​Freedom Flotilla: Breaking the silence on Gaza blockade

Nadezhda Kevorkova
Nadezhda Kevorkova has worked at RT since 2010, before which she was a special correspondent for ‘Novaya gazeta,’ ‘Nezavisimaya gazeta,’ and ‘Gazeta.’ Kevorkova has also worked extensively in Russian mass-media. As a war correspondent, she covered the Arab Spring, military and religious conflicts, and the anti-globalization movement. She has worked as a reporter in Egypt, Sudan, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Hungary, Greece, Turkey, Cuba, and in the republics of the North Caucasus, Tatarstan, and in the Far East. In 2001, after an invitation from US State Department, Kevorkova visited a number of states, including Alaska. As a correspondent of 'Gazeta' she reported from Indian settlements in the US. She covered the ‘Gaza Freedom Flotilla’ in 2008, 2010 and 2011; she also visited Gaza several times during the blockade. In 2010, Kevorkova was nominated for the ‘International Women of Courage’ award.
freedom flotilla crew
The Marianne av Göteborg has already been waiting for her companion vessels for a week. Some think the delay is due to organizational issues, but that’s far from the truth. No private boat receives the same checks as this one.

While the Marianne languishes in neutral waters, the other crews are working to get the necessary permits to leave their ports. I witnessed one of these pre-departure checks in Messina.

Six men in civilian clothes and one in uniform spent the whole day checking the Marianne. They examined every square inch, made calls and objected to being photographed. After a while, they were joined by three port policemen and a group of divers, who scrutinized the boat’s hull. The Marianne was not allowed to depart until the captain provided the authorities with a list of passengers and their passport details. They requested the list once again later.

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

Once everything was completed and the Marianne was being re-fuelled, the flotilla participants were ordered to clear the port area and the authorities blocked access to the docks. But where there is a will there is a way, and the activists together with the reporters managed to climb on board and set off.

Those participating in the flotilla knew they would meet a lot of hurdles on their way, but it’s not easy to explain it to the rest of the world - especially when the Israeli authorities are telling it and the media that the flotilla is nothing but a bunch of terrorists supporting the terrorists in Gaza, and that it is their duty to stop them with an “iron fist.”

In 2011, Israel claimed the flotilla was carrying chemical weapons. We have yet to see what they will come up with this time.

This is precisely why the Marianne is not entering any other ports and is waiting in neutral waters for the other boats.
In 2010 and 2011, Israel provided the Greek police with riot gear and ammunition in exchange for their cooperation in preventing the vessels from leaving the ports.

READ MORE: ‘ICC credibility test’: Palestinians submit first war crimes evidence against Israel

Influencing debt-ridden Greece proved to be easy – especially through the banks and loans. But it’s worth remembering that Greek Prime Minister Tsipras was among the activists planning to take part in the 2011 flotilla. Nevertheless, the Greek government has banned all the Gaza-bound ships from leaving the Greek port.

Now the Greeks have their own survival on the agenda, and the demonstrations taking place in Athens are no longer in support of Palestine or the flotilla, but against the euro.

It has been claimed that one of the flotilla boats has been sabotaged.

There are known cases where public figures intending to participate in the flotilla have been approached in an attempt to bribe them or scare them away from the project. Such individuals, including professors, performing artists and athletes, are threatened with contract termination or are accused of anti-Semitism. In the case of parliamentarians, members of the Knesset are being hounded and are told their mandates could be recalled and they could face prosecution.

READ MORE: 'Flawed & biased': Israel fires back at UN report accusing it of potential war crimes

Some participants are being pressured by their relatives, who have been approached and convinced to try and talk the participants out of sailing. It is therefore clear why such details as port and boat names, personal details of the participants and the start date of the flotilla are kept secret. This is also why the flotilla is taking so much time to get together.

“Whether we succeed in reaching Gaza or not and our boats are taken over, we shall break the wall of silence around the Gaza siege,” says Dror Feiler, a member of the flotilla’s organizing committee and its main spokesperson.

Nadezhda Kevorkova, on board the Marianne, RT

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