.” It now appears that eyes will be watching this one vessel, ‘Dignity’, the only one out of ten that is sailing towards Gaza in international waters. It was in international waters where last year’s Mavi Marmara was stopped by the Israeli Navy and nine activists were killed.
A spokeswoman speaking from France, Nahla Chahal, said the ‘Dignity’ left port late Saturday carrying sixteen people that include activists from France, Sweden and Canada, as well as an Israeli newspaper correspondent and reporters from the Al-Jazeera satellite channel. Chahal said the mission was solely to draw attention to the situation in Gaza. “We are making a political statement, we are not carrying any aid.”
It should be noted that the Israeli government has no intention of allowing this ship, or any other ‘freedom flotilla,’ to anchor in the Gaza Strip. The Navy forces are ordered to meet the vessel with the minimal confrontation, especially regarding those people on board the ships. They will be allowed to unload cargo at the Israeli port of Ashdod or the Egyptian port of El-Arish. If no weapons or ammunition are found all the cargo will be transferred to Gaza or to dock in Egypt’s port that is 50km west of the Egyptian-Gaza border.
After much review of the terrible consequences of boarding and confronting the Mavi Marmara activists, the Israelis’ approach will be quite different if they are forced to confront the “Dignity.” They learned a great deal from the first Flotilla. However, it may be that having left with papers that stipulate a false destination, the French ship may already have jeopardized that mission.