A big thank you to Cardiff PSC for greeting Handala so warmly and for organizing the numerous meaningful events! Again, it was a delight to be greeted with flags, cheers and Free Palestine chants as we approached and entered the lock on Cardiff’s barrage.
Shortly after our arrival we held multiple interviews, including one television interview in Welsh with skipper Clive Haswell and on the BBC radio in English (Starting at 0:51 at https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m001nldy).
We were honored to meet in the Senedd where we were welcomed by member of the Senedd Heledd Fychan and received messages from multiple members of the Senedd who spoke about their concern and support for Palestinian human rights. The Cardiff Reds Choir opened with a lovely a cappella performance in Welsh translated from Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech.
Zohar Chamberlain Regev, who has been aboard the ship, explained the Freedom Flotilla objectives and explained the boat’s name: Handala (in Arabic حنظلة), “after the character created by Naji Al-Ali, challenging the illegal and inhuman blockade imposed by Israel on the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip since 2007.
“In 2023 we will visit many northern European ports among them the port of Cardiff. Our aims are to raise awareness about the systematic violation of human rights and international law committed by Israel and gather support for our non-violent direct action.
“Our goal is to reach Gaza in 2024, but we know that lifting the blockade and securing justice and freedom for Palestine requires first and foremost a public outcry against the complicity of the international community with Israel’s war crimes.”
The next day we attended a Cardiff PSC organized emergency demonstration entitled “Hands off Jenin” after the July 3 killing of 12 Palestinians in a military raid by Israeli drones and more than 1,000 Israeli troops on a refugee camp of 14,000 inhabitants (https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/why-is-israel-attacking-jenin-west-bank-operation-explained-2023-07-04/). Several speakers shared their experiences and commitment to ending the oppression and violation of Palestinian human rights in front of the statue of Aneurin Bevan and across from the castle wall. Speakers included local members of Cardiff PSC, the National Education Union: Wales International Solidarity Network in solidarity with Palestine, and members of the Freedom Flotilla. Mairead Canavan of the National Education Union shared words she had received from Jenin:
“We are not ok! They bombed homes, we are running outside, old people, women, some children are lost, we are sitting near hospitals in streets, no way to move, we could be shot! I don’t know about my brother. And huge numbers of children without families are sitting here! I wish I could explain but what is in the news is nothing compared with what is going here! If we just move, they shoot! We ran away without shoes, we just hope they don’t bomb the hospital and the places where we hide! We are in huge danger please do not leave us alone! All the world is silent! Dead bodies all over the camp no one knows them. Please please pray for us.”
The group then proceeded to march through town to the BBC offices across from the railway station to deliver a letter to the BBC elaborating on the problem of the BBC’s one-sided and misleading coverage of the crisis in Palestine/Israel.
That evening we were invited to a meeting at the Temple of Peace. Beth Winter MP, Summayya Ahmed a local Palestinian, and Zohar Chamberlain-Regev from the Freedom Flotilla Coalition spoke. They all spoke movingly about the situation in Palestine which has been so much worse recently and other members of the crew then came on stage and made additional comments.
On Sunday, Handala docked in Cardiff Bay in front of the Senedd building and local activists and members of the Freedom Flotilla shared information with passersby about the situation in Gaza and Palestine, and about the Freedom Flotilla.
Handala’s crew was treated to a lovely farewell dinner by the Cardiff team before heading out early the next morning to catch the tide for Bristol.