For Immediate Release
Dignite Represents The Audacity of Hope and the rest of Freedom Flotilla II
NEW YORK - At 3:30 am (EDT) today, several Israeli naval ships stopped the French-flagged ship Dignite/Al Karama while on the last leg of its voyage to Gaza. The small boat with 16 people was approximately 40 miles away from Gaza, very much in international waters. By 6 am the Israeli military had taken control of the boat and was bringing it to the Israel port of Ashdod, where the people on the boat would be arrested. At this time there have been no reports of any injuries. All communication with the passengers on the Dignite has been cut off.
The Dignite is one member of the larger Freedom Flotilla II that had planned to sail together to Gaza in late June. All the other ships, including the U.S. flagged boat The Audacity of Hope, were delayed by the Greek government's refusal to permit them to sail -- an egregious act of complicity with Israel’s policy toward Gaza that the International Committee of the Red Cross has determined to be “collective punishment.” Two of the flotilla's boats suffered serious physical damage from acts of sabotage while others were caught in a web of Greek bureaucratic entanglements, including phony civilian complaints challenging the sea-worthiness of some of the boats.
The Dignite began its voyage from a French port. The French government refused to interfere with this nonviolent civilian human rights initiative, permitting the ship to sail into international Mediterranean waters without problems. The Dignite and its passengers – from France, Canada, Greece, Sweden, and Tunisa – proudly sailed toward Gaza as representatives of the larger flotilla. They represented the steadfastness and determination of the flotilla movement to sail until the blockade is broken. The Israeli government's belief that Freedom Flotilla II can be stopped misunderstands the nature of this non-violent movement and its, purpose, which is to end the siege of Gaza.
Despite most of the Freedom Flotilla II being unable to leave Greek ports, the flotilla was able to highlight the vicious nature of Israel’s policy towards Gaza. Israeli leaders showed their willingness to use intimidation, lies, economic blackmail, threats of violence, and sabotage to stop boats that Israeli military officials admitted would not be carrying weapons. This clearly demonstrates that Israel’s blockade of Gaza is not based on “security”, but is meant to punish the 1.7 million people living in Gaza, deny their freedom and cut them off from the rest of the world.
The Israeli government's continued violation of international law and the human rights of Palestinians is possible only as a result of the international community’s failure to take tangible measures to uphold United Nations resolutions and Palestinian human rights. As the American passengers on The Audacity of Hope directly experienced in Greece, some major powers – including the U.S. government and the European Union – are willing to ignore international law and human rights to appease the Israeli government. International civil society has no recourse other than to take nonviolent direct action.
The Dignite carried a message of solidarity and human empathy from the people of the world to the people of Gaza, and all of Palestine, that Israel’s violence can never silence. The journey of this small boat is further evidence that the will of global civil society cannot be intimidated. As long as the illegal blockade of Gaza remains in place, ships will sail to confront it; as long as Israel continues its occupation, and violent repression of Palestinians and our governments are silent about it, the global solidarity movement will mobilize to nonviolently and directly challenge it.
We call on the Israeli government to end the siege and blockade of Gaza and to treat the people of Palestine in compliance with international law.
We urge you to contact the Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC to call for the immediate release of these people. And - most importantly - we must call on the Israeli government to end the siege and blockade of Gaza, and to treat the people of Palestine in compliance with international law!
Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC