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How the Freedom Flotilla became a global humanitarian mission to Gaza

May 28, 2024 at 6:15 pm

The ship named Handala, belonging to the Freedom Flotilla (Ship to Gaza), which set sail from the capital of Norway, Oslo, on May 1st with the aim of delivering humanitarian aid to Gaza arrives in Rotterdam, Netherlands on 25 May, 2024 [ Abdullah Asiran/Anadolu via Getty Images]

The visionary international coalitions for the Freedom Flotilla’s success often begin with the names of the ships. Vicdan (“conscience” in Turkish), Anadolu (Anatolia), Akdeniz (the Mediterranean) and Handala (the iconic innocent Palestinian child); these are the rousing names of the Freedom Flotilla ships. Dedicated Flotilla workers were very shrewd when they chose such meaningful names for the humanitarian ships. This reflects the true character and purpose of their initiative, the delivery of food and medicine to Gaza.

In contrast, several western countries continue to support Israel with weapons, funds and political support, making them complicit in Israel’s genocide and war of starvation. This is why civic society initiatives like the Freedom Flotilla have increasingly become a model of solidarity and support for Palestinian human rights. Through direct action, they express the will of a global movement, especially sustained by youth worldwide, to bring the horrors in Gaza to an end – in the interest of both Palestinians and Israelis.

The Gaza Freedom Flotilla represents a significant form of direct action taken by civilians to challenge the Israeli blockade of Gaza. These efforts carried out by young people are highly motivated and determined to addressing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

READ: Freedom Flotilla for Gaza aid further delayed after Guinea-Bissau withdraws ships

Last week, I had a phone conversation with one of the Flotilla organisers. She believes that the Guinea-Bissau authorities had withdrawn their flags because of pressure from Israel, which was offended by the refusal of the organisers to allow their ships to be inspected for contraband or weapons.

The Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) is one of the primary organisers of the civilian Freedom Flotilla Coalition, which is comprised of human rights activists, and includes lawyers, doctors and nurses who came together to deliver aid directly to Gaza.

One of the components of the coalition is the Mavi Marmara Freedom and Solidarity Association. Behesti Ismail Songur, the son of Cengiz Songur, who lost his life in the raid of Israeli soldiers on the Mavi Marmara ship that set sail in 2010, is the Chairman of the Association.

Songur said, “Our exit from the port was politically blocked. Our flag was tried to be taken.” He claimed that “obstruction was put in place”.

Songur said, “But this fleet includes participants from 45 countries and 245 non-governmental organisations. As the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, which consists entirely of a civilian initiative, we will set out for the Mediterranean, no matter what Israel does. We will take flags of different countries. We will also apply to Turkiye. We will try to get Turkiye’s flag as well. In this sense, our message is clear. So this will be a litmus test for all states. We will see who will be brave in this regard and flag the freedom fleet,” he said.

This valuable mission comes with huge political struggles. Last April, the Guinea-Bissau International Ships Registry (GBISR), in a blatantly political move, informed the Freedom Flotilla Coalition that it had withdrawn the Guinea Bissau flag from two of the Freedom Flotilla’s ships, one of which is a cargo ship. Even though the ultimate goal of the Freedom Flotilla is to promote peace and justice for both Palestinians and Israelis.

From English rockstar Eric Clapton’s Palestinian flag guitar during his concert in the UK to Cate Blanchett’s Palestinian dress at Cannes Film Festival, the world has united to express solidarity for Palestinian human rights and freedom.  In this regard, the Freedom Flotilla has assumed the role of a global humanitarian ambassador. By focussing on the humanitarian crisis and advocating for human rights, activists hope to contribute to a just and lasting resolution to the conflict.

The incredible breadth of participants is evident in the Flotilla meetings, where you can hear clusters of groups chatting away in Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, Malay, French, Italian and English in diverse accents, from Australian to Welsh. The ages range from students in their 20s to an 86-year-old Argentine medical doctor. What brings them together is their outrage that the world community is allowing this genocide in Gaza to happen and a burning desire to do more than they have been doing to stop people from being murdered, maimed and starved.

Given the urgency and danger this moment presents, the Freedom Flotilla Coalition (FFC) is entering rough and uncharted waters. They are calling on countries around the world to pressure Israel to allow “free and safe passage” to Gaza. The humanitarian crisis in Gaza demands immediate action, and their mission is to deliver much-needed aid and supplies directly to the people who are suffering under the blockade. The solution for this is clear. Countries that recognise Palestine as a State must now grant full legal support to help the Freedom Flotilla fulfil its noble objectives.

OPINION: Golden oldies prepare for aid flotilla mission to Gaza

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.