Wednesday, October 29, 2008

#3 from Leila, 2nd FreeGaza trip now at sea!

Hi all

I spoke to Huwaida just before they set sail this evening. Israel has
threatened to stop the boat; this was reported in a slightly confusing article
which can be see in this morning's Jerusalem Post at
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1225036823561&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

Hard to say if they are threatening to stop the boat if it enters Israeli
waters (which it didn't do last time and won't do this time) or just stop it
anyway. But the threats were empty last time so we can hope for the best...

I wouldn't read the comments after the article unless you handle racism and
ignorance well.

The latest press release follows. Apparently the boat's sailing under the
Gibraltar flag which means it falls into UK jurisdiction! So please stand by to
ring talkback radio, call your MPs, whatever's needed if the boat is
threatened...

For Immediate Release Date : 10-26-2008

On Saturday, October 25, 2008, the Free Gaza Movement sent our formal notice to
Israel, the Occupying Power in the Gaza Strip, that we intend to enter the port
of Gaza City on October 29. We expect no interference from the Israeli
authorities. Although our message acknowledges Israel's control over Gaza, we
do not accept Israel's right to prevent us from sailing into the Gaza Strip.
[See attachment for text of the letter].

As part of the message, we invited Aharon Abramovitz, Minister of Foreign
Affairs and/or Ehud Barak, Minister of Defense, to join the voyage to witness
first hand the devastating effects of Israel's illegal policies on the occupied
civilian population of the Gaza Strip (Please leave your weapons at home, we
are nonviolent).

Huwaida Arraf, a spokesperson for the Free Gaza Movement said, "Israel is
committing war crimes by imposing collective punishment on the 1.5 million
people in Gaza. Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Conventions prohibits their
actions. However, since Israel is the Occupying Power and maintains effective
control of the area, we have put them on notice that we're coming. Since they
grossly abuse their power, we are not asking them for their permission."

Israel continues to exert behind-the-scenes pressure on many of the people who
have been assisting the Free Gaza Movement, hoping they can stop the boat
before it leaves port. Despite their massive pressure, threats and intimidation
last August, Israel ultimately admitted to the world that we were nonviolent
and did not constitute any kind of security threat, and our boats sailed safely
into the port of Gaza, the first boats filled with Internationals to arrive
there in 41 years. Israel is at it again, this time trying to stop us before we
leave the port.

"It's ridiculous that Israel is so frightened of us. We are carrying doctors
and human rights activists, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire.
We also have medical supplies on board our boat; there is absolutely no reason
why they should stand in our way this time either," said organizer Greta
Berlin.

Official Notification of Intent to Enter (Attachment sent by email and fax)
October 25, 2008

To: The Israeli Ministry of Defense, Fax: 972-3-697-6717
To: The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Fax 972-2-5303367

From: The Free Gaza Movement

This letter serves as a formal notification to you as the Occupying Power in
the Gaza Strip that on October 28, 2008, (weather permitting) we are navigating
a vessel from the Port of Larnaca to the port of Gaza City. Our vessel will be
flying the flag of Gibraltar, and, as such, falls under the jurisdiction of the
United Kingdom.

We will be sailing from Cypriot waters into international waters, then directly
into the territorial waters of the Gaza Strip without entering or nearing
Israeli territorial waters.

We are carrying 6 cubic meters of urgently needed medical supplies in sealed
boxes, cleared by customs at the Larnaca International Airport. There will be a
total of 26 passengers and crew on board, among them several physicians. Our
boat and cargo will also have received security clearance from the Port
Authorities in Cyprus before we depart.

As it will be confirmed that neither we, nor the cargo, nor any of the boat's
contents, nor the boat itself constitute any threat to the security of Israel
or its armed forces, we do not expect any interference with our voyage by
Israel's authorities.

We hereby extend an invitation to Aharon Abramovitz from the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs or Ehud Barak from the Ministry of Defense to join us on board
so that they can witness the draconian effects of Israel's policies on the
civilian population of the occupied Gaza Strip.

The Steering Committee of the Free Gaza Movement

Contact: Greta Berlin, Cyprus: +357 99 08 17 67
Angela Godfrey Goldstein, Jerusalem: +972 547 366 393
Huwaida Arraf: Cyprus +357 96 723 999

Leila

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