The Marianne of Gothenburg, jointly acquired by Ship to Gaza Sweden and Ship to Gaza Norway, which left its home port of Sweden on May 10, was the first of three vessels to leave in an attempt to break Israel's blockade of Gaza. In a press release published on May 10, the Marianne of Gothenburg group declared that it “will join other ships to form ‘Freedom Flotilla III’, a peaceful, nonviolent action to break the illegal and inhumane blockade of the Gaza Strip.”
As of today, the ‘Freedom Flotilla III‘ has reached the Mediterranean, with conferences planned in Portugal and Spain for the next few days. Participants in the Freedom Flotilla Coalition also include Canadian Boat to Gaza, Greece Ship to Gaza, Freedom Flotilla Italia, South Africa Palestine Solidarity Alliance, Spain Rumbo a Gaza and Turkey's Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH).
— Freedom Flotilla (@GazaFFlotilla) June 8, 2015
In their most recent video update, from Lisbon, Portugal, the Freedom Flotilla Coalition explained the historical context behind their cause:
I want to give a short history of the Swedish International Solidarity work. It actually started here [Lisbon] during the war against the fascists. 500 Swedish people volunteered in the International Brigades to fight Franco. Most of them, 350 of these fighters, were sailors. And as a Swedish sailor, I am proud to carry on this legacy.
Other members gave their thoughts on the current situation in Gaza and their hopes for breaking the siege.
- The people only remember Gaza when there is a war. And when the war ends everyone calls me and says “congrats, the war is finished, you are in peace. But there is no peace when the war ends. The real war starts.
- We ask: Why doesn't anyone care for the fishermen in Gaza? They get shot at, seriously harmed, and sometimes killed.
- If we succeed to break the siege of Gaza, I think it's possible to do anything.
- It's obvious that Israel will use all its power to stop the boat from entering.
- We will not give away our boat to the Israelis. We will not give away our boat to soldiers on international waters. It's my right. Actually, I have a strong right to defend my boat, but we will do this in a non-violent way.
- It was great news for us that ‘Marianne’ is coming to shore right now in Portugal and can take this message of solidarity and friendship from all the Portuguese people. Marianne is breaking the waves and we in Portugal keep the work in parliaments, in the schools, in the work places، on the streets, just to raise awareness about what's going on in Palestine.
Along with BDS, the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza stands as an inspiration and an effective action seeking justice for Palestine. Against incredible odds both campaigns continue to triumph; sometimes small, sometimes large but always keeping the flame of justice and freedom for Palestine alive. Despite political or material sabotage by Israel or international forces, they continue to lead the way and enrol people the world over to the side of credible, effective non-violent action and solidarity with Palestine. After many criminal acts of state piracy in open sea, sabotage in international ports, imprisonment and even outright deadly assault on civilians, the Freedom Flotilla remains alive and is ever resilient.
There are many activities planned in Gaza in anticipation of the Freedom Flotilla's arrival such as the “Gaza Ark Exhibition“, an exhibition of Palestinian products hoped to be exported by the Freedom Flotilla III. In a formal statement, dated June 5, they explained:
When Gaza's Ark was destroyed during last year’s attack on Gaza by Israel, we all lost a boat intended to break the blockade “from the inside out”. But our goal of helping to build a sovereign Palestinian economy based on freedom of movement has not changed. Palestinian products from both Gaza and the West Bank were to be exported not only as a symbolic stimulus to the Palestinian economy but to show the world the industrious work of craftspeople and farmers who continue to struggle against the overwhelming odds of occupation, economic strangulation and war.
Sameera Qarmout, from one of the producers’ organizations at the exhibit, expressed her hopes that she would be able to sell her goods this time:
Before it was attacked, we had the hope that our embroideries would be exported aboard Gaza's Ark. The coming Freedom Flotilla III has given us a light of new hope that our products will still be made available to world markets.
The exhibit includes goods from Palestinian producers in Gaza as well as goods from West Bank producers that reached Gaza in spite of the Israeli Occupier’s restrictions: embroidery, wood carvings and olive oil.
There have been several attempts to break the siege on Gaza between 2008 and 2010 and the boats have had such participants as 1976 Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Corrigan, Palestinian Legislative Council member Mustafa Barghouti, Irish peace activist Caoimhe Butterly, US congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, author Alice Walker, Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein as well as international journalists and doctors and several EU parliamentarians from a variety of political parties.
This attempt will mark five years since Israel's deadly raid on the Mavi Marmara in 2010. The raid resulted in the death of nine activists from the Free Gaza Movement and the Turkish Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (İHH). Some of the current flotilla's members, such as Kevin Knish, were on the Mavi Marmara.
— Rumbo a Gaza (@rumboagaza) June 8, 2015
Israel needs to be judged for Crimes Against Humanity. We will keep on sailing until that happens.