What is the Freedom Flotilla Coalition?
The Freedom Flotilla Coalition is composed of civil society organizations and initiatives from many countries. We have been challenging the illegal and inhumane Israeli blockade of Gaza since 2011 and are committed to continue the struggle until the blockade is unconditionally lifted and Palestinian people everywhere achieve their full rights, including the right to freedom of movement.
Why is the current Flotilla campaign named ‘For the Children of Gaza’?
Since most of the people in Gaza are children, it is important to highlight to the world that the blockade of Gaza affects them most. Palestinian children living in Gaza, as well as the West Bank and diaspora, have been denied basic human rights for decades. Those violations of rights, from freedom of movement to the right to return have been exacerbated for Palestinians in Gaza since 2006 because of Israel’s illegal occupation and blockade.
Where are the participating campaigns?
The Freedom Flotilla Coalition campaigns participating in the Flotilla include: Canadian Boat to Gaza, Freedom Flotilla Italia, My Care Malaysia, Kia Ora Gaza [New Zealand / Aotearoa], Ship to Gaza Norway, Palestine Solidarity Alliance [South Africa], Rumbo a Gaza [Spain], Ship to Gaza Sweden, IHH [Turkey], US Boats to Gaza, and the International Committee for Breaking the Siege of Gaza. Our partner organizations include the Palestine Solidarity Campaign [Britain], Free Gaza Australia and the Platform of NGOs for Palestine [France].
Is the Flotilla a non-violent initiative?
Our goal is to peacefully end the illegal Israeli blockade. Every initiative that the Freedom Flotilla Coalition has launched has been grounded theoretically and practically within the framework of non-violence. All of the participants in the last leg towards Gaza take part in a non-violence training course to assist them in preparing for being possibly attacked, hijacked, and imprisoned. We always choose to counter oppression using non-violent strategies. We do not carry any weapons. The only weapons that come onto our boat are those carried by coastguards, police and military personnel. For example, on 29 July and 3 August 2018 Israeli troops brought on board significant quantities of weapons when they violently attacked our boats and participants in international waters.
Why is the Israeli blockade of Gaza illegal?
Israel has occupied the Gaza Strip since 1967 and, as the occupying force, it is responsible for the well-being of the population within this territory (see UNGA resolution 64/94). In 2011, five independent UN human rights specialists reiterated that the blockade of Gaza is illegal (How can Israel’s blockade of Gaza be legal?) because of its disproportionate effects on the civilian Palestinian population. The United Nations warned that if the siege of Gaza continued, normal life would not be viable there as of 2020. The current limited access to safe water, sufficient food, electricity, medical supplies and treatment, and the exposure to periodic bombings all are part of Gaza being unlivable.
The current blockade has been imposed since 2006 by Israel and Egypt, with support from many international governments. The blockade restricts the movement of people and goods. By applying restrictive measures that affect the population as a whole, it violates Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits collective punishment. For more background, see the 2017 Report of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid), this report from the International Criminal Court (see p16 regarding Israel as occupying power), the UN report on the Question of Palestine and this report from Amnesty International about the blockade as collective punishment. Even Israeli NGOs like Gisha point out the legal responsibility of Israel towards the population of Gaza.
When and where will the next Flotilla boat sail?
The next Freedom Flotilla to Gaza (For the Children of Gaza) was postponed due to the Coronavirus (COVID 19) pandemic but has already started its voyage in northern Europe as of April 2023.
We will announce precise dates and ports as they are finalized. The For the Children of Gaza voyage is planned as a two year campaign – in 2023 the boat will travel to European ports, with its final leg towards Gaza in 2024.
Our 2023 goals are to maximize the outreach to communities that can help us bring pressure to bear on our complicit governments to end the blockade. Those include ports in European countries whose governments financially and politically support Israel while not holding it accountable for its human rights violations.
Information, including visuals about events, participants and visitors along the way will be recorded on this website, as well as on our social media sites, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Why is the boat called Handala?
Handala represents Palestinians and especially Palestinian children. Handala is the refugee child who, present in every cartoon, remains a potent symbol of the struggle of the Palestinian people for justice and self-determination. Since more than two thirds of the people in Gaza are Palestinian refugees and more than half of Gaza’s inhabitants are children, Handala seemed to perfectly represent this flotilla’s mission For the Children of Gaza.
In the past, Freedom Flotilla vessels have attempted to sail to Gaza; why not in 2023?
As communities emerge from Covid pandemic conditions in Europe and elsewhere, there is much work to be done in Europe to challenge the Israeli blockade. We need to focus public attention on our governments’ complicity with the brutal Israel apartheid regime that illegally confiscates boats and other private property in international waters. We aim to increase media attention and engagement with communities that can effect change in their countries’ support for Israeli human rights violations.
Is this really a Freedom Flotilla if you are not sailing to Gaza this year?
Absolutely! Our current voyage and boat are both headed towards Gaza. How we do that has changed over the years. Originally our boats headed directly from ports in the Mediterranean, in Greece or Turkey for example. More recently our boats made numerous educational and solidarity-building stops across several European countries before then heading towards Gaza. We are continuing that trend, now with a time frame that spans more than one calendar year.
