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To Gaza with Dignity

July 20th, 2011

Eric Walberg

The drama now playing out on the high seas off the coast of Gaza has captured the world’s hearts‭.

The tiny Dignité/Karama‭, ‬sailing under a French flag‭, ‬left Corsica on 25‭ ‬June‭, ‬and has been chugged along for the past weeks mostly in Greek waters‭. ‬Its last stop was the Greek island Kastellorizo on Saturday‭, ‬after which it headed south‭. ‬The 16‭ ‬passengers‭ ‬onboard view themselves as representatives of the entire Freedom Flotilla II‭: ‬Stay Human‭. ‬The rest of the Flotilla’s ships have all been detained in Greek ports‭, ‬some sabotaged‭, ‬others on technicalities‭, ‬and when that failed‭ ‬—‭ ‬the withdrawal of their flags‭.‬

According to Greta Berlin of the Free Gaza Movement‭ (‬FGM‭), ‬the Dignité was only allowed to leave Kastellorizo when it told Greek‭ ‬coastguard officials it was heading for Alexandria‭, ‬Egypt‭, ‬not Gaza‭. ‬By Sunday night‭, ‬it was nearing the Egyptian city of Port‭ ‬Said but came to a stop and then changed course‭, ‬heading for Gaza after all‭. ‬The captain‭, ‬Zacharia Stylianakis‭, ‬decided that Egypt’s political turmoil making a visit there unadvisable‭, ‬that it was perfectly legal to go to Gaza‭, ‬so why not‭?‬

By Tuesday morning it was 50‭ ‬miles away from the Gaza Strip when an Israel Navy ship started trailing the yacht and threatened to attack it if it entered the blockaded waters‭. ‬Soon three gunboats were surrounding it‭.‬

The delegates on board include French Communist Party firebrand Jacqueline Le Corre‭, ‬ex-Euro parliamentarian Jean Claude Lefort‭,‬‭ ‬as well as representatives of the stymied Canadian‭, ‬French‭, ‬Greek and Swedish Flotillers‭. ‬Israeli journalist Amira Hass‭, ‬is reporting for‭ ‬Haaretz‭, ‬and there is a team from Al-Jazeera TV‭. ‬

Hass is author of‭ ‬Drinking the Sea at Gaza‭ (‬1999‭), ‬a heart-wrenching account of Gazan society from the late 1980s through the mid-1990s‭. ‬She lived in and reported from Gaza during the 1990s and now lives in the West Bank city of Ramallah‭. ‬Her book recounts the 1948‭ ‬expulsion and flight to Gaza‭, ‬and how village structures and traditions were reconstructed in the crowded camps of Gaza‭. ‬“Even if most Gazan refugees are now ready to accept the political consequences of losing their land‭, ‬emotionally they will always see the villages as home‭.‬”

That the Dignité chose Kastellorizo‭, ‬in the far east of the Greek archipelago near the Turkish mainland‭, ‬as its launch pad to break the siege is no coincidence‭. ‬Many Kastellorizans fled the Nazis during WWII‭, ‬finding refuge in Gaza‭. ‬The present mayor of the island‭, ‬Paul Panigiris‭, ‬was born in Gaza‭, ‬and he and his fellow islanders are staunch supporters of their besieged brothers‭. ‬Their support for the Dignité was no doubt an important factor in‭ ‬“convincing”‭ ‬the Greek official to let it proceed‭.‬

The Dignité is not just the remnant of Freedom Flotilla 2‭, ‬as depicted in the mass media‭, ‬but a first wave of others according to the FGM‭. ‬“It is a message to the Israeli government‭, ‬to the international community and to the besieged people of Gaza‭: ‬The Free Gaza Movement and the coalition of Freedom Flotilla II are not giving up until the inhumane and illegitimate blockade of Gaza is lifted‭.‬”

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Eric Walberg writes for Al-Ahram Weekly http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/ You can reach him at http://ericwalberg.com/ He is the author of: Postmodern Imperialism: Geopolitics and the Great Games claritypress.com

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