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Friday 19 December  
Gaza ship activists at preparatory meeting
Eric Beauchemin's picture
Gaza, Palestinian Territory
Gaza, Palestinian Territory

Gaza activists blinded by faith

Published on : 28 June 2011 - 11:10am | By Eric Beauchemin (Photo: RNW/EB)
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On Tuesday a small group of Dutch activists is expected to set sail from Greece to the Gaza Strip. They are part of a flotilla hoping to bring humanitarian aid to the impoverished Palestinian territory, which has been under an Israeli blockade since 2006.

RNW's Eric Beauchemin spent the past week observing the preparations for the journey.

I had been planning for the past three months to sail with the activists and report on their journey. But over the past week that I spent in Greece, I lost all faith in the Dutch Gaza Foundation which is responsible for the Dutch boat.

Things started going wrong from the very beginning. During our first meeting on the Greek island of Corfu, we received the usual latest updates, and then one of the organisers informed us that one of the Dutch journalists had leaked secret information to the most popular Dutch daily about the mission. She was furious: No one is as open as the Free Gaza Foundation, she proclaimed indignantly.

But I have worked as a journalist for the past 25 years, and never have I experienced such a closed organisation.

Risky trip
After this welcoming message, she explained the ground rules to us. There were many, many non-negotiables. "If you don't accept this, you can't come along." I wanted to make a video report, filming the two days of obligatory training sessions to convey a sense of how the activists were preparing for the mission. But the organisation declared numerous sessions off-limits. I and the other Dutch journalists present explained that we needed this footage to do our work. But she wouldn't have it. "I have worked with CNN, Al Jazeera, BBC, and no one has been as demanding as you Dutch reporters."

Eventually there was a hand count and the activists voted us out of those sessions. We journalists all felt that a schism had been created for no reason. We also began to lose faith and trust in the organisation, both essential ingredients when undertaking such a risky trip. During the last Freedom Flotilla last year, nine Turks were killed when the Israeli navy boarded their vessel and fighting broke out.

I expressed an interest in joining the mission earlier this year when I heard that the Dutch were going to send their own vessel to Gaza for the first time. There would be over 30 participants, including prominent members of Dutch society. An Italian delegation with 20 people would also take part.

I then attended meeting after meeting in various cities in Holland. I had to be screened because - I was told - there were so many people wanting to travel to Gaza. When the organisers called to say I had passed the screening and been chosen as one of the select group of people who would set sail, I felt obliged to express my joy.

Now, back in the Netherlands, over three months later, I feel deceived. There never was a "select group". There were no prominent Dutch figures interested in joining Freedom Flotilla 2. Instead of 32 people from the Netherlands, the organisation managed to assemble just eight activists and four journalists. Yesterday [Monday], two more journalists decided to jump ship before the boat even left the port of Corfu.

Since day one, journalists, including myself, asked questions about the Dutch organisation and the boat, for example about the funding. Even simple questions about the ship's power supply for me to hook up my satellite transmitter. The answer was consistently: "I'll get back to you about that" or "we don't know". I'm still waiting for answers.

I have been to Gaza on two occasions and have seen with my own eyes why it's called an open air prison. No one in, no one out, literally. One afternoon, I went to the beach there with a Palestinian whose tailoring business had been destroyed by the blockade. He told me he went there every day. And I asked him if that was because the sea represented freedom. He laughed at me and pointed to the Israeli navy vessels on the horizon.

In the past week, the activists' idealism has surprised and amazed me. In this day and age, I find it remarkable that Dutch people are willing to lay their lives on the line for a cause. Whether this is the proper way to achieve their goal is another matter. But even more disturbing is their naiveté.

Good luck
Yesterday morning I had a final meeting with the participants. I told the activists that given everything that had happened, they shouldn’t trust the organisation leading this mission. But all of them insisted the cause is too important to abandon. "We are going to break the siege and help the people of Gaza."

Good luck and bon voyage.


• One week later: Flotilla to nowhere?




jorge son 15 November 2011 - 6:14pm / USA

You telecommunicate King Irving a historian? He is a guilty Socialism holocaust denier who was refused entryway to among others-Canada- for disseminating antisemitic lies and emotion.
If there is any similarities between worldwide ideologies, it would be Nazism and Islam-both vying for circular ascendance and suprimacy at the riddance and expense of anyone else.
body shop brampton

Anonymous 8 November 2011 - 3:05am

What happened to the 250 word guideline?

user avatar
Rob Kievit 8 November 2011 - 1:59pm

Thanks for your alert. The rule has meanwhile been applied to a number of comments below.

Nazi-hunter 27 July 2011 - 11:51am / Israel

MORGTAR is a Nazi. I can't find any logical reason why else he would blame "the Jews" for causing the Germans to resent them so much that they had what was coming to them. This is pure racism, of the Nazi variety, and it leaves me wondering how it is that if anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism, then how does one explain this imbecile MORGTAR?

Let's use his "logic" for a moment: women are the cause of rape because any woman who may show some skin deserves what's coming to her. Africans deserved slavery, because they provoked Europeans into coming to their continent, kidnap millions of them and take them to the Americas. Native Americans deserved genocide and being forced into reservations because they provoked Europeans into it, somehow... not sure how, but they must have!

All of this is pure racist hogwash, and MORGTAR is clearly a Nazi racist pig.

ZG 4 July 2011 - 5:23am / canada

over 10,000 Gazans and companions were admitted to Israel in 2009, and probably more in 2010?! Can you name an other country in the world treats it's enemies with such a magnanimity and humanity? And on the expense of the Israeli tax payer, while just last month a Palestinian child died outside a Lebanese hospital because his parents had no money to pay for for hospital treatment.
Are you for real judging Israel unfavorably?

Claudia 3 July 2011 - 11:46pm / Netherlands

@MORGTAR: You are spamming! and fortunately none here is so stupid not to see you are inciting antisemitism. Shame on you!

MORGTAR 4 July 2011 - 7:51am

Member of the Jewish Boat to Gaza reaches Gaza Eight months after the ‘Irene’ was raided by the Israeli navy, passenger Edith Lutz visits Gaza By JNews Monday, 23 May, 2011 - 11:36 London, UK Source: JB2G The Jewish Boat to Gaza before its capture, 2010On 14 May, eight months after the Jewish boat to Gaza was raided by the Israeli navy on its way to Gaza, one of its passengers arrived in Gaza. Edith Lutz, co-organizer and passenger on the Irene, brought a photo-collage of the boat to Gaza. “We are still waiting for the return of the real boat”, she says, “but it’s the arrival of the message that’s most important. Our message is that there are many Jews opposing the Israeli politics of oppression.” Edith Lutz joined vik2gaza, a group of friends of Vittorio Arrigoni, whose murder in Gaza last month devastated many Palestinian and international friends. These friends came together to commemorate Vittorio’s work in Gaza and to assure its people of their solidarity. According to Lutz, Vittorio Arrigoni, along with people in Gaza, had been waiting for the Irene. She said that some weeks before the boat’s furtive departure from Famagusts, Vittorio had emailed her, writing “Yallah, when is the Jewish boat coming?” Nizar Aiyash, chairman of the Fishermen’s Syndicate, spoke to Edith Lutz, saying “We support your mission and thank you very much for your intention to sail to Gaza. We strongly wish and hope that the next Jewish Boat will  [ excess length trimmed ]

Claudia 4 July 2011 - 12:14pm / Netherlands

Yeah right, crisis! lol... even the red cross denies this crisis: and here You can Copy and Paste as much as you want, but there is no crisis anyway as long as the palestinians can spend 280000usd for each missile like this:,7340,L-4002366,00.html

MORGTAR 4 July 2011 - 5:15pm

Don’t let Israel export the blockade of Gaza to Greece Free Gaza Movement Contact: London: Alex Harrison, 07594 857448 Mary Thomas, 07542 358318 Munir Nuseibah, 07521 378029 (Arabic) London, 3 July 2011 - On Monday the 4th of July at 12:30 activists from Free Gaza, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Friends of Al Aqsa, Britain to Gaza, Palestine Forum in Britain, and Action Palestine will go to the Greek Embassy, 1A Holland Park, London W11 3TP with a request to see HE Mr Aristidis C Sandis. We will deliver a letter from the above groups demanding the release of the Freedom Flotilla boats to Gaza. We are calling for you to join us! July 4th 12:30 pm: Embassy of Greece, 1A Holland Park, London W11 3TP Following the intense pressure from the United States and Israeli governments, Greece has announced that they will prevent the sailing of Freedom Flotilla II - Stay Human boats to Gaza. This goes directly against international law, and means that Greece, a member of the EU alongside Britain, is now directly complicit in the immense suffering caused by the illegal blockade of Gaza. This is totally unacceptable. The captain of the US boat has been arrested, and is now held in jail for trying to sail out of the Greek port. Join us on Monday 4th July at 12:30pm at the Greek Embassy in London to deliver a letter to the Greek Ambassador, demanding free and immediate passage of the peaceful civilian boats out of the port. We need to make clear to Greek Ambassador that we will not accept this severe breach of the rights of the passengers on the boats, and the population of Gaza. press release to follow: For Immediate Release:  [ excess length deleted ]

