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Israeli gunboats surrounded the French ship Dignity

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Guest DC Indy

Here is the official press release issued by the crew of the US Boat to Gaza, the Audacity of Hope, concerning the interception of the French ship Dignity.For Immediate Release: July 19, 2011


Dignite Represents The Audacity of Hope and the rest of Freedom Flotilla II


July 19, 2011: At 3:30 am (EDT) today, several Israeli naval ships stopped the French-flagged ship Dignite/Al Karama while on the last leg of its voyage to Gaza. The small boat with 16 people was approximately 40 miles away from Gaza, very much in international waters. By 6 am the Israeli military had taken control of the boat and was bringing it to the Israel port of Ashdod, where the people on the boat would be arrested. At this time there have been no reports of any injuries. All communication with the passengers on the Dignite has been cut off.


The Dignite is one member of the larger Freedom Flotilla II that had planned to sail together to Gaza in late June. All the other ships, including the U.S. flagged boat The Audacity of Hope, were delayed by the Greek government's refusal to permit them to sail — an egregious act of complicity with Israel’s policy toward Gaza that the International Committee of the Red Cross has determined to be “collective punishment.” Two of the flotilla's boats suffered serious physical damage from acts of sabotage while others were caught in a web of Greek bureaucratic entanglements, including phony civilian complaints challenging the sea-worthiness of some of the boats.


The Dignite began its voyage from a French port. The French government refused to interfere with this nonviolent civilian human rights initiative, permitting the ship to sail into international Mediterranean waters without problems. The Dignite and its passengers – from France, Canada, Greece, Sweden, and Tunisa – proudly sailed toward Gaza as representatives of the larger flotilla. They represented the steadfastness and determination of the flotilla movement to sail until the blockade is broken. The Israeli government's belief that Freedom Flotilla II can be stopped misunderstands the nature of this non-violent movement and its, purpose, which is to end the siege of Gaza.


Despite most of the Freedom Flotilla II being unable to leave Greek ports, the flotilla was able to highlight the vicious nature of Israel’s policy towards Gaza. Israeli leaders showed their willingness to use intimidation, lies, economic blackmail, threats of violence, and sabotage to stop boats that Israeli military officials admitted would not be carrying weapons. This clearly demonstrates that Israel’s blockade of Gaza is not based on “security”, but is meant to punish the 1.7 million people living in Gaza, deny their freedom and cut them off from the rest of the world.


The Israeli government's continued violation of international law and the human rights of Palestinians is possible only as a result of the international community’s failure to take tangible measures to uphold United Nations resolutions and Palestinian human rights. As the American passengers on The Audacity of Hope directly experienced in Greece, some major powers – including the U.S. government and the European Union – are willing to ignore international law and human rights to appease the Israeli government. International civil society has no recourse other than to take nonviolent direct action.


The Dignite carried a message of solidarity and human empathy from the people of the world to the people of Gaza, and all of Palestine, that Israel’s violence can never silence. The journey of this small boat is further evidence that the will of global civil society cannot be intimidated. As long as the illegal blockade of Gaza remains in place, ships will sail to confront it; as long as Israel continues its occupation, and violent repression of Palestinians and our governments are silent about it, the global solidarity movement will mobilize to nonviolently and directly challenge it.


We call on the Israeli government to end the siege and blockade of Gaza and to treat the people of Palestine in compliance with international law.




Here is the report from the International Middle East media Center:


Israeli Navy Takes Over Dignity Ship

Tuesday July 19, 2011 13:52 by Saed Bannoura - IMEMC & Agencies

Israeli sources reported that the Israeli Navy stopped, on Tuesday, the Dignity solidarity ship that was heading to deliver humanitarian supplies to the Gaza Strip, no clashes were reported.


Israeli Radio, Reshet Bet, reported that around 10:30 in the morning, the Navy controlled the ship without any clashes, and that the ship will be towed to the Ashdod Port.


Israeli daily, Yedioth Aharonoth, reported that, following negotiations between the crew and the Navy, Israeli Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General, Benny Gantz, ordered the navy to take over the ship “after the activists refused to alter the rout of the ship to Ashdod”.


There are thirteen persons onboard the Dignity ship, including a French Parliamentarian and reporters of the Qatar-based, Al Jazeera.


The Israeli Navy claimed, prior to intercepting the vessel that it was sailing on a route that leads to “an area that is under a maritime siege, and that the humanitarian supplies onboard the ship “will be moved to Gaza by legal means”.


According to Yedioth Aharonoth, the Israeli “Population and Immigration Authority (PIA) stated that the activists onboard the ship “we entering Israel using illegal means”.


The PIA intends to deport the activists, an issue that effectively means that they will not be allowed into Israel for the coming 10 years. This also means that they will be prevented from entering the occupied West Bank as all borders are under full Israeli control.


Also, the activists will be informed that they have to choose between being deported immediately, or face imprisonment pending a court hearing.


The ship sailed from Greece on Sunday evening, and declared that it will be heading to an Egyptian port. Later on, the activists said that they have adjusted their route to sail directly to Gaza.




This earlier report from the International Middle East Media Center recounts the Israel Navy surrounding and threatening the ship prior to hijacking it.


Israeli navy gunboats surrounded on Tuesday morning the Dignity French Ship, while on its way to deliver humanitarian and medical supplies to the besieged and impoverished Gaza Strip.



The ship reached 50 miles close to the Gaza shore when it was intercepted by the Navy who demanded all passengers to stand in a clear view so they can be seen by the soldiers. The Navy also inquired “whether the activists loaded any weapons on the ship”.


One of the activists told the Navy that the ship carries peace activists and humanitarian supplies, and that there are 13 activists onboard in addition to the three crew members. He also told the Navy that the ship is determined to continue its sail to Gaza.


The Navy is threatening to attack and board the ship should it fail to comply with the demands.


Should the ship be allowed through, it could dock at the Gaza shore by this afternoon.


The ship was docked in Alexandria Port in Egypt, and set sail to its final destination approximately at 7:30 this morning.


The activists are hoping they will be allowed to continue their trip to Gaza, and expressed fears that Israeli will, once again, resort to violence.


On May 31, 2010, Israel attacked the Turkish MV Marmara, part of the Freedom Flotilla, killing nine Turkish activists, including a Turkish activist who carried U.S. citizenship.


An investigation by the Turkish government of last year's Israeli attack released its results two weeks ago, showing that the nine men killed were hit by 30 bullets fired at close range, with five of the men killed by shots to the head.


The 19-year old American citizen who was killed, Furqan Dogan, was killed by five bullets fired at a distance of 45 cm to his face, the back of his head, his leg and his back.


Freedom Flotilla organizers issued several press releases affirming the non-violent nature of their trip to Gaza, and that its only goal is to break the illegal Israeli siege and to deliver urgently needed medical and humanitarian supplies.

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