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Gaza bound: Intimidation tactics will not deter us

Richard Sudan
Richard Sudan is a London-based writer, political activist, and performance poet. His writing has been published in many prominent publications, including the Independent, the Guardian, Huffington Post and Washington Spectator. He has been a guest speaker at events for different organizations ranging from the University of East London to the People's Assembly covering various topics. His opinion is that the mainstream media has a duty to challenge power, rather than to serve power. Richard has taught writing poetry for performance at Brunel University.
Gaza bound: Intimidation tactics will not deter us
As the final boat departs for Gaza in the Freedom Flotilla, it’s time for some reflection. Since our group arrived in Greece to prepare for the trip, it has been interesting watching events unfold through the eyes of the mainstream media.

Many are labeling those taking part as terrorists, describing our efforts to sail to Gaza as an act of 'provocation.'

If they mean that we are provoking the current status quo, they are right. But to call us terrorists is utterly wrong and twisted. How such a humanitarian mission can be viewed through this lens, when the very people we are trying to reach are themselves the victims of terrorism, is beyond me. It makes no sense.

On the boat I will be traveling on today, I have met former and currently serving MPs from different nations, a former president, academics, journalists - anyone and everyone actually - except terrorists. There is even a nun from Spain on one of the boats. She's a lovely woman and also a physician.

READ MORE: ‘Freedom Flotilla’: Activists set sail for Gaza to break Israel blockade

I can't tell you much about the boat or what it looks like yet because I haven’t seen it. For obvious reasons, details of the trip remain sketchy until the last moment. The last time the flotilla tried to leave Greece and reach Gaza, it was halted by the Greek military and the boats never left harbor. At that time, the Greek authorities acted directly on behalf of the state of Israel. One suspects that this would be desirable for Israel this time round too, because a successful flotilla reaching Gaza, with all sorts of people on board, would be a huge boost in morale for the people of Gaza. Israel cannot afford this.
Nor can they afford the resulting PR disaster. Right now we are not sure what is going to happen. Our boat leaves later today sometime, that's all I know.

What I can say is that everyone is nervous. Yesterday, as my team left from our location in Greece to the place of departure, three cars followed us. My guess is that they were either directly given the order to do so by Mossad, or by Greek intelligence. Intimidation tactics are always the norm when you criticize the actions of Israel, and I guess the move yesterday was just a standard scare tactic.

I traveled by car with an MEP, a USS Liberty survivor, a journalist and a university lecturer from South Africa. I'm not sure at which point their names can be released; only after our boat sets sail will I be told - for security reasons. But if my story sounds far-fetched please feel free to ask these people to verify it directly. We were chased and hounded by these cars for miles and miles.

A very sweet lady, who is a friend of the campaign, did her best to lose them in the narrow streets of this beautiful Greek town. While we have striven to keep the campaign quiet, local people know what we are doing and are very supportive. They, like most of the world, are standing shoulder to shoulder with the people of Gaza.

It really would be something if we reached Gaza. At this point my concern is whether or not we will be able to leave at all. But however things go, it’s clear that this campaign has the Israeli government rattled, and so they are throwing as much mud at us as they can. At least, the people of Gaza know we are coming.

I am told that later today, my cameraman and I will be allowed to film on the boat before we depart. I hope to be able to show you that this group of dedicated activists are just that. We are not terrorists and no one is carrying weapons. We are peaceful people. I hope that this story can counter some of the lies I see written and shown on TV elsewhere.

The mood here is positive. People are jittery but ready to make this attempt. The prospect of an Israeli jail for a few days has been mentioned. But some of these brave souls have been to Gaza dozens of times, and it’s a humbling experience to be able to sit and listen and learn from them.

READ MORE: Israel cans volunteer program for rights groups cited in UN report on Gaza

Once we set sail, I can give you many more details and hopefully will have the means to communicate and give you a progress update.

Whatever we feel in the end is really irrelevant, since it’s nothing compared to what the Palestinians have to deal with on a daily basis. I know I am a privileged Westerner who is able to visit Gaza and is able to leave, and to some extent this makes me feel ashamed of that privilege. However, I didn’t choose where I was born, and neither did the 1.8 million Palestinians who are trapped in Gaza. Even if we make the voyage, our efforts will amount to little more than a gesture. But I want to use whatever privilege I was born with to help these people.

When we are at sea, I can be much more specific and stop talking in general terms. But it is very important not to compromise the integrity of the campaign, which at the end of the day is what this is all about.

The Palestinians are heroes and they continue to inspire us. I hope this small act of solidarity can inspire them too.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.