Free Gaza Movement: Anti-Israel Boat Campaign Challenges Israel's "Siege of Gaza"
Summer 2009 Mission
Posted: June 3, 2010
The Israeli Navy intercepted an attempt by the Free Gaza Movement (FGM) to enter Gaza by boat on June 30, 2009.
FGM's "Spirit of Humanity" boat left Lanarca, Cyprus, on June 29, despite earlier warnings from the Israeli Foreign Ministry that it would not be permitted to sail into Gaza. As the boat approached Gaza, Israeli authorities took control of it and redirected it to the Israeli port city of Ashdod.
FGM organizers issued a series of statements immediately afterwards in which they objected to Israel's actions. Huwaida Arraf, a coordinator of the trip, stated, "Our boat was searched and received a security clearance by Cypriot Port Authorities before we departed, and at no time did we ever approach Israeli waters." The Cypriot Embassy in Tel Aviv has stated that the FGM group received clearance to leave Lanarca "on the basis of its declaration that its intended destination was the port of Port Said in Egypt."
Arraf is a co-founder of International Solidarity Movement (ISM), which has had an active role in promoting Free Gaza's efforts. Adam Shapiro, another ISM co-founder and Arraf's husband, was also aboard the intercepted boat.
Included among the boat's 21 passengers were Cynthia McKinney, former U.S. Congresswoman from Georgia and the 2008 Green Party presidential candidate, and Mairead Maguire, 1976 Nobel Peace Prize winner from Ireland.
Several Arab, Muslim, and far-left groups expressed support for the group following the boat's interception by Israel, some calling on the U.S. to intervene on passengers' behalf. For example, American Muslims for Palestine, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Council on American-Islamic Relations, and Muslim Public Affairs Council issued statements in response to Israel's interception, while the New Black Panther Party and the International Action Center, a self-described "anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist" organization founded by former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, organized or attended events held in protest against Israel's actions.
The June trip marked the first mission to Gaza since FGM split into two separate factions due to a series of internal disputes involving fundraising and board elections, among other things.
One of the groups, which organized the "Summer of Hope" campaign, is led by Arraf and five others who were elected to FGM's interim board of directors at a November 2008 meeting in London. Legally called F.G. Human Rights Projects, Ltd., the group is based in Cyprus and accepts U.S. funding through its fiscal sponsor, the Washington D.C.-based American Educational Trust (AET), an anti-Israel group that publishes the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.
The second group, which is being called the Free Palestine Movement, is being run by former FGM co-founder Paul Larudee.