As you probably know from press reports, our efforts to sail the US boat “The Audacity of Hope” to Gaza fell short of its mission. We expected to be confronted by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in Gazan or international waters. Instead, we were confronted with Greek commandos in the waters near Pireaus. As one passenger put it, “Israel has outsourced the blockade to Greece, Turkey and other countries.” It gained their cooperation through heavy diplomatic pressure
from its allies (most significantly the United States) and economic threats. Presently, eight boats headed for Gaza carrying passengers from 22 countries are locked down in Greek and Turkish ports.
While the intended mission was not accomplished, the stories of the boats' attempts to sail gained considerable international press coverage and shined a light, once again, on Israel's morally and legally indefensible imprisonment of the Palestinian people in Gaza.
Israel's claim – that its blockade is for security only – is utterly belied by the fact that it blocks building materials (much needed, since thousands of homes and hundreds of schools were destroyed during the Operation Cast Lead bombardment two years ago) and refuses to allow students to study abroad or people to visit families, seek medical services or export their goods outside of the zone. Plainly, this is not about security. It is the collective punishment of 1.6 million Gazans because some voted for Hamas.
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Israel says that it is now allowing more goods into Gaza (a direct response to the challenge of this and the last flotilla, which cost nine lives), but the flow is in fact a tiny proportion of what is needed, and doesn't begin to ease the estimated 25-45 percent unemployment in Gaza, or a living standard of less than $2 per day for most Gazans.
But the Palestinians in Gaza who asked our boats to come were not calling for material aid. They want their freedom. The challenge is to lift a heavily armed, brutal military siege that not only cost 1400 lives and destroyed the infrastructure of Gaza during the IDF attack of 2009, but suffocates the people day in and day out.
On a personal note, the experience allowed me to work with some of the most dedicated and caring people from all over the country, of all ages (22-86), representing different backgrounds and experiences. When our boat broke out from its port and we set sail in violation of Greek orders, there was a moment of elation and excitement that defies description. The shouts, songs and tears amidst the banners of hope and love will not be forgotten.
So, we will sail for Gaza again. We will stay in the struggle until Israel stops its apartheid policies, its land and water seizures in the West Bank, its destruction of homes and olive farms, its encroachment by walls, barbed wire and checkpoints. We will stay at it until Palestine is free. There will be failures along the way. But, as a boat passenger, quoting the writer Samuel Beckett, urged, we will, “Try. Fail. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” Eventually, we will succeed.
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