Gaza-bound Ship Carrying pro-Palestinian Activists Sets Sail From Greece

Ten activists head to Gaza aboard the French Dignite-Al Karama ship, regarding themselves as representatives of the entire abortive flotilla.

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Amira Hass
Amira Hass

SOMEWHERE IN THE EAST MEDITERRANEAN – On Saturday evening a Gaza-bound boat left Greek territorial waters. Its 10 participants regard themselves as representatives of the entire abortive flotilla to Gaza, and are determined to exhaust all possibilities in order to reach their destination, or at least carry out the symbolic act of protesting the blockade. They are well aware of the Lilliputian dimensions of their venture, compared with the massive impact organizers had initially planned to have with the 10-odd vessel flotilla.

Dignite-Al Karama, one of two yachts purchased by the French delegation in the second Freedom Flotilla, left a port in Corsica on June 25. Thus, it was spared the fate of eight other boats which were supposed to sail out of Greek ports, but were impounded by Greek authorities.

Fuelling the Dignite-Al Karama ship at Kastellorizo port, Greece, on July 15, 2011.Credit: Amira Hass

Last Wednesday Karama left the port of Sitia in Crete, where it had been anchored for a week, awaiting the other boats in vain. Once it was clear that Greece, under strong Israeli pressure, would not allow those boats to sail, its remaining passengers ¬ three French nationals and one Tunisian ¬ were joined by three representatives of other delegations, a Greek, Swede and a Canadian, and by three more French activists who arrived from France. Also on board are three crew members and three journalists from Al Jazeera and Haaretz.

The decision to carry on the mission of sailing to Gaza was not automatically welcomed by other delegations or by the steering committee of the flotilla. Some preferred to officially end the current campaign. Karama's participants spent long hours negotiating and convincing the others.

On Thursday evening Karama reached the eastern Greek Island of Kastellorizo in order to fuel and meet the additional delegates from France. Kastellorizo's history is connected to Gaza: During World War II, after having been occupied by the British army and fearing German attacks, some of the inhabitants fled to Gaza and remained in Palestine for a couple of years. This made the inhabitants of the island and its small port city especially hospitable to the small boat and its mission.

Three of those on board already sailed towards Gaza in last years' flotilla. One of them, Greek sociologist Vangelis Pissias, claims that while in detention in Ashdod last year he was severely beaten by Israeli security forces. Also on board for the second time is Dror Feiler, the Israel-born Swedish national, who is chairperson of 'European Jews for a Just Peace."

Claude L'Eostic, a French flotilla organizer and a veteran activist for Palestinian causes, said that even the sailing of one tiny yacht was the best way to expose the Israeli policy of blockading Gaza, and its illegality.

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