Ship with 8 Jewish activists sails for Gaza, in another bid to send humanitarian supplies and break the crippling siege.
An aid ship carrying 8 Jewish activists from Europe, Israel, and the US is less than 24 hours from reaching Gazan coastal waters.
Having left the port of Famagusta in Turkish-held northern Cyprus Sunday afternoon, the Irene is set to test the Israeli blockade sometime early Tuesday.
Ehud Barak, Israel’s defence minister, has repeatedly warned that Israel will intercept any ship nearing Gaza, which is run by the Palestinian movement Hamas.
“In the tradition of the civil rights movement…we assert our right to continue to Gaza under international law,” Glyn Secker, the ship’s captain, told Al Jazeera.
But the voyage is a gesture by left-leaning European Jewish groups to highlight what it sees as a flawed Israeli policy of collective punishment against 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza.
“The boat’s cargo includes symbolic aid in the form of children’s toys and musical instruments, textbooks, fishing nets for Gaza’s fishing communities and prosthetic limbs,” read a statement from European Jews for a Just Peace movement, the activist network that coordinated the voyage.
“We stand in the proud Jewish tradition of justice, of championing the rights of the downtrodden, of implacable opposition to prejudice and racism,” continued the statement.
Kate Katzenstein-Leiterer, a leader of the German Jewish Voice, was quoted in June as saying, “We want Israel to behave in a way that it can be recognized as a democratic state. Now it is recognized as a criminal state. That is not what we want.”
Reuven Moskovitz, an 82-year-old Holocaust survivor among the passengers on the British-flagged vessel, is a founding member of the Jewish-Arab village Neve Shalom (Oasis of Peace).
“We are two peoples, but we have one future”, said Moskovitz in a statement on the Jewish Boat to Gaza website.
Another passenger is Rami Elhanan, an Israeli whose daughter died in a 1997 suicide bombing at a Jerusalem shopping centre.
Yonatan Shapira, a former Israeli military pilot and Irene crew member, represents Combatants for Peace. Eli Osherov, a reporter from Channel 10 in Israel, is also on board.
Secker, the ship’s captain, told Al Jazeera that the organisers have “a particular point to make, as the voice of Jews who have an alternative opinion to that of the Israeli establishment”.