MORGTAR 4 July 2011 - 7:23am

shame on me what inciting antisemitism. yes we know that song when we tell the truth about israel we are antesemit and the all blabla am juste telling the truth Israel used white phosphorus in Gaza civilian areas Lumps of still smouldering white phosphorus found in Gaza City © Amnesty International 19 January 2009 The Israeli army used white phosphorus, a weapon with a highly incendiary effect, in densely populated civilian residential areas of Gaza City, according to indisputable evidence found an Amnesty International fact-finding team which reached the area last Saturday. When white phosphorus lands on skin it burns deeply through muscle and into the bone, continuing to burn until deprived of oxygen. Amnesty International’s delegates found still-burning white phosphorus wedges all around residential buildings on Sunday. These wedges were further endangering the residents and their property; streets and alleys are full of children playing, drawn to the detritus of war and often unaware of the danger. The carrier shells which delivered the wedges were also still lying in and around houses and buildings. Some of these heavy steel 155mm shells have caused extensive damage to residential properties. "Yesterday, we saw streets and alleyways littered with evidence of the use of white phosphorus, including still burning wedges and the remnants of the shells and canisters fired by the Israeli army," said Christopher Cobb-Smith, a weapons expert who is in Gaza as part of the four-person Amnesty  [excess length deleted]

MORGTAR 3 July 2011 - 11:06pm

Zionism and Nazism An excerpt from our book "The Kingdom of Zion". Presented by: Annwn Publications P O Box 28 Malanda, QLD, Australia, 4885 Fax: 0740 965 620 Email Address: Internet Address: Copyright 1999 (c) by J.S. Chiappalone Zionism and Nazism Zionism and Nazism actually have a great deal in common. They are a desire for national identity, national socialism, "self-determination", and "freedom" from those who might be called "troublemakers". In fact, they are both philosophies of imagined racial superiority and purity, which have rationalized all of their actions in the name of some greater "good". And, they each conceal a deeper evil at their core. Tracing the start of Nazism in Germany, historian David Irving observed, "As Goebbels orchestrated the rise of the Nazi party, part of the problem ... was that much of what he said was true. The Jewish community not only dominated the legal and medical professions in Berlin, they also dominated ... crime, ... drug dealing and narcotics. Moreover, three-quarters of the pickpockets in Berlin were Jewish". Irving adds, "In every new scandal in Berlin, it seemed, Jews were at the base of it - ripping off the banks, ripping off the taxpayers, and ripping off the government. And again and again, they seemed to be getting off scot-free". "Goebbels repeatedly explained to foreign diplomats that the problem there was the usual one, in which the Jewish population disproportionately controlled all the lucrative professions." Goebbels, who respected Jews as he grew up, eventually came to hate them; he became the author of "the final solution". As Irving points out, it was "not Adolf Hitler nor any of the other Nazis". The Nazis were quite aware of the real problems that existed in Germany, but they kept acting and over-reacting in the wrong ways. Irving says, "We must not overlook the fact that the world's Jewish community lost no time in striking at Nazi Germany. We all too readily talk about the book-burning and about the Nazi boycott against the Jews as if those things happened in a  [excess length deleted]

ZG 4 July 2011 - 5:33am / canada

You call David Irving a historian? He is a convicted Nazi holocaust denier who was refused entrance to among others-Canada- for disseminating antisemitic lies and hatred.
If there is any similarities between global ideologies, it would be Nazism and Islam-both vying for global dominance and suprimacy at the exclusion and expense of anyone else.

