Free Gaza Movement: Anti-Israel Boat Campaign Challenges Israel's "Siege of Gaza"
Previous Missions to Gaza
Posted: June 3, 2010
Five Free Gaza Movement (FGM) missions successfully sailed from Cyprus to Gaza between August and December 2008.
· December 20: Fourteen passengers, including Lebanese and Qatari citizens, arrived in Gaza on a 66-foot yacht called the S.S. Dignity. Jamal al-Khoudary, an independent member of the Palestinian legislature who helped arrange the FGM efforts, described this mission as "the first of the Arab Intifada ships to make it through." Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas' leader in Gaza, responded to the Arab participation in this mission by stating, "We hope it will be the beginning of Arab moves to break the blockade."
· December 9: Eleven passengers arrived in Gaza on the S.S. Dignity. Lubna Masarwa, the mission's leader, vowed to "come again and again and again until the world breaks its silence and we shatter this siege once and for all."
· November 8: Twenty-three passengers arrived in Gaza on the S.S. Dignity. This mission was co-sponsored by the European Campaign to End the Siege, a London-based coalition of Palestinian solidarity groups that has been supportive of FGM's efforts. The group included several European Parliamentarians who had been denied entry to Gaza by Egyptian authorities at the Rafah border crossing earlier in the month.
· October 29: Twenty-six passengers, including Israeli Arab Knesset member Jamal Zahalka, arrived in Gaza on the S.S. Dignity. Following the group's arrival, participants vowed to continue opposing Israeli restrictions on access to Gaza. Mustafa Barghouthi, a Palestinian Legislative Council member who took part in the mission, said, "we believe in justice and will keep on trying to break Israel's siege."
· August 23: Forty-six passengers arrived in Gaza on FGM's first two ships, the S.S. Free Gaza and S.S. Liberty, which was apparently named to honor the 34 American servicemen killed on the USS Liberty in error by Israeli forces during the Six Day War.
Israeli authorities blocked FGM from entering Gaza for the first time on December 30, 2008. The group, which was attempting to sail into Gaza during Israel's military action there, claimed that an Israeli ship rammed into the Dignity three times while others fired machine guns nearby. Following the incident, the boat sailed to Tyre, Lebanon.
Journalists from CNN and Al Jazeera, and Cynthia McKinney, former U.S. Congresswoman from Georgia and the 2008 Green Party presidential candidate, were among the boat's 16 passengers. During interviews following the boat's arrival in Lebanon, McKinney likened the incident to the USS Liberty attack. She called on President-elect Obama to speak out on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the U.S. Congress to "stop sending weapons of mass destruction around the world."
FGM's seventh mission left Lanarca on January 12, carrying 34 passengers, but turned around three hours into the journey due to mechanical problems.
The ship departed again on January 14, carrying 21 passengers, but was blocked by Israel. Huwaida Arraf, an FGM coordinator and International Solidarity Movement (ISM)co-founder, claimed that the group decided to turn around after Israeli ships surrounded the boat and threatened to open fire.