Activists on flotilla heading to Gaza vow non-violent resistance
Flotilla boat Al Awda is 150 miles from Gaza shore, but the activists on board know the Israeli Navy will soon stop them; they say they won't invite the Navy on board, 'but we also won't try to hurt them or create a situation in which we are a threat to them.'
But even the activists abroad understand that they might be stopped in the coming hours by the Israeli Navy, which will prevent them from "breaking" the naval blockade on Gaza.
In an interview with Ynet from far out at sea, the activists stressed that they will resist to the IDF's expected takeover of the boat in non-violent ways.
There are 22 activists from different countries on board Al Awda, which is only a few days ahead of another boat also making its way to the strip in an effort to break the blockade.
"We want and plan to reach the Gaza Strip," said Zohar Regev, an Israeli living in Spain who is on board the boat. "But if we are stopped by the army, we will resist their takeover of the boat in non-violent ways. It means we won't invite them to come on board, but we also won't try to hurt them or create a situation in which we are a threat to them."
The flotilla nears Gaza amid Hamas's "March of Return" campaign, but Regev insists there is no connection between the flotilla and the campaign.
"This flotilla was planned even before the 'March of Return' campaign, but as soon as we saw there was a civilian campaign that is gaining momentum, it gave us a push and motivation," she said. "There are people in the flotilla's coalition with ties to the campaign in Gaza, but this flotilla was planned before that and with no connections to the campaign."
This is the fourth flotilla that left-wing activist Yonatan Shapira participates in. But in a conversation with Ynet, he allowed that there is truth to the claim the flotillas are a form of protest that has run its course.
"Our goal is to lift the blockade over Gaza. When a civilian group is fighting against a bigger body like a state, it has to develop creative ideas to succeed, and I'd be happy to hear such ideas from people," he said.
International activist Charlie Anderson, who was in the Gaza Strip before and is now on board the ship, agreed. "I'm aware of the fact the mainstream media hasn't covered this flotilla, but we receive a lot of comments on social media, and it helps keep the issue of the siege over Gaza on the agenda," he said.
The activists on board refuse to believe Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman's proposal to build a naval port for Gaza in Cyprus in exchange for the return of the bodies of IDF soldiers and the living Israeli citizens being held by Hamas.
"I don't believe a word coming from Lieberman, he should be in prison," said Shapira. "We believe the way to lifting the siege over Gaza is using international pressure."
Shapira said the boat carries medical equipment for Gaza, but stressed this was a symbolic amount and that the main goal of the flotilla is to raise awareness about the blockade.
According to Shapira, there are no activists from the Turkish organization IHH on board the boat, as there were on the Mavi Marmara.
Past experience indicates that the Navy takes over all flotillas when they are several dozens of miles from the Gaza Strip's coast. After the takeover, the boats are towed to the Ashdod port, where the activists on board are detained for questioning and then deported from Israel shortly thereafter through Ben-Gurion Airport.
"I know the Israeli public doesn't support us, but I only have one request from every Israeli: Try to imagine, only for a few seconds, that you were born in Gaza and couldn't leave it for 12 years," Shapira said. "How would you behave, and what would you think about those who prevented you of leaving?"