Who will be on board?
We select participants from different countries and welcome representatives from civil society, including politicians, activists, journalists, trade union leaders, artists, academics, faith leaders and students for different legs of the journey. Their biographies will be posted on our website under Participants. See previous participants from 2018 and from the 2016 Women’s Boat to Gaza.
When you stop at ports, do local people participate?
Yes. We will stop at a number of ports and in most of these there will be public outreach events. Here is information on the first event for Children of Gaza flotilla. Please contact the campaign nearest to you for details of how you can get involved. See some examples of port stops from 2018.
Do the Flotilla boats take aid to Gaza?
Our For the Children of Gaza flotilla is a solidarity mission, not an aid mission. Most Palestinians in Gaza are dependent on aid because of political decisions by our governments who are complicit with the blockade. While it is vital that organizations like UNRWA continue to deliver aid to Gaza, this is not the role of an activist coalition like ours: our goal is to end the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza, not make it slightly more tolerable. Having said this, it seems appropriate to bring some medical supplies and so we will be guided by requests that our partners in Gaza may communicate to us. Of course, we know that we cannot meet the huge and ongoing medical needs in Gaza today. The only sustainable way to ensure that Palestinian people in Gaza receive the medical treatment they deserve is to end the blockade, permanently and unconditionally. When Palestinians achieve full freedom of movement, they will no longer need international aid.
On this mission we have partnered with the Gaza Surf Project and are planning to transport some surf lifesaving equipment aboard our boat.
Other than these supplies, the Flotilla boat will only be transporting the participants (including media) along with the hopes of an ever-growing international community to end the blockade. We hope that upon reaching the shores of Gaza, this voyage will open the channels for others to travel to Palestine and more importantly, for the Palestinian people to use their own territorial waters for fishing, other maritime resources, travel, exports and imports. While our most important cargo is always human solidarity, we also plan to give our boat to fishers’ organizations in the local community who have been our partners since our previous Solidarity with Gaza Fishers campaign.
Are there any risks for participants?
There are always risks whenever the illegal actions of the Israeli Occupation Forces are challenged, especially since our governments fail to hold Israel accountable for its violent actions against civilians. However, these risks are minimal compared with those faced every day by Palestinian people in Gaza, who have no choice whether or not they live in an occupied territory that is regularly attacked. Since our missions often face a “media blockade” with a failure to report violence by Israeli forces, you can play an important role as “passengers on land”. This includes acting as “life preservers” for those on board: you can help by pressing local, national and international media to cover our voyage, and demanding that politicians speak out for the safety of our participants and for the rights of Palestinians in Gaza. The more eyes, ears and keyboards follow our mission, the safer our participants will be and the better the outcomes for the Palestinian people of Gaza.
How is the For the Children of Gaza Flotilla boat funded?
Each of the participating campaigns is raising funds by connecting with individuals and organizations who support our efforts. The Freedom Flotilla Coalition is a network of grassroots civil society individuals and groups and is not affiliated with any political party. Please find a link to donate here – any amount is welcome, no matter how small.
Does the Freedom Flotilla Coalition support the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement?
Yes. Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) is a Palestinian-led, non-violent global movement for freedom, justice and equality. BDS upholds the simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity. Freedom Flotilla Coalition partners support the Palestinian call for Boycott Divestment Sanctions. Please go to individual partner pages for information and activities in your area or find a BDS campaign near you.
You say your campaign supports the full rights of the Palestinian people: What are they?
While our focus is on opposing the illegal blockade against the Palestinian people of Gaza, we see this in the larger context of supporting the right to freedom of movement for all Palestinians. The Israeli occupation violates daily the human rights of Palestinians to move freely around their country, as well as to leave and return to their country. We also support other broad-based demands for Palestinian rights based on International Law, including:
- Ending the Israeli occupation and colonization of all Palestinian land and dismantling the Apartheid Wall in line with the 2004 opinion of the International Court of Justice;
- Recognizing the fundamental rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel to equality; and
- Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194 of 11 December 1948.
For information about the devastating effects of the blockade, see information on ‘Life In Gaza‘.
Why is the For the Children of Gaza flotilla challenging the Israeli blockade by sea?
International civil society organizations have been challenging the illegal Israeli land and naval blockade of Gaza in a variety of ways since 2007. While other organizations have importantly focused on challenging the land blockade, the Freedom Flotilla Coalition challenges the Israeli blockade by sea to draw attention to the effects that this has on Palestinian people in Gaza, including: Palestinian fishers in Gaza, who are frequently shot at by the Israeli Navy while trying to provide for their families and the general population, and Palestinian people denied their ability to trade and travel via the port of Gaza.
How does this Freedom Flotilla mission relate to the current refugee crisis and the many people traveling across the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe?
We believe that the refugee crisis stems in part from a lack of political will to solve situations which force people to leave their homes in search of safety. The Palestinian people of Gaza do not even have the option to set sail towards freedom, as the Israeli Occupation Forces blockade their access to the Mediterranean Sea. Let us not forget that more than five million of the world’s refugees are Palestinians, including 70% of Palestinians living in Gaza.
How can I support the campaign?
There are many ways – click here for details.