The Canadian ship Tahrir and the Irish ship Saoirse quietly left a Turkish port earlier today bound for the Gaza Strip. The mission of the "Freedom Waves to Gaza" flotilla was kept secret until they reached international waters just after 11:00 a.m. EDT. Democracy Now! first broke the news on our live broadcast this morning. Embedded on the Tahrir is Democracy Now! correspondent Jihan Hafiz. Prior to the ship setting sail, Hafiz spoke with three of the flotilla participants on board the Tahrir ship: David Heap of the University of Western Ontario; Kit Kittredge of Code Pink; and Michael Coleman, an Australian activist.
More information on the flotilla has been posted on Tahrir.ca
KIT KITTREDGE: I’ve been to Gaza five times in the last three years. The first time was right directly after Operation Cast Lead, when 1,400 Palestinians were brutally murdered. And going there just a few weeks following that onslaught impressed me in a way, in such an atrocious way, and the Palestinian people got to my heart, because they were basically saying, "Tell the world what’s going on. The world doesn’t know. We want peace." And truly, in my five returns there, that is what I’ve seen them working for.
We have to keep this pressure up, because our government is so complicit. And as an American who pays tax dollars, I don’t want my tax dollars going in support of this Israeli policy, this apartheid policy.
MICHAEL COLEMAN: Michael Coleman. I’m the Australian representative on the freedom flotilla. And yeah, there is a sense that this could possibly be déjà vu. I went home from the last flotilla feeling quite frustrated, as the ministerial edict that stopped us sailing to Gaza had no basis in law, and almost felt cheated out of doing the most meaningful thing I had ever set my mind to. And I’m hopeful that that won’t happen again, but if it does, it doesn’t deter my determination.
The aims of the flotilla are twofold. While we do have a small amount of aid on board—and that’s one of the goals, is to take aid to the besieged Strip—but the other is public awareness. And we’re well aware that the small amount of aid we have is tokenistic. It’s not going to prevent the suffering of 1.5 million people. Only governments and international institutions can do that. But we, as private citizens, can pressure governments and international institutions to do what is right.
DAVID HEAP: Coming out of the second freedom flotilla, we’re calling what—the current departure "Freedom Waves to Gaza," because rather than thinking of it as separate, countable waves that you can call one, two and three, we’re really thinking of it more as continuous waves of human solidarity, continuous waves of people intent on challenging the blockade in different ways, coming from different countries, from different ports, different groups of boats, whenever they’re ready to go, to challenge the blockade in a way which is less predictable than an annual flotilla, but also more creative.