To Gaza with Dignity

The tiny Dignité/Karama–­, –¬sailing under a French flag–­, –¬left Corsica on 25–­ –¬June–­, –¬and has been chugged along for the past weeks mostly in Greek waters–­. –¬Its last stop was the Greek island Kastellorizo on Saturday–­, –¬after which it headed south–­. –¬The 16–­ –¬passengers–­ –¬onboard view themselves as representatives of the entire Freedom Flotilla II–­: –¬Stay Human–­. –¬The rest of the Flotilla’s ships have all been detained in Greek ports–­, –¬some sabotaged–­, –¬others on technicalities–­, –¬and when that failed–­ –¬–”–­ –¬the withdrawal of their flags–­.–¬

According to Greta Berlin of the Free Gaza Movement–­ (–¬FGM–­), –¬the Dignité was only allowed to leave Kastellorizo when it told Greek–­ –¬coastguard officials it was heading for Alexandria–­, –¬Egypt–­, –¬not Gaza–­. –¬By Sunday night–­, –¬it was nearing the Egyptian city of Port–­ –¬Said but came to a stop and then changed course–­, –¬heading for Gaza after all–­. –¬The captain–­, –¬Zacharia Stylianakis–­, –¬decided that Egypt’s political turmoil making a visit there unadvisable–­, –¬that it was perfectly legal to go to Gaza–­, –¬so why not–­?–¬

By Tuesday morning it was 50–­ –¬miles away from the Gaza Strip when an Israel Navy ship started trailing the yacht and threatened to attack it if it entered the blockaded waters–­. –¬Soon three gunboats were surrounding it–­.–¬

The delegates on board include French Communist Party firebrand Jacqueline Le Corre–­, –¬ex-Euro parliamentarian Jean Claude Lefort–­,–¬–­ –¬as well as representatives of the stymied Canadian–­, –¬French–­, –¬Greek and Swedish Flotillers–­. –¬Israeli journalist Amira Hass–­, –¬is reporting for–­ –¬Haaretz–­, –¬and there is a team from Al-Jazeera TV–­. –¬

Hass is author of–­ –¬Drinking the Sea at Gaza–­ (–¬1999–­), –¬a heart-wrenching account of Gazan society from the late 1980s through the mid-1990s–­. –¬She lived in and reported from Gaza during the 1990s and now lives in the West Bank city of Ramallah–­. –¬Her book recounts the 1948–­ –¬expulsion and flight to Gaza–­, –¬and how village structures and traditions were reconstructed in the crowded camps of Gaza–­. –¬”Even if most Gazan refugees are now ready to accept the political consequences of losing their land–­, –¬emotionally they will always see the villages as home–­.–¬”

That the Dignité chose Kastellorizo–­, –¬in the far east of the Greek archipelago near the Turkish mainland–­, –¬as its launch pad to break the siege is no coincidence–­. –¬Many Kastellorizans fled the Nazis during WWII–­, –¬finding refuge in Gaza–­. –¬The present mayor of the island–­, –¬Paul Panigiris–­, –¬was born in Gaza–­, –¬and he and his fellow islanders are staunch supporters of their besieged brothers–­. –¬Their support for the Dignité was no doubt an important factor in–­ –¬”convincing”–­ –¬the Greek official to let it proceed–­.–¬

The Dignité is not just the remnant of Freedom Flotilla 2–­, –¬as depicted in the mass media–­, –¬but a first wave of others according to the FGM–­. –¬”It is a message to the Israeli government–­, –¬to the international community and to the besieged people of Gaza–­: –¬The Free Gaza Movement and the coalition of Freedom Flotilla II are not giving up until the inhumane and illegitimate blockade of Gaza is lifted–­.–¬”