Handala Visits La Rochelle, France

On our way to La Rochelle, we were followed by the French Navy. After a while, they established a communication with Handala where they asked us a number of questions. After that, they left us as we kept our journey to our destination.

Also en route to La Rochelle, we were informed that we had no place to dock Handala. As we were approaching the destination, the local support group managed to find a harbour where we could be welcomed by the local support group. Unfortunately, this affected the welcoming organization on the ground, as people needed to move for a rally in a different harbour, but some managed to find the last minute location and came to Handala to welcome the boat, crew, and participants.

Reception for Handala.
Welcoming Handala to La Rochelle

The local support group invited the Handala crew to visit a mosque in the city center of La Rochelle. There, we had the opportunity to talk about Handala, about the Freedom Flotilla and exchange ideas and plans to support the ‘’For the Childrem of Gaza’’ campaign.

Local La Rochelle support group and Handala participants
La Rochelle Flotilla supporters and Handala participants

Later, we joined an open conversation about the Flotilla with members of several local Palestinian solidarity organizations. At the event, members of the FFC explained the flotilla’s mission and goals.

Fellipe Lopes, FFC representative, said: ‘’As long France keeps funding weapons to Israel, words won’t be enough. We need action from the French government. The French government must place sanctions on Israel and it must to be now’’.

Fellipe Lopes and John Turnbull from Handala speaking in La Rochelle

Due to port rules, access was restricted to a large group of people, but the community turned out to show their support for Handala.

Daniel Shunra, a participant from US said, “It is exciting to meet communities in solidarity with Palestine everywhere. It really entrenches the feeling that we are part of a worldwide movement, and that empathy with Palestinians and the struggle for Palestine connect us with each other. People come out to greet and support us, but we see it is something reciprocal, and from the feedback we get, we understand that people feel empowered by our mission to keep going. The struggle unites us all.”

Aoife Ní Mhurchú, a participant from Ireland, said, “Decades old activists and long time supporters of Palestine made every effort to meet with and spend time with Handala crew from arrival to departure. Mothers, fathers, children, neighbours, fisherpeople, seafarers, journalists, prior visitors to Palestine from near and far made us feel exceptionally welcomed and supported.”

We would like to thank the local support group for their welcome, support and care for our flotilla. This shows that despite government policies, civil society believes in a Free Palestine.

Now off to Santander in Spain.