A coalition of humanitarian NGO’s from across the world have decided to re-launch an aid flotilla, to challenge the Israeli blockade on the war ravaged Gaza Strip. The decision comes in the midst of intense discussions between Hamas and Israel, which are also set to address the issue of the blockade. The Freedom Flotilla Coalition (FFC), which is fronted by the Turkish based humanitarian relief organisation IHH are aiming to provide much needed emergency aid to Palestinians, affected by a more than month military operation by Israel.
Amongst those set to partake in the campaign is South Africa’s own Palestine Solidarity Alliance (PSA), who were in attendance at a meeting in Istanbul on Tuesday, where the flotilla campaign was initiated. According to the PSA’s Ismail Moola, the flotilla would be an international effort from solidarity groups around the world. He noted that in view of the current crisis in Gaza, the FFC felt it correct to re-launch a flotilla. It follows in the footsteps of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, which was raided in 2010 by Israeli naval commandos.
South Africa’s association with the campaign was due to its involvement with the Gaza’s Ark project, which was an initiative to build a boat in Gaza and help it to sail out of the Gazan port. The boat was reportedly attacked in late April.
“Because of our participation there, we were invited to the Freedom Flotilla Coalition during this meeting in Istanbul,” he explained.
He expressed confidence that the flotilla would help alleviate the plight of those in Gaza affected by the blockade. Despite concerns that they may not receive the backing of the Turkish government, from where the flotilla will set sail, Moola stressed that the initiative would be non-governmental and thus no government approval was required. But he also noted that once the flotilla actually set sail, they would fulfil the maritime requirements, from a normal shipping perspective.
“We stressed that this remains a civil society initiative, and that any normal person that wants to leave the port does not need any governmental approval, but would need to comply with maritime regulations,” he said.
Moola also stressed that they would not seek any government “protection”, during their voyage.
“We are peaceful, we are humanitarians and we want to keep our focus on that. We don’t want anything that is going to be confrontational,” he said.
A date has not yet been set for when the flotilla will set sail for Gaza. Focus has now shifted to acquiring the boats and meeting the procedures for maritime approval. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)