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Interview with Northern California Gaza Freedom Flotilla Passenger Henry Norr: video
Thus far, working against the 2011 Stay Human Freedom Flotilla have been repeated threats and admonishments from the U.S. and Israeli governments, the early pullout of the Turkish contingent, meddling from Zionist law firms, sabotage to the propellers of the Greek and Irish boats by underwater divers, and an order from the Greek government banning the flotilla from embarking on the journey to Gaza from Greece. The "Freedom Flotilla 2 - Stay Human" was scheduled to depart by the end of June, but at this point, it remains uncertain how many boats will be able to leave the port of Athens and set sail for Gaza. Amongst the European, Australian, and North American ships that had intended to non-violently break the Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip was the U.S. boat The Audacity of Hope. This past Friday, The Audacity of Hope left port against the orders of the Greek government and was eventually turned back by the Greek Coast Guard, leading to the arrest of the boat's captain. [A Canadian boat tried to same thing three days later and was likewise turned back by Greek military forces. One smaller French boat was able to get out to sea the day after that.] Now, with the U.S. boat being held indefinitely at a Greek military port behind barbed wire, the Americans will not be able to sail with the Freedom Flotilla. On board The Audacity of Hope when it challenged the Gaza blockade -- which now apparently extends across the the Mediterranean Sea to the shores of Greece -- were thirty-six passengers, nine journalists, and four crew members. Six of those American passengers call Northern California home. Shortly before leaving the U.S. in early June for his rendezvous with other passengers in Athens, Greece, Henry Norr of Berkeley discussed the history of his consciousness about Palestine and his reasons for participating in the flotilla.
In the video below, Henry Norr first recounts the end of his former life as a business and technology reporter and columnist for the SF Chronicle, when he was illegally fired for political activity after he visited Gaza, wrote a column about an Intel chip plant on Israeli land that had been ethnically cleansed of Arabs, and was arrested in the mass protests in San Francisco at the start of the Iraq War in 2003.
Henry talks about having visited Israel as a teenager with his family in 1961 but not feeling the "vibe" at the time -- and so it was not for another forty years until he returned to the area. In 2002, he traveled to Gaza with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and recalls it was a life-changing experience. He has been trying to share what he's learned with others ever since. Henry has been back to Palestine three more times for a total of about six months, but has not been able to return to Gaza. He has worked with Palestinian journalists, offering help from his experience in his earlier career. The last time he was in Hebron, he was arrested for taking pictures of Jewish settler children, at the direction of their mother, throwing rocks at Palestinian school girls.
He discusses his skepticism about the earlier boats that attempted to break the siege before the first flotilla and his reasons for participating in the flotilla this year. He did support work for the Freedom Flotilla in 2010. He believes that it focuses the attention of the the world on the conditions in Gaza and has lead to actual improvements such as Israel easing the siege somewhat. He hopes that this year's flotilla will finish the job that last year's started by forcing Israel to call off the siege. He speaks about the hypocrisy of leaders such as Obama who called the siege "unsustainable" after the 2010 flotilla yet still refuses to hold Israel accountable for the blockade. All Americans have responsibility for the situation in Israel/Palestine, Henry notes, and he feels a special responsibility as a Jewish person since Israel claims that it does what it does in the name of the Jewish people.
Henry suggests those who want to support the flotilla go to http://www.UStoGaza.org and donate, write to members of Congress to assure the safety of flotilla passengers and to advocate for justice for the Palestinian people, to look beyond the American media to find more accurate information about what is really happening on the ground in Palestine, and to support the Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS). Economic pressure can work like it did to end South African apartheid. Recommended websites: http://www.electronicintifada.net, http://www.mondoweiss.net, http://www.palestinemonitor.org, and http://www.palestinechronicle.com.
Henry's dog Georgia can be heard in the video scratching at the back door, kicking around small plastic pots as toys, and generally trying to garner some human attention during the interview.
US Needs a Declaration of Independence - from Israel, by Henry Norr
Video of Yonatan Shapira, former Israeli Airforce pilot, and other U.S. Audacity of Hope passengers can be found at http://ustogaza.org/latest/us-boat-to-gaza-passengers-explain-why-theyre-going/
For more information:
Individual flotilla boats:
http://ustogazawest.org/ (Western USA)
Regina Carey: http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2011/07/06/18683952.php
Debra Ellis: http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2011/07/06/18683956.php