So much wrong with the statements by the flotilla people it is hard to know where to start. For one thing, if they actually cared about delivering aid to the suffering in Gaza, they could start by identifying who they are, in what way are they suffering, what kind of aid they need and how much, and then buying it with the $550,000.00 they spent buying the boat and fitting it up and then giving it to the Israelis or Egyptians with instructions on delivery, and following it all with tons of reporters so that if Israel steals the aid or fails to deliver it they can get global condemnation for the act. Of course this was never about the suffering of Gazans. It’s about taking on a safe enemy where you can feel you have a moral victory standing up for the little guy as they imagine it to be. Islam. The self identified group that is both 1.5 billion strong and lives on top of the second most strategic resource in the world, and somehow also an oppressed minority by a few million Jews who live on 1/650th of the land mass of the middle east, and ironically the one where Arab Muslims also have more rights than those same Arab Muslims ever would in one of the Islamic nations nearby.
Some people will claim that this is about antisemitism. Some will say it is the real motive behind the flotilla. Well. One has to wonder. Why have none of these well meaning activists and peace-nicks, concerned human rights people never once committed themselves to ending actual slavery in Mauritania. Mass murder of Christians in Pakistan and every other Muslim nation for that matter or the brutal systemic inequality of women in Saudi Arabia. It does seem difficult to think of any reason to single out Israel for this treatment after all that.
Jim Rankin/Toronto Star
AGIO NIKOLAOS, GREECE—After months of remaining secret, the location of the Canadian boat participating in Freedom Flotilla II to Gaza was outed in this Greek seaside town — on Canada Day — when authorities boarded it and attempted to seize crucial paperwork.
Earlier in the week there had been alleged acts of sabotage against two boats in the flotilla. Then on Friday came an edict from the Greek government — under pressure from Israel, organizers charge — that blocked the Canadian and other ships from setting out on a mission to challenge the Israeli sea blockade of Gaza and to deliver humanitarian aid.
“We are being Gaza-fied,” Lyn Adamson, 59, a lifelong Toronto activist and chair of the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace, said outside the port authority office in this Mediterranean tourist destination on the island of Crete.
“What we’re doing is perfectly legal and we haven’t given up,” said Adamson, one of 22 Canadian hand-picked to be aboard the Canadian boat Tahrir, — Arabic for “liberation” and named after the square in Cairo where Egyptians gathered and toppled Hosni Mubarak early this year.
“It’s clearly coming from on high, and it’s really a shame that this Greek government would be pressured, as it has been, into stopping these boats. Why is Israel afraid of our aid?”
By nightfall, the 36 delegates on the Canadian boat — including contingents from Belgium, Denmark, Australia and Turkey — were signing out of hotel rooms to sleep aboard the Tahrir.
As well, there are 11 journalists from seven countries. The Star, in the region to cover the flotilla, has a space on the Canadian boat.
Participants come from all walks of life, men and women of all ages and from a spectrum of religious beliefs. The average age is 45; about a third of delegates are grandparents.
In addition to banning flotilla boats from leaving, the Greek order Friday said “the broader maritime area of eastern Mediterranean will be continuously monitored by electronic means for tracking, where applicable, the movements of the ships allegedly participating in such campaign.”
The U.S. boat — named “The Audacity of Hope” after the title of a book written by President Barack Obama — made a run for open water Friday. It steamed for nearly half an hour before the Greek coast guard intercepted it.
The boat, which counts Alice Walker, the Pulitzer Prize author of The Color Purple, among its delegates, returned to port in Athens.
The Canadian boat said in a statement that the flotilla has been subject to “diplomatic pressure and manipulation, economic blackmail, bureaucratic obstacles, baseless and slanderous allegations against the flotilla and the delegates, and sabotage of at least two vessels.”
In similar efforts last year, Israeli forces killed nine activists aboard the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish cruise ship, after a much-criticized boarding attempt met with resistance.
Despite calls to end its blockade, Israel has called the flotilla unnecessary and “hateful” and said it intends to intercept it, using force if necessary. Canada has deemed it “provocative,” the U.S. “irresponsible.”
The Tahrir was clearing final paperwork Friday when a coast guard officer boarded with the intention of seizing the ship’s transit log.
He was met by co-organizer Sandra Ruch of Toronto, a dozen boat delegates and media. The delegates blocked the path of the officer.
No, they said, the papers were going nowhere, not without Ruch, draped in a Canadian flag and clutching the papers, which are needed to sail.
Soldiers with machine guns were at the ready in the marina where the Tahrir is docked but they stayed aside and avoided the media. Several coast guard boats blocked the mouth of port.
The Tahrir, a day-trip tourist ship, has no beds. A luxury ship it is not; delegates came with sleeping bags and mats and provisions for several days at sea.
Organizers bought the boat for $500,000 using money raised by the delegates chosen to sail on it. They put another $50,000 into it to improve it. All its paperwork was in order, said Stephan Corriveau of Montreal, part of the steering committee.
“Now that the boat is in shipshape, there are problems,” he said. “The Greek government bent to the pressure of the Israeli government.”
The delegates have been here for more than a week. They’d been secretly meeting and training for a mission to break the blockade of Gaza and deliver a symbolic amount of aid to Palestinians living there.
On Friday, they made their presence known.
The group grew in size and marched through narrow streets and past chic cafes to the Hellenic Port Authority, drawing curious glances from locals, many of whom are supportive.
“Free Gaza, free the flotilla,” and “Shame Papandreou,” they chanted, taking aim at the Greek prime minister, George Papandreou, who is mired in his own problems: the meltdown of the economy, austerity measures and riots in Athens.
He’s apparently under pressure to block the flotilla before it can challenge Israel’s blockade of Gaza, which the flotilla says is inhumane and illegal. Gaza is under the rule of Hamas, a globally designated terrorist group.
The boats intending to set off (a French boat is already at sea) are carrying humanitarian aid. Organizers say it is for people who are suffering, not for Hamas.
The Canadians and their international counterparts were met outside the port authority and after making their case before the cameras, the boat’s Greek captain arrived and organizers spoke with authorities behind a padlocked front door.
Inside, they were handed the government edict, issued by the Greek ministry responsible for citizen protection, and were told there were concerns the Tahrir does not have suitable sleeping quarters for a group their size, said Davis Heap, a University of Western Ontario professor who is part of the boat’s steering committee.
Boat organizers then submitted a written request to move the boat — with captain and crew only — to another port authority. Given clearance, the intention is to sail into waters other than their destination of Gaza, under the escort of soldiers if need be.
They were slapped with more paperwork and the boat was put under 24-hour surveillance.
Follow reporter Jim Rankin on Twitter @jleerankin