Sunday, July 17, 2011


   LandLocked by Guy Mingo

            According to the latest report on the website, six activists are currently still inhabiting the ship, 'The Audacity of Hope', as it sits in the US Embassy/Greek Coast Guard dock near Piraeus, Greece without electricity or any support from U.S. authorities. The ship was intercepted by Greek naval forces July 1 soon after embarking on a humanitarian mission to Israeli- occupied Gaza as part of the second international Freedom Flotilla.
           The Freedom Flotilla was organized to increase worldwide focus on the illegal, Israeli blockade on goods going in and out of the Palestinian enclave of Gaza by sea. Although Israel military forces have controlled traffic in and out of Gaza by land, sea and air for forty years, they expanded the list of non-allowable items in 2007 after the Hamas political party won control of local government institutions. The increased control over Gazan waters means Palestinian fisherman who venture outside of the Israeli-patrolled three mile coastal zone are routinely shot at or otherwise intimidated.
          The Free Gaza Movement has organized boat trips, including the two Freedom Flotillas, from Cyprus, Greece to Gaza since 2008. "What we're trying to do is open a sea lane between Gaza and the rest of the world," Greta Berlin of FGM said in 2010. "We're not trying to be a humanitarian mission. We're trying to say to the world, 'You have no right to imprison a million and a half Palestinians.'"
           Last year the first Freedom Flotilla ended with the deaths of nine activists after Israeli commandos opened fire on passengers and boarded the Turkish ship, the "Mavi Mamara". This year the floatilla started with ten ships leaving from various ports in the Mediterranean Sea with the goal of meeting in Gaza. However, several ships were victims of sabotage by unknown assailants, rendering them structurally unsound. Several news reports included allegations that Israeli special operations units were the probable culprits.
           The 'Audacity of Hope's' 50 passengers publicly committed to non-violence and non-violent resistance even as the Israeli government threatened to board the ship in international waters. But it didn't make it that far. The 'Audacity of Hope' was overtaken by the Greek navy twenty minutes into its journey and escorted back to land. The captain, John Klusmire, was held by Greek authorities and released while several passengers initiated a fast in front of the U.S. embassy in Greece.
            Activists say they'll continue to challenge the Israeli military's disregard of international law, by land and by sea. For now, the 'Audacity of Hope' languishes in Greece, forcefully docked by the coast guard while 1.5 million Gazans endure a similar fate.
           Reknowned novelist and poet, Alice Walker, was one of the passengers on the 'Audacity of Hope', along with peace-activist and former Israeli fighter pilot, Yonatan Shapira. Their statements of support for the rights of Palestinians provide additional context in the track above.