The Freedom Flotilla 2023 took to the seas again in a 58-foot converted Norwegian fishing boat called Handala! Halted by COVID for a few years, the Gaza Freedom Flotilla sailed this summer in northern Europe. With port visits in Norway, the UK, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and Sweden the Freedom Flotilla Coalition did educational events with local Palestinian solidarity organizers. In 2024, Handala will sail to Gaza with educational port visits in Europe and the Mediterranean with a final push to Gaza to break the illegal Israeli blockade!
Handala has handled the sea well, coming across the North Sea in high seas from Oslo to Scotland in mid-June. A 200-year old broken bridge in the Caledonian Canal in the Scottish Highlands halted her progress for several days, but the crew was warmly welcomed by all who passed the locks! Unfortunately, the delay caused cancellation of stops in Glasgow, Dublin and Waterford, but Freedom Flotilla members and local Palestine Solidarity groups held wonderful and well-attended events in the other stops.
One silver lining from being stuck at Laggan Locks in Scotland, was meeting a captain from Inverness, more than an hour away. He is a member of a Palestinian solidarity group and was thrilled to meet us. By great fortune, when he learned Handala needed a captain for an upcoming leg of our trip he introduced us to one! He was both an excellent captain and engineer!
So many have supported the journey along the way. A doctor in Fort William, Scotland graciously brought us multiple dinners and groceries. He has done medical training in Gaza, the West Bank, and Rwanda. A merchant along the canal gave crew members free dinners when he learned about Handala and our efforts to break Israel’s illegal blockade.
Four Scottish border police officers came aboard in the middle of Scotland, divided us, interrogated the crew and inspected the boat. A local told us that in all the years he had worked there he’d never seen the border police come. It turned out to be a great way to attract local attention and solidarity!
Throughout the UK, local Palestine Solidarity Campaigns (PSCs) have been great. We were greeted in Liverpool by the local PSC who had organized events where local officials, firefighters, union organizers, and others spoke about their solidarity work for Palestine. We also had an event at the oldest mosque in Britain where Alex McDonald from Houston, a US Boats to Gaza steering committee member spoke after prayers; later we were part of a panel in an event at a local church. The outreach in Liverpool was excellent!
Cardiff PSC also welcomed us as we approached the lock. Seeing banners and Palestinian solidarity signs in both English and Welsh was impressive! As soon as Handala docked, a local TV station interviewed captain Clive Haswell in Welsh and later he had an English radio interview on BBC. Good exposure for the campaign!
Cardiff organized a demonstration downtown in response to the violent attack on the Jenin refugee camp by more than a thousand Israeli troops. We marched with their solidarity group through the town to the BBC offices to deliver a letter condemning their biased coverage of the Israeli/Palestinian situation.
There have been further stops in Bristol and Southampton England as well as Rotterdam, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Halmstad, Gothenburg, and Oslo.
US Boats to Gaza was well represented in the flotilla’s crew. Alex McDonald and Tighe Barry sailed with Handala from Oslo, through Scotland. Alex continued to Cardiff and Bristol. Ann Wright was part of the ground crew in Liverpool. Kit Kittredge and Keith Meyers represented the Freedom Flotilla at the events in Waterford, Ireland. All US Boats to Gaza volunteers paid their own expenses and we have incredible gratitude for their efforts.
Thank you for your continuing support in raising awareness of the situation in Gaza, and in holding our governments accountable for their complicity in the violations of Palestinian human rights! We join together globally to let Palestinians know that they are not forgotten or alone!
You can see more details of each of the port visits (including pictures and videos) at: https://freedomflotilla.org/freedom-flotilla-ports/
or some inspiring photos on the Facebook https://www.facebook.com/FreedomFlotillaCoalition/ and https://twitter.com/GazaFFlotilla.
Please continue to donate to the 2024 Gaza Flotilla through our US Boats to Gaza donation link.