As a crew member on the MV Saoirse, the Irish ship to Gaza, I wrote this to try to sum up some of my thoughts.
Thanks for all the great support and kind wishes to all friends and comrades for the past while. The shore team for the Irish Ship to Gaza has done amazing work as have all friends and family putting pressure on politicians, writing to newspapers etc. Gaza has been in the news a lot and hopefully awareness of the illegality and total immorality of the siege will spread until there is justice for Palestine.
It seems like much longer than two weeks ago that I headed off to join my shipmates in Turkey to set sail for Gaza on the MV Saoirse as part of Freedom Flotilla 2 – Stay Human. After almost a year of fundraising and organising, the MV Saoirse, funded out of the pockets and good hearts of thousands of people, was to leave for Gaza with the lucky 20 of us on it, representing all of those people and their efforts.
Being with my brilliant shipmates for the last two weeks has been a great experience and I am better for knowing them. When the cause is just, the people involved are usually good ones, I’m happy to know these ones and have made friends for life.
The Irish ship to Gaza was carrying passengers and our aim was to break the siege of Gaza. The Flotilla is about solidarity and challenging the illegal blockade, not about aid. The people of Gaza are proud people with long years of resistance behind them, they are not to be passive recipients of aid, so offers to transport aid carried by some of the ships through Israel miss the point completely.
When we discovered that our ship had been damaged, everyone was devastated and when we saw how clear the sabotage was, we were angry that Israel would do that to our ship and try to undermine this civil society initiative. That Israel would put the lives of Irish citizens in such danger surprises me not one bit, that the Irish government would again be so supine in the face of such breaches of international law is also unsurprising. As Israeli impunity continues unchallenged at a political level, the behaviour of the state worsens in tandem. If you can bomb a captive population for 22 days with no consequences, murder nine activists on the last Flotilla and continue to implement apartheid and ethnic cleansing policies, what’s a little sabotage?
Six of the MV Saoirse passengers were kindly taken in by the Dutch-Italian Ship, the Stefano Chiarini and headed to Corfu after an emotional goodbye with our comrades who headed home to fly the flag. Unfortunately, there we discovered that the Greek government was to abet Israel in stopping the Flotilla and after waiting as long as we could, we returned to Ireland on Monday.
Our frustration is minimal in the face of what the Palestinian people face daily and it was about not getting to Gaza, we are bit players in this. That Israel was able to enlist the cooperation of an EU government to stop the Flotilla demonstrates the extent of the siege of Gaza and the significance of the Freedom Flotilla and all actions to break it, from within and without Palestine. To see the Mubarak regime shut down the Gaza Freedom March was an eye-opener but to see the Greek government behave similarly absolutely highlights the need for civil society actions. 63 years of world government complicity in the oppression of the Palestinian people points us to different ways of acting- until we build for decent politics.
The Flotillas will continue until the siege of Gaza ends, direct civil society action and the call for BDS are key to supporting the Palestinian struggle – their resistance is central. We will sail again, venceremos! Hurriya, stay human – saoirse.