One small ship with ten passengers including crew [apparently all Jewish, and some are Israeli] quietly set sail, announcing its move only after departure this afternoon, apparently from a port in Cyprus.
This is the so-called “Jewish boat”, or “Jewish flotilla”, which was previously rumored to be much bigger…
The Jerusalem Post says the ship sailed from northern Cyprus, where the Turkish community has been protected, since 1974, by Turkish troops [which have become a settler community as well as an occupation force], heading in the direction of Gaza. Turkey is virtually the only country to recognize the Turkish Government of Northern Cyprus.
CORRECTION: The authorities in the internationally-recognized Republic of Cyprus [in the southern part of the island] were NOT apparently unaware of the departure. Marine Police apparently followed the boat out of the harbor, and boarded it at sea.
They previously vowed to prevent any ship from sailing from the island’s ports with the stated destination of Gaza, which they say is not an official destination. But, a photo published by the expedition’s organizers shows Cypriot police on board the boat, and a caption states that the Irene was allowed to leave on the condition that it “never come back”:
Photo from the Jewish Boat to Gaza website here:
Still trying to check, but it seems that the photo above shows North Cypriot police, while photo below, posted overnight on the Jewish Boat to Gaza’s new Facebook site, apparently shows an un-uniformed Greek Cypriot Coast Guard subsequently intercepting the boat
Gaza’s maritime space is under an announced Israeli naval blockade, and Israel has vowed to prevent any breach of this blockade.
The ship, the Irene, is reportedly flying the British flag.
There are still British bases on Cyprus, and a long-standing UN peacekeeping operation which observes the line of demarcation between the Turkish and Greek sides of the divided island.
UPDATE: Marion Kozak, mother of Ed Milibrand, the newly-elected leader of the Labour Party in Britain [who ran against and defeated his older brother David Milibrand, Britain’s Foreign Secretary for three years, and still a MP — so she’s his mother, too], happens to be a member of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, one of the groups backing this expedition. The Jerusalem Post has a story, here, which highlights the support of prominent British Jews for the group, as well as the group’s use of a quote from Rabbi Hillel [see below] as their political solgan…
One of the organizers, Richard Kuper of the British group, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, part of the coalition mounting this expedition, said that the ship “won’t resist if the Israelis try to stop it”.
On a new press release posted on the main page of the Jewish Boat to Gaza’s website, here, Kuper is quoted as saying: “This is a nonviolent action. We aim to reach Gaza, but our activists will not engage in any physical confrontation and will therefore not present the Israelis with any reason or excuse to use physical force or assault them”.
On 31 May, an Israeli naval assault at sea on six boats in a Freedom Flotilla left nine men dead on board the 600-passenger Mavi Marmara, including a 19-year-old American living in Turkey. The Mavi Marmara was one of three boats contributed by the Turkish humanitarian relief organization, IHH, which Israel says made deliberate preparations for a confrontation with its forces.
Since that Flotilla fiasco, Israel’s military has changed the regime of restrictions it imposes on goods getting into Gaza, as Major-General Eitan Dangot, head of the military’s COGAT [Coordinator of (Israeli) Government Activities in the (Palestinian) Territories] department, explained in an interview which we posted about here. Dangot said that before, only items on a [secret] list were permitted into Gaza. Now, everything is supposedly allowed in — except those items on new military lists. (Nothing is currently getting out of Gaza, though the Israeli military keeps saying this is under consideration.)