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July 6th Update: With Boat Still in Greek Military Custody, U.S. Will Not Sail with Flotilla
by US to Gaza
Wednesday Jul 6th, 2011 12:12 PM
The presence of the U.S. Boat to Gaza in Athens is winding down. For more than 2 weeks the 37 passengers (someone was added at the last moment), 4 crew members and about 12 people in the support team there worked hard to make sure our boat - The Audacity of Hope - could sail as part of the international Freedom Flotilla 2 to Gaza. The Greek government's willingness to serve as the enforcer of Israeli's naval blockade of Gaza made it impossible for this journey to happen.
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But the creative and determined spirit of this team of committed activists could not be stopped or silenced. They worked tirelessly to make the point in countless ways: they attempted to set sail knowing it might lead to a confrontation with the Greek authorities, they stood by the boat's captain when he was arrested and jailed for several days, several people held a hunger strike for a few days, everyone marched and rallied with other flotilla activists and with the people of Athens in their own struggle for economic justice, and incredible energy went into getting the word out to people throughout this country and around the world as the work with the media continued through it all.

Last night our group's activities in Athens ended and here's a description from one of our people there: "We all went to Syntagma Square which looks much like Tahrir where there is an encampment and thousands of people gather each night. On Sundays there may be upwards of 50,000 and on big nights hundreds of thousands. We unfurled to drum beats 22 flags sewn together representing the countries participating in the Flotilla. Our black and white signs were in Greek, Arabic and English. It was a beautiful sight. Then we marched to the Spanish Embassy where our Spanish partners were occupying its embassy demanding the release of their boat. We arrived at about 9 pm with drummers leading the way. They came out on balconies and we sang to each other. It was quite the sight."

Now our folks are beginning the journey home - some will arrive today, some tomorrow and others in the days ahead. Everyone is tired, but their energy is strong! They will share their stories and talk about their experiences in communities everywhere. And they will use this incredible time they shared in Athens as a spring board for further activism and organizing.

As soon as we can, we will send more information about the next steps and how you all can stay involved in the work to end the Israeli naval blockade and lift the siege of Gaza, as well as the efforts to end the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories. That, after all is said and done, is what this effort has been about, and that is the work that must continue.

Below is a quick overview of several items related to our presence in Athens and our work with the flotilla. In the coming days we will be including further updates on our website so please check there. Here's some video footage of the events in Athens last night: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MB3195hOk4Y. Also, remember, there are great photos and videos from these last two weeks on our site...check them out!

-------------------

JULY 6, 2011 OVERVIEW

1) Captain Released
Our boat's captain - John Klusmire - had a hearing on Tuesday in a Greek court. He was released from jail, where he had been since Saturday morning, and was told he had no restrictions or limitations on his movements or activities. The charges against him were not dropped but we are hopeful that eventually they will be. Thanks everyone for all of the calls and email messages you sent to Greek and U.S. authorities in support of John!!

2) Hunger Strike Over
The 9 passengers who were on a hunger strike in support of our captain ended their fast. On Sunday they had been detained by the Athens police for several hours, and then on Monday 6 people (some others and some of the same folks) were again detained and then let go a few hours later. Everyone was fine and since then no one has been held by the police.

3) Our Boat
The Audacity of Hope remains in the hands of Greek authorities and we do not yet know when they will release it. Several of our people are staying in Athens for the foreseeable future to make sure the boat is safe. While we do not own the boat - we leased it from a Greek company - we feel a responsibility to make sure it is returned to its owner in good condition.

4) Information on Some of the Other Boats - Please note that the situation for each boat has been constantly changing so it's possible that some of this information could already be put of date. We will try to get an update on the boats on our website as soon as possible.

a) On 7/5, the Greek Boat to Gaza group held a press conference at the Athens Press Club. Present were Dimitris Plionis, an organizer from the Greek group, Dr. Mattias Gardell of the partner group Swedish Boat to Gaza, Members of Parliament Tasos Kourakis and Theodoris Dritsas 2 MPs, and Green Party representative Iannis Tsironis. They denounced the government actions and policies forbidding ships of the Flotilla to leave Greek ports, effectively extending the Israeli siege of Gaza to Greek waters and outsourcing the siege of Gaza. Also attending in solidarity was MP Panagiotis Kouroublis, who had recently been expelled from the ruling PASOK Party for voting against the IMF austerity plan. He was given a standing ovation when he entered the hall.

b) The owners and crew of the Greek/Swedish/Norwegian passenger boat Juliano went on board in the port of Perama near Piraeus, and attempted to take the boat to the port town of Fokia, approximately 10 km. away, where they were due to attend a welcome ceremony at the invitation of the Fokia mayor, honoring the passengers and crew. However, the port authorities prevented the boat from leaving, without citing any justification. In the meantime, two rented boats filled with journalists and supporters gathered at the port to cover the action and to demand release of the boat, and have been confronted by port police. At latest report, the standoff continues, and a crowd of people is gathering at the Perama Port Authority to demand the release of the boat.