ZG 4 July 2011 - 5:33am / canada

You call David Irving a historian? He is a convicted Nazi holocaust denier who was refused entrance to among others-Canada- for disseminating antisemitic lies and hatred.
If there is any similarities between global ideologies, it would be Nazism and Islam-both vying for global dominance and suprimacy at the exclusion and expense of anyone else.

MORGTAR 3 July 2011 - 11:02pm

GENOCIDE IN GAZA: Heinsohn’s Proxy War Against The Palestinians “The atrocities committed by Israel is a genocide of a conquered people. Gaza is a concentration camp and no amount of PR can reduce the magnitude of this horrible crime against humanity and decency”.[1] The ‘Youth Bulge’ theory that Gunnar Heinsohn feverishly promotes is far from legitimate in an analysis of any society, let alone a society like Gaza, which is riddled with poverty and war and whose citizens, as a result of the illegal Israeli occupation, have no freedom of movement. The theory suggests that in countries where at least 30% of the male population is aged between 15-29, there is a tendency for these young men to “eliminate each other or get killed in aggressive wars until a balance is reached between their ambitions and the number of acceptable positions available in their society.”[2] Even at first glance, this theory is clearly far too reductionistic and does not take into consideration the many complicated and interrelated factors that determine the make up of Palestinian society – for instance, the overriding impact of the Occupation on the very possibility of ‘acceptable positions’ in the first place. It is interesting to note that the ‘youth bulge’ theory has become highly influential on US Foreign policy with two key consultants to the US Government, Jack Goldstone and  [excess lenth deleted]

Alice Benson 30 June 2011 - 12:36pm / UK

THis flotilla is far from being a peaceful, humanitarian effort to support the Palestinians in Gaza. It should instead be seen as a major, pro-Hamas effort to delegitimize Israel by a "red-green alliance" of leftists and Islamists.

Alice Benson 30 June 2011 - 12:34pm / UK

It is coordinated by Muhammad Sawalha, a senior UK-based Muslim Brotherhood figure connected to Hamas. Many of the participating organizations can be directly linked with the Union of Good (UoG), a coalition of European charities affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, which in 2008 was designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. Treasury for transferring funds to Hamas. The UoG was initiated by Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood on a global scale, shortly after the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000.

Lewis 29 June 2011 - 5:23pm / NL/UK

On 27 December 2008, Israel launched 'Operation: Cast Lead' on the Gaza Strip.

Only 25 miles long, three miles wide and home to 1.5 million Palestinians, the Gaza Strip has suffered under an ongoing blockade by Israel.

During the bombardment, the population had nowhere to flee, and within Gaza, there was nowhere safe to go. After more than three weeks of military attack from the land, air and sea against the people of Gaza - one of the most densely populated places on earth - approximately 1400 Palestinians were killed. Of these, more than 400 were children. More than 5,300 people have been left with serious injuries, many of which have resulted in disability, which will require long-term rehabilitation and support. Medical staff did not escape the carnage; scores were injured and twenty-two paramedics were killed when ambulances were hit.

Over 100,000 people lost their homes and the UN puts the damage to infrastructure at $2 billion.

Babs 29 June 2011 - 6:58pm

Firstly, you make no mention of WHY Israel launched Cast Lead, and what had led up to it. Since the disengagement in 2005, approximately 5,700 rockets and 4,000 mortar shells have been fired from Gaza into Israel. Hamas operatives fired over 2,000 rockets and 1,600 mortar shells in 2008 alone. These were acts of war, yet Israel stayed her hand. What would you want your government to do if your neighbour launched missiles at you?

It's a shame when any civilians are killed, but Hamas' strategy being "if it bleeds it leads" made sure that its rocket launchers were put in children's playgrounds, and used its women, elderly and children as human shields, see Do you think this creature had the right to impose his poisonous philosophy of loving death more than life on little children?

See also

Children suffer in every war, and Hamas' attacks on Israeli civilians before and during Cast Lead were particularly reprehensible because it meant its own children to suffer in order to help it score propaganda points.

