Photographs courtesy of Dennis and Natasha
Wednesday 29 June 2011. Westminster got a flavour of the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza today as campaigners from the Free Gaza movement and OneWorld sailed along the Thames to Parliament to deliver the message ‘Freedom for Palestine.’
Thanks to Seymour for the video
Freedom Flotilla 2, dubbed “Stay Human”, is sailing to the Gaza Strip this weekend in defiance of the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza. At least 10 ships, with others to follow later, intend to set sail from the rendezvous in Greece.
As the flotilla gathered in the Mediterranean, UK activists took their own boat across London’s River Thames to display a banner outside the Houses of Parliament demanding “Freedom for Palestine”, which is also the title of a hit song poised for official release on Sunday.
Draped in a huge Palestinian flag, and pumping out the online hit ‘Freedom for Palestine’ by OneWorld, the boat packed with campaigners, supporters and members of the press sailed from the Festival Pier to the Houses of Parliament. The aim was to raise awareness and to build support for the Freedom Flotilla currently preparing to sail to Gaza in order to break the illegal Israeli siege on the coastal fragment of Palestine which has been ongoing for years.
Palestinian author Ghada Karmi and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas were among supporters on board. Ms. Lucas, a visitor to Palestine, paid tribute to the activists on the flotilla: “It’s hard not to be aware of Palestine when it’s the root of so many injustices in the Middle East today.”
Also on board were representatives from War on Want, A Just Peace for Palestine, Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JfJfP), Friends of Al Aqsa, Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions UK (ICAHD UK), Stop the War Coalition and Trust Greenbelt.
Caroline Lucas is among a growing number of MPs who have endorsed the flotilla. Others include Sir Gerald Kaufman, Jim Dowd, Joan Ruddock, Bob Russell Alex Cunningham, Jeremy Corbyn, Karen Buck, John Leech, Cathy Jamieson, Ian Lavery, Emily Thornberry and Marsh Singh.
“Gaza remains under a siege which impacts on everything from vital health care to the economy. Freedom Flotilla 2 is a reminder to the Israeli authorities that some of us will continue to challenge this and other human rights violations. It is also an act of solidarity with the Palestinian people. I support the flotilla’s peaceful actions to break the illegal siege and to fight for justice and freedom.”
Russell, who earlier this month visited the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, said: “The record Freedom for Palestine will hopefully draw the
attention of the world to what is happening to the Palestinian people. I wish
Godspeed and good luck to those who will be embarking on the flotilla to Gaza.”
Across on the bank on the Parliament terrace, a number of people waved and cheered as did others who could see the boat from Westminster Bridge. As the boat turned around and headed back, huge banners were dropped from Westminster Bridge that read “Freedom for Palestine” and “End the Siege in Gaza.”
The single Freedom for Palestine was launched under the musicians’ name
OneWorld for pre-orders on 31 May, the anniversary of the Israeli raid on the
first Gaza flotilla, in which Israeli troops killed nine activists and injured
more than fifty others.
Freedom for Palestine is available to purchase from HMV Digital and iTunes with all profits going to War on Want for projects in Palestine. But the popular song is more than just a catchy tune; it’s an act of solidarity with the people in Palestine as well as a political statement.
Getting the track into the charts would help break the media silence on Palestine and make this an issue the UK media (and government) can’t ignore. So far, over 250,000 people have viewed the OneWorld Freedom for Palestine music video.
The song has been endorsed by South African human rights activist Archbishop
Desmond Tutu and personalities including musicians Roger Waters, Billy Bragg,
Robert del Naja (Massive Attack), Lowkey and Sami Yusuf, filmmaker Ken Loach, actor Julie Christie, writers Benjamin Zephaniah, Alice Walker, and
comedian Mark Thomas. The ethical cosmetics company ‘Lush’ has also backed the single.
OneWorld features Dave Randall (Faithless/Slovo), Jamie Catto (1 Giant Leap), Maxi Jazz (Faithless), LSK, the Durban Gospel Choir and musicians from around the globe. Randall said:
“We are doing this musical stunt today in solidarity with the flotilla, which is taking vital aid to besieged Palestinians in Gaza. We need to break the siege of Gaza, but also break the silence on Palestine in the UK and hope that the Freedom for Palestine single will do just that. If Freedom for Palestine gets into the charts it would send a message to all those who lend economic or political support to Israel, that a critical mass of people in the UK want to see an end to the Israeli occupation.”
A police boat tailed along behind. Unlike the Zionist pirates in international waters last year, the police did not board the vessel while sailing. They later
visited dockside and posed for photographs.
In 2010, Israeli commandos boarded the first Freedom Flotilla and killed nine peace activists on board the Turkish aid ship Mavi Marmara.