c) Passengers of the Spanish boat Guernica entered the Spanish embassy in Athens and staged a sit-in, demanding that the Spanish government intercede with Greece to release the boat. They hoisted the Palestinian flag and are refusing to leave until their boat is given permission to leave.

d) Canadian citizen Sandra Ruch remains in custody in the port city of Aghios Nikolaos. She and one other Suha Kneen, Michael Coleman, Australian Canadian were charged with impeding coast guard authorities by placing themselves in kayaks in front of police boats attempting to stop the Canadian boat, Tahrir from leaving Greek waters. They have been charged with interfering with law enforcement.

e) The other French passenger boat Karameh is again at sea in international waters, awaiting the other boats in the Flotilla. After leaving France, it proceeded to the eastern Mediterranean, where it sheltered in a safe port before returning to international waters.

§The Audacity of Hope
by US to Gaza Wednesday Jul 6th, 2011 12:12 PM
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PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 6, 2011 (Wednesday)

The Spirit of Rachel Corrie finally was allowed to berth at the El-Arish Port on Tuesday July 5, 2011 at 7.10 pm (Egypt time) for the unloading of the UPVC pipes to Gaza. The cargo of 32 tonnes took almost 4 hours to be transferred to 7 awaiting trailers. The humanitarian aid cargo will be taken to Ouja at the Israeli border where it will be reassigned to other trailers sponsored by the Palestinians to be delivered to Gaza via Karem Shalom. The impasse finally ended after Perdana Global Peace Foundation President, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad met the Prime Minister of Egypt, Dr. Essam Sharaf on June 29 in Cairo.

The Perdana Global Peace Foundation records with sincere gratitude the initiative taken by Dr Essam Sharaf , the Prime Minister of Egypt in enabling the cargo of sewage pipes to be delivered directly to the people of Gaza.

The vessel left the Port of Piraeus, Greece on May 11 carrying 7.5 kilometers of UPVC (plastic) sewage pipes to help restore the devastated sewerage system in Gaza. On board the ship were anti-war activists and journalists, consisting of 7 Malaysians, 2 Irish, 2 Indians and 1 Canadian. All of them have since been permitted to disembark on June 3, 2011.

On 16 May, the boat entered Palestinian territorial waters and was just 400 meters from land when it came under attack by the Israeli Navy. After coming under gunfire from the Israeli Navy, the boat was forced to divert to Egyptian waters; and later on the same day, anchored off El Arish Port where it remained for the last 7 weeks waiting for permission to dock.

PGPF would like to convey our deepest appreciation to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Malaysia and especially to the Malaysian Embassy in Egypt for their assistance and cooperation throughout the ordeal. This humanitarian initiative is sponsored by the Perdana Global Peace Foundation (PGPF).

>>Press Release 6 July.pdf

>>Photos in Egypt.zip

About PGPF

The Perdana Global Peace Foundation (PGPF), formerly Perdana Global Peace Organisation (PGPO), is a first but resolute step in the arduous journey towards global peace, moves towards the single goal of putting an end to war. Its founder, YABhg Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, envisages “a serious, active and sustained struggle against war and for peace”. Sharing and supporting this agenda are world-prominent professionals, intellectuals, authors, statesmen – all passionate advocates of international peace. Together, they have signed the Kuala Lumpur Initiative to Criminalise War.
by David Carson
Sunday Nov 25th, 2012 1:52 PM

Assad's war has claimed four times as many victims in 20 months as have been killed in the Israel-Palestine conflict in the last 20 years.



Where Is the Flotilla for Syria?

Instead of dancing with dictators and tangoing with tyrants, what if the flotilla crowd actually set sail in the direction where aid is so desperately needed?

Last month, a group of Scandinavians pulled up anchor from a Swedish port and set off toward the Middle East under the pretense of delivering humanitarian aid. The Nordic fog may have clouded their choice of destination. The moral compass of these self-proclaimed human-rights activists steered them to the Gaza Strip, not Syria.

The fleets of flotillas, ferries, yachts, sailboats, canoes and catamarans and that have set sail for Gaza in recent years rival the size of the Spanish Armada. Yet one might argue that humanitarian flotillas are needed just a bit more urgently in Syria, where more civilians have been murdered by the Assad regime than those killed during Japan's 2011 earthquake and tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, and 9/11 combined.

The conflict in Syria has also claimed roughly four times as many victims in the past 20 months as were killed in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over the past 20 years. The residents of Gaza continue to enjoy more international assistance than virtually any other population on the planet, but almost no aid is reaching the two million people displaced within Syria—roughly 10% of the country's population.

The flotilla crowd has different priorities. They prefer to work around the clock to protest Israel's legitimate defense against the terrorists who target its citizens and fire thousands of rockets into its cities. Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised: It's much easier to face news cameras in Tel Aviv than bullets in Damascus.