Zohar Regev has no idea what the legal consequences of participating in a flotilla to the Gaza Strip will be.
Unlike the vast majority of participants, Regev is an Israeli citizen and if arrested, she will likely not be deported to another country.
“I am aware of the risk as an Israeli citizen, but I am willing to take it because I cannot keep silent when these atrocities take place, especially when they are done by my own people,” Regev, from Kibbutz Kfar Hahoresh near Nazareth, who is an organizer of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, told The Jerusalem Post
in a phone interview.
Regev plans to set sail with 30 other women from Messina, Sicily, to the Gaza Strip aboard the Amal to protest Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. “We are partaking in nonviolent, direct action to protest this blockade and try to lift it by exercising political pressure on Israel,” Regev remarked. “We want to show the international community that Israel prevents nonviolent protesters at sea from reaching Gaza.”
Israel and Egypt have enforced a blockade on the Gaza Strip since Hamas took control of the coastal enclave in 2007, limiting the movement of people and goods.
According to Gisha, a NGO and legal action center dedicated to freedom of movement, the monthly average of exits into Israel and trucks entering Gaza since the start of 2016 is 13,750 and 11,330, respectively.
The Amal set sail last week, but due to engine difficulties had to turn back for repairs.
Another women’s flotilla, the Zeytuna, is already on its way to Gaza.
Regev said that the Freedom Flotilla Coalition decided to organize two women’s boats to demonstrate that women can set sail on their own, but also to focus on the role of Palestinian women in nonviolent “resistance.”
“We want to show the world that women can sail, take care of the engine, and do everything on a boat,” Regev remarked adding, “We also want to highlight the role of Palestinian women in nonviolent resistance, who are working for the survival of their people.”
Flotillas protesting the blockade have set sail for Gaza on numerous occasions over the past many years. In 2015, the Freedom Flotilla III set sail for Gaza, carrying approximately 100 international activists. The IDF intercepted and redirected one of the flotilla’s boats, the Marianne, to the Ashdod Port, while the rest of its boats turned back. In 2010, the Mavi Marmara set sail for Gaza and clashed with Israeli commandos, leading to the death of nine Turkish activists.
Regev said that she does not accept Israel’s argument that it must enforce the blockade for security concerns. “The blockade does not serve Israel’s security concerns... solving the root problem, which is the occupation, does,” she said. “We are asking Israel to lift the blockade and then work out a solution, [namely] ending the occupation, for its security concerns.
“We want to end this situation. Lift the blockade and we will see what happens.”
The government has stated that it fears Palestinian fighters will convert imported materials into weapons and rockets. Hamas and other factions have fired approximately 11,000 rockets at Israel since 2007, according to the IDF.
Emmanuel Nahshon, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, told the Post that he prefers not to comment on the women’s boats, but said the government generally views flotillas as a provocation.
“On the one hand we have a tight blockade on Gaza, which is recognized internationally. And on the other hand, there is a free for all of merchandise and goods to Gaza. So we view flotillas as an unnecessary, political provocations,” the Foreign Ministry spokesman said.
Regev also said that while the Freedom Flotilla Coalition recognizes Egypt is carrying out its own blockade of Gaza, it is not focusing its campaign on it. “We have mentioned on our website things about Egypt, but really Egypt is not the question here. If Israel had lifted the blockade, Palestinians could go to the West Bank and other countries. There would be no need to go through Rafah,” Regev said.
Egypt has imposed a very tight blockade on Gaza, opening the Rafah border crossing for only 19 days in 2015 and approximately 20 days in 2016.
Despite her frustration, Regev believes it is possible to live in peace, if Israel ends the blockade and its military rule.
“We need lift the blockade, end the occupation, and then we may be able to really live in peace with our Palestinian brothers and sisters.”