RAMALLAH, June 14 (JMCC) - “Not in our name” is the message that the Jewish-commanded vessel soon to set sail towards blockaded Gaza
wishes to send to the Israeli government.
The German wing of European Jews for a Just Peace and the British Jews for Justice for Palestine have coordinated efforts to launch a ship sailed entirely by a Jewish crew with Jewish passengers. The ship’s precise location remains undisclosed, but it is currently docked in Mediterranean waters and will set sail towards the end of July, says an organizer of the German movement.
“We want to take medical supplies, school materials collected by Jewish families in Europe, and fishing equipment,” says the vessel’s captain Glen Secker. The ship will be the latest in a string of land and sea convoys
intended to bring aid to the Gaza Strip and draw international attention to the plight of Gaza’s residents.
Sixteen passengers will be aboard, filling the ship to capacity, says Edith Lutz, a key organiser of the German movement. “However, there are multitudes of Jewish people who have applied to be on board.”
The organisations have been swamped with requests to join in, she asserts, and securing funding for a second boat is under consideration.
Among the ship’s passengers will be five Israeli citizens, and journalists from Israeli channels 2 and 10. Musician and holocaust survivor Rubin Maskovitch will also be sailing, planning to play to Gazans once the boat reaches shore.
A JEWISH MESSAGE
“We want to show that Jews do not just use the instruments of war,” says Lutz. The central purpose of this action is symbolic, agrees Secker.
“I don’t associate with Israel
and its policies, and yet Israel states it is the representative of Jewish people across the world.”
Luntz asserts that should the blockade
be relaxed in coming weeks, the Jewish ship will still make its voyage.
“There are large numbers of Jews across the world who don’t agree with Israeli policy towards the Palestinians,” says Secker, “We are speaking for that community.”
Professor Gideon Shimoni, expert in Israel-Diaspora relations at Hebrew University, disagrees. “There is no question about the fact that the overwhelming majority of Jewish communities across the world are supportive of Israel in every respect.”
“Those on this Jewish ship are a tiny minority,” asserts Shimoni. “They are likely to be seen as traitors by this right wing government.”
The Israeli government is likely to deploy “mainstream” Jewish organizations to counter the group’s message, says Richard Pater of the Britain Israel Communications & Research Centre.
ON THE SEA
On May 31, Israeli commandos boarded a fleet of ships headed for Gaza, killing nine activists aboard a Turkish-flagged ship. Israel is opening a domestic inquiry into the incident after widespread international condemnation.
Since the incident, the seas have become the latest vehicle for conveying political messages.
On Monday, opposition chairman Tzipi Livni
boarded a fleet of vessels protesting armed groups’ capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, believed held in the Gaza Strip since 2007.
On June 20, 20 pro-Israeli yachts will set sail for Turkey. “We’re aiming to draw the world's attention to the fact that Turkey…is a country that holds half of Cyprus under occupation since 1974,” says organizer Haim Har-Zahav.
Sponsors of the Jewish boat, Jews for Justice for Palestine, represent over 1,500 British Jews. European Jews for a Just Peace and its sub-group Jews for Justice for Palestine call for a two-state solution between Israel and Palestinians.
“We are not trying to compromise Israeli security,” says Luntz.