The Canadian ship Tahrir and the Irish ship Saoirse have successfully reached international waters, marking the start of the Freedom Waves to Gaza campaign. The boats are currently in the Mediterranean Sea, preparing to sail for Gaza within a matter of hours.
[MR: This past June, the Saoirse was attacked by saboteurs while still in port, preventing it from sailing to Gaza. The Tahrir was blocked from sailing by the Greek government, apparently under intense pressure from Israel and the US.]
The Freedom Waves to Gaza initiative is a non-violent, civil society movement to challenge the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
“Flowing out of the Freedom Flotillas, the Freedom Waves to Gaza are now underway,” says Canadian Boat to Gaza organizer Ehab Lotayef from on board the Tahrir. Also on board in this citizen-to-citizen initiative are delegates from Australia, the US, and Palestine. “We are now in international waters and hope to reach the shores of Gaza in a matter of days. Among the significant obstacles in our way are Israel’s military and the complicity of the Harper government, but we have the wind of public opinion at our back and in our sails, which strengthens our resolve and determination to challenge the illegal blockade of Gaza’s 1.5 million inhabitants.”
“The fact that we have reached international waters is another victory for the movement,” says Canadian Boat to Gaza organizer David Heap from on board the Tahrir. “Despite economic blackmail, despite the outsourcing of the blockade to Greece, despite being forcibly boarded by the Greek Coast Guard, and despite Israel mobilizing a significant portion of its navy to stop us, we are now even closer to reaching Gaza, breaking the blockade, and occupying the occupation.”
Ehad Lotayef adds, “The Palestinians living in Gaza want solidarity not charity, and have made it clear to the world that their primary demand is for freedom. While humanitarian aid is helpful, Gazans are still prisoners with no freedom of movement. Israel’s illegal blockade prevents not only imports into Gaza, but exports as well. And the blockade prevents Palestinians from moving freely between Gaza and the West Bank, in violation of fundamental human rights.”
Restrictions at the eleventh hour by port authorities have meant that only one third of the assembled delegates and media have been allowed to embark. Bios of the delegates on board are available here.
Despite this latest challenge, the Tahrir and Saoirse will soon be at full speed ahead toward Gaza. Various media outlets will be reporting on developments aboard the Tahrir, including Democracy Now and Al Jazeera.
“While the Tahrir will be delivering much-needed medicines, our primary aim remains to help free Palestinians from the open-air prison known as Gaza,” says Heap. “There’s a song from the civil rights movement with the chorus of ‘we who believe in freedom cannot rest.’ And we will keep challenging the illegal blockade until Gaza and the rest of Palestine are free.”
Track the progress of the Freedom Waves to Gaza boats here.
Video coverage from Democracy Now, onboard the Tahrir, here.
A call to action in support of Freedom Waves to Gaza here.