Who we are and what we seek

What participants in the upcoming flotilla to Gaza want Israelis to know.

In a recent op-ed by Yossi Alpher in The Jerusalem Post (“In Gaza, time to try a new option,” June 10) he describes the Freedom Flotilla Two as “Turkishled,” and also concludes that: “the flotilla organizers seek, not the well-being of Gazans, but rather once again to delegitimize and isolate Israel, with Gaza as the excuse.”
These two assertions are not true. It may be that they are not at the heart of Alpher’s text, but this simplified perception of the flotilla is very odd to find in a piece that purports to be analytical. Evaluation of what we do is a matter of judgement and opinion, but the descriptions offered are conspicuously off the point.
So, who are we, and what is driving us?
OUR CRITICISM of the Israeli blockade of Gaza arises first and foremost from the fact that it is unjust, and a violation of human rights. Alpher challenges the blockade as a strategic failure from an Israeli perspective, which certainly seems to be a correct judgement.
From this position, Alpher proceeds to propose different scenarios for action in relation to Gaza: 1. Status quo, 2. a “sealing” of the land borders between Israel and Gaza but without the blockade of the air and sea, or 3. a radical relaxation of the blockade – the alternative he favors – but in a way that would still effectively cut off the two major parts of Palestinian society.
The article by Alpher is in fact actively seeking to delegitimize us, our actions as well as our motives. Of course, that is a problem for us, in our work to restore respect for the human rights of the civilian population in Gaza. But we suggest that this is also a problem for the people of Israel. Far too many analysts, military officers and politicians fail to see the depth and width of public discontent with the Israeli and Egyptian blockade of Gaza in many countries across the world.
Maybe we can stop labeling the flotilla as “Turkish-led”? Yes, the Turkish organization IHH is a partner of Freedom Flotilla Two. Yes, it has a large ship and is involved in humanitarian projects in several parts of the world. Yes, eight Turkish citizens and one American citizen of Turkish descent were killed when the IDF intercepted their ship last year. But IHH is just one of several partners in the flotilla, and the Mavi Marmara will this year – like last year – carry passengers from many parts of the world. Turkey as a state is neither leading nor participating in the flotilla. All the initiators are civil society actors, but with bases in different countries and traditions around the world.
What if the Israeli media on Freedom Flotilla also started to recognize that one of the initiatives of FFII is in fact from the US, and that this boat will have a large contingent of American Jews? There are Jews, Muslims and Christians among the passengers from many other countries too, as well as a considerable number of people who probably are not comfortable with being defined as belonging to any of these groups.
We are not bringing weapons. We are not a “flotilla of hate.”
We are not aiming for the shores of Israel, but for the shores of Gaza. We are not interested in discussing exactly what calorie levels the children and civilians of Gaza can justly be kept at by their Israeli guardians. They have the right to trade, to travel and to build and develop their society.
These are human rights, and the blockade violates every one of them. We are sailing to break the blockade, to practice what most of our governments say: Not only is the blockade not legitimate – it is illegal.
We are not expecting wide support or applause from the Israeli leadership or public.
But we are certain that it can and should handle a reasonably truthful description of the manifold motives that make people unite for this one cause – to end the blockade.
The writer is a spokesperson for the Ship to Gaza Sweden, one of the partner organizations of Freedom Flotilla Two – Stay Human. She has a PhD and works as a researcher and lecturer in economic history at the University of Gothenburg. She is also a member of the editorial committee of the Swedish cultural journal Ord&Bild.