Friday, July 8, 2011

How It went Down: On board the Tahrir

How It went Down: On board the Tahrir: "

Through it all--and by "all" I mean getting boarded by the Greek Special Forces on the high seas as the Tahrir attempted to leave Agios Nikolaos bound for Gaza--I was struck by the humanity of the Greek Special Forces. These were the same men who had been sitting at the marina, under an umbrella, cracking jokes with us for days.

When the shit hit the fan, sure, they didn't suddenly see the humanity of our mission, put down their guns, place flowers in their hair and escort us to Gaza. It's easy to say that they were the enemy. Period. Perhaps harder is to appreciate that the Tahrir was loaded with people, many of them senior citizens. No one was beaten. No one was tasered. No one was tear gassed. And yes, they did try to soak us with a water cannon. And yes, they did seize our boat with M-16s. But, to paraphrase the motto of this Freedom Flotilla II campaign; they Stayed Human.

I was also struck by the power of peaceful activism. In an extremely tense situation, not a hand was raised. Barely an oath was uttered, even though a year of work, for some, was ending eight nautical miles from shore. Palestine was on the mind, and the general mood was of anger, but a slow-burn anger, tempered by peace and calm, which will not extinguish itself with one simple act of piracy.

The Greeks broke the Tahrir's diesel tanks when they rammed her into port, but already the steering committee is planning and mulling over the next Freedom Flotilla.

I'm sorry that we're not sailing to Gaza right now. And I'm sorry that Peaceful Waters Trading Co. ends for the moment in Agios Nikolaos. But as Bob Lovelace says, "Keep the long view." While we are not the end of the road, we are still a brick in the path.

And before somebody adds some stupid comment to this, letting the world know how some guy with a supposedly fearsome Middle-Eastern name from Hamas is ostensibly behind the whole Freedom Flotilla II, I would ask you to remember three things.

First, the Israeli PR spin machine took huge hits during this campaign. From charges of chemical weapons, to 'no gays allowed', to harbouring terrorists in our midst, time and again these allegations were debased as false. In some cases, the lunacy of the charges was even admitted to by Israeli members of parliament themselves.

Second, the world got to see the outsourcing of Israeli and American foreign policy onto Greece. That in itself is valuable information, and Demir has already invited the Flotilla movement to his Turkish house for next year.

Third, and more important, this movement is not about government-to-government. This was always about person-to-person, and will continue until Palestine is free.

Around my dinner table, at the end of a rousing Passover seder, we all used to toast and say "Next Year in Jerusalem!" That's all well and good, but next year in Gaza. If not sooner.

Miles will be reporting regularly to the Halifax Media Co-op from the Canadian Boat to Gaza. Visit Dispatches from the Tahrir for updates.


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