Activists to launch flotilla from Gaza to Europe in defiance of Israeli-imposed blockage

 Wednesday July 10, 2013 16:13 by Shamus Slaunwhite – IMEMC & Agencies


Canadian, European, and Palestinian activists plan to launch a flotilla – dubbed “Gaza’s Ark” – from Gaza to Europe carrying produce and textiles, with the goal of raising awareness of the strife caused by Israel’s blockade of the territory.

Charlie Anderson, a Swedish activist in Gaza, said that a fishing boat would be converted to a cargo vessel, and that it would depart for Europe in September carrying Gazan produce and textiles. He claimed that they were not worried about the Israeli navy intercepting the boat, adding that if Israel were to stop the boat, it would have great difficulty explaining its refusal to allow a civilian vessel to carry produce and textiles from Gaza to Europe.

The flotilla organizers claim that civilians are organizing the flotilla project independently, and they deny any Hamas involvement. An Israeli military spokesperson affirmed Israel’s commitment to securing its maritime borders, but did not specify how the military would handle the Gaza’s Ark flotilla. In 2010, Israel violently intercepted the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in international waters, causing the death of nine passengers, but the organizers of the Gaza’s Ark flotilla stated that they have no intention of confronting the Israeli military if it decides to intercept their vessel.

Israel instituted a land and sea blockade of the Gaza Strip in 2006, after announcing that it was “hostile territory.” This blockade restricted the movement of goods in and out of Gaza. A tightening of the blockade occurred in 2008 when Israel declared a maritime zone off of the Gaza coast, thereby severely restricting Gazan fishermen’s access to the deep water.

The blockade severely harmed Gaza’s economy, increased poverty and employment, and undermined the functioning of Gaza’s healthcare system. Since 2010, Gaza’s economy has slowly started to recover, and unemployment has slightly decreased. The health of Palestinians in Gaza, however, continues to be negatively affected by the blockade.

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