May 31st this year, an flotilla of aid ships bound for the Gaza strip were boarded in international waters by Israeli marine commandos and by daybreak 9 civilians on the Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara were dead. This weekend, two Lebanese ships will disembark from Tripoli, their final destination will be Gaza. As the Israeli naval fleet goes on high alert, Scriptonite takes a closer look at the ships, the organisers and the implications if this mission: impossible.
The ships have been organised by Syrian national of Palestinian descent Yasser Kashlak, a 36 year old businessman with reported links to various Palestinian peace organisation, Hezbollah and the Syrian leadership. According to the Jerusalem Post and various pro-israeli organisations he is anti Semitic and has promised to get all Israelis out of Israel and back their European destinations of origin…and then chase them back there to get even.
The plan is for one ship to be exclusively for journalists and one ship to be women only. Interviews with the women planning to sail on the Maryam, the women-only ship, do not sound like the voices of radical islam.
“We were all drawn to the project…united by a feeling of stark injustice“ says Samar Hajj, one of the organisers of the Maryam
Aside from Samar, the women aboard the Maryam will all take the name Maryam and be distinguished by a number eg Maryam 1, Maryam 2, in order to protect their identities ahead of the trip. Maryam 1 is an Indian lawyer who defines herself as being wholly influenced by Ghandi’s non violent resistance to oppression. She says:
“What the Mavi Marmara attack highlighted was that two sets of rules were applied to humanity, depending on a people’s colour, race and religion. But what people fail to realise is that suffering is by nature indivisible.”
Sitting across from her was Maryam 2, a former biologist of Lebanese- Armenian descent. “I have been closely following the Palestinian issue and have been moved by the blatant injustice that is practiced against Palestinians by the Israelis,” she says.
At the daily meetings, Maryam 2 bonded with other women from diverse backgrounds, particularly a Turkish journalist. Turkey and Armenia have been at odds since the Turkish massacre of Armenians in the early 19th century.
“The journalist, who barely speaks English told me I was a godsend when she discovered I could speak some Turkish. Here at the Maryam headquarters, nationality and religion dissolve behind the common resolve of breaking the siege of Gaza,“ she says.
Most Maryam passengers are impatient to set sail.
“We will not fight Israelis with weapons, stones or knives, but with our free will,” says Maryam 3, a single woman working in the Lebanese government. “And we will not surrender.”
In Israel, the army chief, Gabi Ashkenazi, told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee on Jul. 6 that every effort should be made to ensure that no more flotillas set sail for Gaza.
In response, The Foreign Ministry instructed Israeli ambassadors to ask senior officials in the United States, United Nations, European Union and Egypt to pressure Syria and Lebanon to stop the flotilla, which Israel deems a “provocation” in light of its recent decision to end its civilian blockade of Gaza.
Syria has been included because senior Israeli officials say it is helping to organize the flotilla. Hezbollah is also involved, they charged.
“This is a clear and organized provocation,” one official said.
And one can see why Israel might be getting more than a little twitchy as one nation after another produces a ship destined to break it’s internationally criticised blockade of the Gaza Strip. Infact, there is an even more controversial ship being planned in the benefactor nation to Israel. A Us organisation http://ustogaza.org/ is raising funds as we speak to send a US ship to break the blockade and are planning to name her..wait for it:
The Audacity of Hope….*chuckle
It warms me to think of the 1.5 million imprisoned people of Gaza being able to see that such an international acknowledgement of their suffering has taken place and that people are willing, despite the slow and ineffectual machinations of their respective governments, to take sail across the world to support the principles of freedom and equality of rights for all peoples.
The non violence of this resistance is what makes it so beautiful and so effective. And is surely, the bridge to peace.
Please note: The Israeli press has reported the two ships are called Junia and Julia….it is unclear how this miscommunication has taken place or if there are infact three ships.