Written by Free Gaza Team
(Dundalk, Ireland, April 20, 2010) The 1200-ton cargo ship had been abandoned in July 2009, off the coast of Ireland. She was then impounded after an inspection by the International Transport Federation (ITF) discovered her owners had exploited their Lithuanian crewmembers - not paying their wages and subjecting them to humiliating treatment, and they had been left with just one day of food. The 42-year-old MV Linda languished for nine months, waiting in the port of Dundalk for just the right buyer to rescue her. http://www.flickr.com/photos/29205195@N02/
On March 31, 2010, the Free Gaza Movement bought her at auction for €70,000 and will send her to the imprisoned Palestinians of Gaza loaded with cement, paper, and medical equipment, all banned by Israel from this battered and bruised slice of the Mediterranean.
ITF Inspector and Union organizer Ken Fleming was ecstatic: “We are pleased to announce that this vessel which was used to subject workers to modern day slavery, will now be used to promote human rights for the people of Palestine”.
Added Derek Graham the bidder for Free Gaza and one of the organizers of the flotilla, "We are doing this to show the people of Gaza that they are not alone. There's nothing going into Gaza, no aid. We are prepared to run the blockade to try and get aid in. We have done it before. Out of eight previous attempts, five were successful.”
The Free Gaza Movement along with the Turkish humanitarian organization, IHH, the European Campaign to End the Siege of Gaza and the Greek and Swedish Boat to Gaza organizations will sail 8 boats loaded with building supplies as well as taking 600 passengers and journalists at the end of May.
As the people from the town of Dundalk work on her every day, painting her, guarding her and collecting cargo, they have a vested interest in what was once a lonely and abandoned vessel, now slowly coming to life under their care. The ship has been renamed the MV Rachel Corrie, in memory of the 23-year-old solidarity activist crushed to death in 2003 by an Israeli military bulldozer as she attempted to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home in Gaza.
On May Day weekend, a mini convoy of vans loaded with medical supplies from eight different cities in Ireland and England will be delivering and loading these badly-needed supplies on the ship. The people of Norway have donated more than 6 tons of paper and school supplies with a goal of 25 tons to be loaded as cargo. Israel refuses to allow paper and supplies in for the children.
One of Free Gaza’s organizers, Caoimhe Butterly, stated, " The public response to the cargo ship has been immense, and we hope that in the remaining three weeks before we set sail, communities across Ireland will continue to mobilize and gather supplies. The humanitarian crisis in Gaza is a symptom of Israel’s siege and Occupation, and this flotilla will spot-light the devastating collective punishment that is being imposed on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip."
With everyone’s help, the MV Rachel Corrie will be painted, outfitted, then filled with cargo and ready to leave shortly after May Day, a testimony to civil society doing what governments have refused to do…alleviate the suffering of the people of Gaza. Your donations for supplies are still vitally needed. You can earmark your donation for cement or school books and send through our donate page at http://www.freegaza.org/en/donate.
Greta Berlin, France, 0033 63 142 7577, Iristulip@gmail.com
Israel navy braced to intercept next Gaza aid ship
(Reuters) - Activists vowed on Tuesday to try to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza with another ship, and an Israeli officer pledged to halt it, setting the stage for a fresh confrontation after Monday's deadly clash.
The MV Rachel Corrie, a converted merchant ship bought by pro-Palestinian activists and named after an American woman killed in the Gaza Strip in 2003, set off Monday from Malta, organizers said. "We are an initiative to break Israel's blockade of 1.5 million people in Gaza. Our mission has not changed and this is not going to be the last flotilla," Free Gaza Movement activist Greta Berlin, based in Cyprus, told Reuters.
Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen described the vessel as Irish-owned and said it should be allowed to finish its mission. The ship was carrying 15 activists including a northern Irish Nobel Peace laureate.
"The government has formally requested the Israeli government to allow the Irish-owned ship ... to be allowed to complete its journey unimpeded and discharge its humanitarian cargo in Gaza," Cowen told parliament in Dublin.
An Israeli marine lieutenant, who was not identified, told Israel's Army Radio his unit was prepared to block the ship.
"We as a unit are studying, and we will carry out professional investigations to reach conclusions," the lieutenant said, referring to Monday's confrontation in which his unit shot nine activists aboard a Turkish ferry.
"And we will also be ready for the Rachel Corrie," he added.
Passengers include Northern Irish Nobel peace laureate Mairead Corrigan-Maguire and Denis Halliday, an Irish former senior UN diplomat, and several other Irish citizens.
Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin told parliament he had spoken with Halliday Tuesday afternoon.
"We will be watching this situation very closely -- as indeed will the world -- and it is imperative that Israel avoid any action which leads to further bloodshed," Martin said.
Israel's Army Radio reported that the ship would reach Gazan waters by Wednesday, but activist Berlin said it might not attempt to reach Gaza until early next week.
"We will probably not send her till (next) Monday or Tuesday," she said of the 1,200 ton cargo ship. The Israeli navy stormed aboard a Turkish ferry leading a six-ship convoy Monday, killing nine people in what authorities said was self-defense but sparking a world outcry, a crisis in diplomatic relations with Turkey and condemnation from the United Nations Security Council.
The Rachel Corrie was carrying medical equipment, wheelchairs, school supplies and cement, a material Israel has banned in Hamas-ruled Gaza, organizers said.
Mark Daly, a member of Ireland's upper house of parliament who had been due to join the convoy but was refused permission to leave Cyprus, told Reuters in Dublin that the ship had fallen behind the rest of the convoy because it was slower.
Passengers aboard it had heard about the attacks but decided not to turn back, he said.
"After having a discussion among themselves about what to do, they decided to keep going," Daly said.