See also

Babs 29 June 2011 - 4:20pm

This is one reason why authorisation is not invariably given. Doubtless there have been others for similar reasons: Wafa Samir Ibrahim al-Biss is a 21 year old Palestinian woman, who lives in the Jabalya refugee camp in the Gaza strip. In January 2005 she suffered burns in a cooking accident in her home. She was admitted for treatment to the Soroka hospital in the Israeli town of Beer Sheva. She became an outpatient and was issued by the Israeli authorities with a special pass entitling her to cross into Israel to receive medical treatment. On 21 June 2005 she was arrested at the Erez crossing point, on her way out of Gaza and to Soroka, wearing 10 kgs of explosives in her underwear. On Israeli TV she admitted that she had planned to explode the bomb in the hospital where she was being treated. She stated that she had been recruited by the Fatah Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, and added that she had wanted to target as many children as possible (BBC worldwide website, 21 June 2005; Jerusalem Post 22 June; Israeli press statements, various). Dr Izzeldin Abuelish an obstetrician and gynaecologist from the Jabalya refugee camp in Gaza, who worked at the Soroka Hospital, published an open letter subsequently, in the Jerusalem Post on 24 June 2005, ".. I have nothing but praise for the doctors, nurses and other medical staff at Soroka hospital. They show compassion, sympathy and kindness. I was therefore extremely shocked and  [ excess length trimmed ]

Brad Brzezinski 29 June 2011 - 2:52pm / Canada

Testing for disappearing comments.

Frank Junior 29 June 2011 - 1:42pm

"No one in, no one out, literally."
How about the approximate 100,000 Gazans who enter Israel every year for medical treatment? How about the 250-300 truckloads of goods entering Gaza from Israel every day? Whatever difficulties Gaza is experiencing, they are caused by the Hamas government, not the Israelis. Time to start telling the truth.

user avatar
Eric Beauchemin 30 June 2011 - 7:56am / Netherlands

According to Israel, 10,544 patients and their companions left Gaza for medical treatment in Israel in 2009.

Denis MacEoin 29 June 2011 - 4:25pm / United Kingdom

Quite right. A senior Red Cross official has just stated that 'there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza'. A senior Palestinian official, Azzam al-Ahmed, has said exactly the same thing. What prisons have luxury cars? Shopping malls selling luxury goods? Luxury hotels? Fine restaurants? A rate of longevity higher than we have in some parts of the UK? There are poor parts of Gaza, but there are poor places not far from where I live. The UK is not an open-air prison. Nor is Gaza.

walt kovacs 29 June 2011 - 8:29am

i would love the reporter to please explain, if no one can get in or out of gaza...HOW IN THE HELL DID YOU VISIT ON TWO PRIOR OCCASIONS????

user avatar
Eric Beauchemin 29 June 2011 - 3:40pm / Netherlands

Hallo Walt,
Foreign journalists who have Israeli press cards are generally allowed in and out. International humanitarian aid workers also have access to the territory. But Gazans can only leave the territory if they need urgent medical treatment in Israel. The Israeli authorities do not always grant authorisation.

Gil 29 June 2011 - 9:08pm / Israel

Umm .. so you really meant "literally no one in, no one out, except for international aid workers and journalists." Don't you think that's significantly different? On a related note, thank you for the article. But now that you admit you were deceived by the "activists" any chance you'll rethink your general premise?

Brad Brzezinski 29 June 2011 - 4:03am / Canada

The reason for the blockade is that the Hamas government has declared itself to be at war with Israel and acts on this declaration with violence. In such circumstances inconveniences are to be expected.

What I do not understand is the determination of the activists that Gazan citizens must lead a normal life no matter what, even if this means preventing Israel from protecting itself.

Yos 29 June 2011 - 12:40am / UK

"tailoring business had been destroyed by the blockade."

You don't mention the over 12,000 rockets fired from Gaza into Israel or the israeli child who was killed recently by a Hamas anti-tank rocket fired at his school bus.

"No one in, no one out"

Mmm... You not heard about the hundreds of tunnels, and that Egypt has opened its border? The blockade is to inspect cargo before delivery. The missiles and mortars and other weaponry on the Karine A and recently the Victoria proves the Israelis have reason to fear.

I might have hoped for a less biased attitude from a journalist working for a public broadcaster.

fingal 28 June 2011 - 9:11pm

Um... didn't anyone tell you the border with Egypt is open? Didn't anyone tell you about the new five star hotel in this impoverished territory, and the shopping malls and water parks?

There is no siege. There is an embargo on importing weapons and things that could be used to make weapons, and I think the reasons for that are obvious and legitimate.

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