Israel set to stop Jewish ship en route to Gaza

UK pro-Palestinian group organizing mission says goal is to show not all Jews support Israeli policies on Palestinians; won't resist boarding.

FlotillaCargo311 (photo credit: Ron Friedman)
(photo credit: Ron Friedman)
The navy went on high alert Sunday as a ship carrying Jewish activists set sail from northern Cyprus with the declared goal of breaking Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Called Irene, the boat is carrying a symbolic cargo of aid for the people of Gaza under a British flag.
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Organizers from Jews for Justice for Palestinians said that all of the passengers were Jews from Israel, Germany, the United States or Great Britain.
“Not all Jews support Israel’s policies in Gaza,” said Richard Kuper, one of the organizers.
“We call on all nations and governments around the world to vocally protest and take action against the occupation and the blockade.”
Israel’s policy is to prevent ships from reaching the Gaza Strip, but rather have them undergo an inspection of their cargo at the Ashdod Port. This policy – that humanitarian aid must enter Gaza by land – was supported by the international community last week at a donor conference for the Palestinian Authority in the US.
“We cannot allow ships to sail freely into Gaza, since they could be carrying weaponry,” one senior defense official said.“If the ships sail into Ashdod, we will inspect the cargo and then allow it through the land crossings into the Gaza Strip.”
Kuper said that the passengers would not violently resist IDF soldiers who would likely board the vessel to stop it from sailing to Gaza. The ship was making its way to Gaza about four months after navy commandos killed nine Turkish activists while stopping a Turkish flotilla that was en route to Gaza.
The 10-meter catamaran Irene, carrying a total of nine passengers and crew members, plans to deliver toys, medical equipment and other supplies to Gaza.
One of the passengers, Rami Elhanan, an Israeli whose daughter Smadar was killed along with four others in a suicide bombing in Jerusalem’s Rehov Ben-Yehuda pedestrian mall in 1997, said it was his “moral duty” to act in support of Palestinians in Gaza because reconciliation was the surest path to peace.
“Those 1.5 million people in Gaza are victims exactly as I am,” Elhanan, 60, said in an interview.
Other voyage organizers included the Amsterdam-based European Jews for a Just Peace and the Oakland, Californiabased Jewish Voice for Peace.
Another Israeli passenger is Yonatan Shapira, a former Israel Air Force pilot and a wellknown left-wing activist who refused to serve in the territories.
Another passenger, Reuven Moskovitz, is an 82-year-old Holocaust survivor. He said his life’s mission has been to turn foes into friends.
“We are two peoples, but we have one future,” he said.