On Saturday last, many such children lined up on Gaza’s shore. News of their action appears to have reached the flotilla’s participants, who have injected more momentum and zeal into their attempt to break the siege of Gaza.
At the time publication, several boats were still attempting to sail to Gaza.
“We consider this symbolic reception ceremony as a message to the free world that they should stand in solidarity with the besieged people of Gaza,” Saber Zanin, an organizer of the ceremony, told The Electronic Intifada, on board a small boat off Gaza’s shore.”These children who are sailing symbolically in the vicinity of the Gaza sea port are sending out a message of support and solidarity with those being barred to sail towards Gaza from Greece.”
Zanin and many other local and international activists gathered in the Gaza sea port last weekend to demonstrate solidarity with the hundreds of people taking part in the flotilla.
“We came here to welcome these people and even if they have not come yet, we are going to continue coming over here to the port until they arrive,” said Muhammad Rabah Naeem, an 11-year-old, after he had just jumped out of the water.
Flags of those countries which have citizens participating in the flotilla were flying last weekend beneath the serene sky and the hot sun.
“Gaza needs to be rebuilt”
Mohammad Matter, a 24-year-old with a kuffiyeh, a traditional Palestinian checkered scarf, on his shoulders, said, “The Israelis always create false allegations or claims against all those who oppose Israel’s policies in the region. I can never forget how such claims were made during the last Israeli war on Gaza in 2009, when they said that Gaza was a harbor for terrorism and terrorist organizations. All the world then witnessed the brutality of the Israeli occupation as hundreds of civilians were killed and thousands of others were wounded.”
He added, “Now with the flotilla, the Israelis falsely claim that such ships are bringing in weaponry to Gaza. This is completely unjust, as Gaza needs to be rebuilt, Gaza needs medicines and Gaza needs many goods that we lack because of the Israeli-imposed blockade. And these people on the flotilla are trying symbolically to break that blockade.”
Representatives of civil society organizations in Gaza also participated in Saturday’s event, attempting to deliver a message of protest at Israel’s threats against the flotilla.
The Gaza-based International Committee for Breaking the Israeli Siege of Gaza called on governments around the world to pressure Israel to allow the flotilla sail. The committee also demanded a free and safe passage for the flotilla.
The fifty children — aged between eight and fourteen — who took part in last weekend’s welcoming ceremony had to leave without seeing the flotilla arrive. Yet there is still hope that the boats that have not so far been intercepted will succeed in reaching Gaza.
For the past few months, Israel has warned of blocking the flotilla, just as it did with Freedom Flotilla last year. On that occasion, Israeli forces killed nine Turkish activists on board the Mavi Marmara. There has been no accountability for those deaths.
As organizers of the symbolic reception ceremony on Saturday vowed to keep returning to the Gaza sea port until the flotilla shows up, the flotilla’s participants also vowed from Greece that they would do their best to reach Gaza and embrace its sea, soil and people.
“We are very hopeful that the flotilla will arrive and that the people of Gaza will feel they are not alone,” Nathan Stute, an American solidarity activist based in Gaza, said.
Rami Almeghari is a journalist and university lecturer based in the Gaza Strip.