Gaza flotilla aims to leave Greece next week

The Jerusalem Post reports:

The fate of the flotilla to the Gaza Strip was in jeopardy on Saturday after Greek authorities prevented an American vessel from leaving Athens and issued a blanket order forbidding ships from sailing to the Gaza Strip.

Despite the order and additional setbacks, Adam Shapiro, an American co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement, and one of the organizers of the flotilla, told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday night that the group still planned to sail to the Gaza Strip in the coming days.

He said that the Greek- Swedish ship Juliano, which was allegedly sabotaged last week, was expected to be repaired by Sunday morning and that an Irish ship, also allegedly sabotaged in Turkey, was set to begin repairs soon.

“We are still arranging to go and are working on different fronts to get permission to leave,” Shapiro said by phone from Athens.

He also denied reports that organizers were considering canceling the flotilla since they had already achieved their goal by raising awareness regarding the sea blockade on the Gaza Strip.

“Gaza is still blockaded and there is still a need to sail there,” he said.

Al Jazeera adds:

Members of the Dutch-Italian boat issued an open letter to the Greek Prime Minister Georgios Papandreou on Sunday, expressing outrage over his “government’s decision to close the ports of Greece to our humanitarian initiative, even by force if needed”.

The letter demanded that they be allowed to sail and said, “It is totally incomprehensible to us and fills us with just wrath that the Greek government closes the ports to our ships…

“You and your government acting as an ally of Israel in the Palestinian question means you also seem to have forgotten the struggle against the military dictatorship in your own country.”

Joe Meadors, a US Navy veteran [and survivor of Israel’s attack on the USS Liberty], is one of the roughly 100 passengers on board a flotilla vessel that finds itself standed. Meadors, however, still expects to sail.

“We are waiting for the Greek government to release us,” he told Al Jazeera, “We are here for the long haul, and we’re ready to go just as soon as the Greeks say we can go. We’re pleased we can do something for the Palestinians and remain excited to go.”

Khalid Tuhraani, an American Palestinian activist whose ship is stuck in the port of Corfu, is also frustrated and feels that it perhaps would have been better if the flotilla had orginated from a port in an Arab country such as Tunisia or Egypt.

“However, many of the Arab countries have, like Greece now, become hostages of the political will of the United States and Israel,” he said.

Tuhraani said he remained committed to doing what was necessary to end the Israeli blockade against Gaza, but he expressed disappointment at the Greek government.

“We chose Greece because this country has a history of support for the Palestinian struggle for freedom,” he said.

“Unfortunately we did not expect the Greek government to just roll over and die. But the Middle East Quartet issued a statement against our flotilla, so I think the pressure on the Greek government just might have been too enormous for it to bear.”

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