Free Gaza Boats Being Prepared
Posted Aug 3, 2008

Free Gaza Boats Being Prepared

by Paul Larudee

A dozen volunteers from the UK, Greece, Palestine, Australia, Spain and
Ireland are scattered about Greece, getting two boats ready to sail to
Cyprus.  There we’ll pick up another thirty volunteers before continuing
to Gaza.  We’re painting the boats, adding bunks, learning to use the
sophisticated satellite uplink and a thousand other things to ready the
boats and ourselves for the trip.

My fellow volunteers include an 83-year-old Holocaust survivor who will
celebrate her next birthday aboard ship, an 81-year-old Catholic nun, an
Israeli human rights leader who may face prison for his participation,
Palestinians unable to visit their families in Gaza, journalists who will
broadcast live from aboard ship, and many more, from at least 17 countries
and five religions.

A few days ago, we all had to run down to the ATM machines and banks to
put together $20,000 to cover a delayed wire transfer.  Our Greek friends
had already emptied their bank accounts and our supporters in the U.S.
lent another $100,000.  Although we raised $200,000 over the past two
years, it disappeared quickly when we had to buy the boats and all the

The idea is simple enough.  Get a couple of boats and sail through
international waters to the Gaza Strip without entering Israeli or
Egyptian territory.  Israel claims to no longer occupy Gaza, so why would
they object?

The human rights advocates of the Free Gaza Movement are concerned that
the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza are suffering a siege resembling the
early days of one imposed on the Warsaw ghetto during WWII.  Few people
and no goods can exit, and only basic relief supplies can enter.  Even
this is not enough to keep the sick from dying or the healthy from
becoming sick, according to the UN Humanitarian Affairs Office.

The group reasons that while Israel and Egypt might have the right to
defend and control their own borders and territory, they would have no
authority in international and Gaza territorial waters.  Why not try a new
tactic, then, to enable free access to and from Gaza, and relieve the
pressure on its population, more than half of whom are children?

Of course, turning the idea into reality wasn’t simple at all, which is
why we’re maxing our credit cards. Nevertheless, our optimism is boundless
as we watch our improbable plans come to fruition.  We are told that on
the shore in Gaza, 200,000 or more Palestinians will gather to welcome the
first boats to arrive freely into Gaza since 1967.

Will Israel stop us?  We believe that they will make the apparently
reasonable request to inspect the boats first.  However that would
constitute recognition of Israel’s right to regulate traffic in a
territory where they have no sovereignty.  The group will have the boats
inspected in Cyprus in order to assure that no one is sabotaging the
mission, but they insist that they will not voluntarily submit to Israeli
authority outside of Israeli territory, even if it means being forcibly
stopped.  They hope that in such an encounter, Israel will find no benefit
in attacking a group of harmless civilians on a quixotic quest, and that
this will open the door to more normal lives for the civilian population
of Gaza.

Paul Larudee
The Free Gaza Movement