The latest news on the two boats attempting to sail to the Gaza Strip as an act of solidarity is that they have reached Gaza, despite earlier warnings that they might not be permitted to do so. Bloggers have reacted to the action with both excitement and concern.
Before the news was announced, pro-Palestinian UK blogger bruised earth feared the worst:
This will fly under the radar of most news reporting this weekend (as Obama’s selection of Joe Biden as his Vice-Presidential running mate will doubtless scoop up all media attention), but this is a very important story to note for those concerned about Gaza, and more importantly free protest and demonstration. According to Al Jazeera, Israel’s Foreign Minister Aviv Shiron has issued threats to two vessels from the ‘Free Gaza’ Protest Group, who are attempting to land in Gaza to deliver balloons and hearing aids. Let me repeat that threatening cargo – balloons (for children) and hearing aids (for the hard of hearing). There are rumours the Israeli Navy may even fire upon the ships as they enter the Gaza coast in the next few hours. Forget about this VP-selection news vortex you are about to enter, and keep your eyes on the Gaza coast – it’s important.
Palestinian blogger Laila El-Haddad, who blogs at Raising Yousuf and Nour, has a personal connection to the action:
Many of you have by now likely heard of the Free Gaza movement, whose two boats full of 46 civilian activists (including my uncle, a UK based engineer) from 14 countries are attempting to break the siege on Gaza by sailing to its shores from Cyprus. Among the passengers are Jeff Halper, founder of Israel Committee Against House Demolitions, an 81-year-old Catholic nun, the sister-in-law of Mideast envoy and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and an 84 year old Holocaust survivor. They are meant to arrive today, and everyone is waiting anxiously to see whether they will make it or not. Their journey has been fraught with technical difficulties, rough sea conditions, and electronic piracy-scrambled radio signals and jammed phones.
But despite it all, it appears they are making it into the Gaza harbor!! … Meanwhile, in Gaza, tens of thousands of Palestinians are waiting on shore to celebrate the much anticipated and daring arrival. My mother and Aunt were on board Palestinian vessels on the Gaza side that went out to greet the international vessels; apparently they had to turn back to Gaza shore after hearing Israeli naval warning shots. I have been unable to make contact with them since this morning, but we all anxiously to hear if this attempt to break the siege will succeed and what the next stage of this heroic saga will be.
However, some activists have concerns about the Free Gaza action. Marcy Newman, a pro-Palestinian US activist who blogs at Body on the Line, disagrees with what the activists on the boats are trying to do:
In spite of the good intentions of many of the activists organizing this boat, I have serious problems with it on a number of levels. 1st, it seemed to me that the organizers didn’t necessarily want to get into Gaza. Rather, it seemed as though they intended to create an action that would necessitate that they not get in merely to call attention to the fact that this siege exists. … (M)y 2nd problem with the boat (is that) it isn’t bringing supplies into Gaza, a place where people are in desperate need (such an understatement) for everything and anything from anesthesia to bread. 3rd, the boat is asking people to raise all this money to support the boat itself in lieu of using the money to support the people of Gaza by building community gardens that would feed people, for instance; and the money is not just being raised for the boat, as people who go on it are required to pay their passage to Cyprus and then pay a fee of at least $1,000 to the boat. 4th, I was told that the people invited or selected to go on the boat, once in Cyprus, would be further whittled down based on unknown criteria. 5th, couldn’t that money be used for something better–like for the people of Gaza?…6th, these activists are only staying for a few days, it seems, or at least most of them so I expect there will not be any real solidarity or political, or humanitarian work done (or at least this remains to be seen). 7th, this ship has Israelis on it. I’m sure they are Israelis who consider themselves anti-Zionist, but that is not the point. I’m sure some of these people do good work, but the point is: they are Israelis. The people organizing such an action should know better than to arrange for such an action that becomes one that is about normalization. … (I)f Israelis care about the situation then they should work within their own society to end this occupation and bring about the right of return for Palestinian refugees.
German blogger Karin, at Munich – and a little bit of everything, also disagrees with the premise of the action, and gives her ‘two cents‘:
I was against this trip from start…Before elaborating I want to set one thing straight … I have been an activist myself…been to Gaza five times, love the Gazans…would do EVERYTHING in my power to help in order to give them the life they deserve which naturally puts as condition to lift this INHUMAN SIEGE as well as, if we talk about this issue already, the ENTIRE OCCUPATION!
(It) is all a wonderful idea. Yet the way it is done is wrong. Hamas is the legally elected ruling party in the Gaza strip but, if one likes it or not, agrees to it or rejects it, is considered a terrorist group by Israel as well as European countries and the United States. … The group sailing to Gaza has received an official invitation of Hamas… so what do you think will happen?…Another point I want to stress is money! It was reported they collected $300 000 (or was it more?) for to buy the boats and everything involved. Picture how much GOOD this money could have done had it been given to for instance to UNRWA which is allowed to bring in goods! How about antibiotics? Urgently needed anesthetics?
Arab-American blog KABOBfest reports that the boats have landed:
Its 6:10 in Palestine and the USS Liberty and Free Gaza have just docked in Gaza City’s port. Apart from when Palestinians knocked down the border wall in Rafah this past January, this is the first time the siege on Gaza has been broken.