The Freedom Flotilla Movement


The attempts to break the siege of Gaza have become an internationally important movement in the years since 2008. They are a model of the use of non-violence as a tactic for building resistance to imperialism. The Gaza Strip has been blockaded by Israel and Egypt since 2007 and, despite some recent improvements, the blockade still prevents the people of Gaza from obtaining many of the basic necessities of a decent life and effectively creates the world’s largest prison camp

For decades now, the governments of the Western world, especially the E.U. & North America, have been complicit in Israel’s continued policies of state terrorism against the Palestinians. In the U.S. case, of course, it goes far beyond complicity: they participate directly by funding Israel with financial & military aid. They also act as Israel’s big brother on the international stage; the United States routinely flexes its veto powers in the United Nations to save Israel’s back. Presidents, secretaries, senators and congressmen rush to give the Zionist entity their unwavering support. 

Under capitalism, power is directly related to money. The Israel Lobby & AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) in the United States are multi-million dollar organisations, funded by massive corporations. To be elected as president of the U.S. it’s politically necessary to publicly pledge allegiance to AIPAC and hence Israel. It’s also true for the vast majority of representatives in both Houses. 

The result of the H. Res. 268 vote in the House of Representatives on the suspension of aid to the Palestinian Authority (for their intention to make a bid for statehood in September) is telling: 407 ayes, 6 nays, 5 abstentions and 13 members voting “present.” These representatives are more interested in defending Israel’s interests than those of working class people in the US.

The U.S. state doesn’t represent its people’s interests but rather those of big business and capital. The same is true of the European Union, who have accepted and fostered Israel just short of being a member state. The EU played a formal role in managing the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. Israel always had a veto on the opening of the crossing. In practice, whenever Israel didn’t want the crossing open, the EU obligingly kept it shut.

Last year’s massacre on the Turkish ship the MV Mavi Marmara, in which 9 non-violent aid workers were murdered by the IDF, further highlighted Europe’s complicity. No action was taken against Israel for behaviour that can only be described as terrorism: murdering peaceful activists in international waters.

The flotilla carries powerful symbolism. It’s more than (much needed) aid. It’s a form of political action designed to break the siege of Gaza. It’s a message to the besieged and terrorised people of Gaza that the people of the world are with them, and that the actions of states do not represent how ordinary people really think.

The willingness of European governments to do Israel’s bidding was disgustingly obvious in recent events in Greece. The Greek government forbade the Freedom Flotilla ships from leaving its ports. Audacity of Hope and Tahrir disobeyed. They were intercepted by the Greek coast guard, brought back to shore and dozens of activists arrested. 
At the same time as acting for the state of Israel, the Greek state was violently repressing the Greek people and putting them deeper into decades of slavery to the IMF, ECB and private bankers. It would be ridiculous to suggest that given this situation, the imperial powers of the EU and the U.S. did not pull Papandreou’s puppet strings to encourage the Greek authorities to act as they did in bringing this year’s flotilla to Gaza to a halt.

Each year the movement has snowballed. More people have become interested and involved, waking people up to the system’s inherent flaws. Every activist involved in Palestine solidarity will tell you that they are even more driven following the criminal acts of various governments. This can only be a healthy thing, as more people realise that if the people’s interests are to be carried out, they have to be carried out by the people themselves. This is at the core of the Freedom Flotilla. More boats will come, and civil society will continue to take direct action until the Palestinians enjoy peace and freedom.

From Workers Solidarity 123 Sept/Oct 2011