'Women's Boat to Gaza' launched to challenge Israeli blockade

Mariam Mecky , Tuesday 8 Mar 2016

Marianne boat
File photo of Gaza bound Marianne boat, part of Freedom Flotilla III, launched in 2015. (Photo Courtesy of Rumbo a Gaza)

On International Women’s Day on 8 March, the Freedom Flotilla Coalition officially launched Women's Boat to Gaza to highlight the essential role of Palestinian women in the resistance movement and to break the 10-year illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip, according to the Canadian Boat to Gaza’s statement today.

Women’s Boat to Gaza, which will include only women on board, is planned to set sail mid-September and to arrive to the besieged Gaza Strip on 1 October 2016.

An Israeli naval and land blockade has restricted the movement of 1.8 million Palestinians and goods to and from Gaza since the Islamist Hamas movement won parliamentary elections and became its de-facto ruler in 2006, inflicting increasing hardship on the impoverished population.

 “We believe that it is essential to highlight the vital role women play not only in the resistance movement but in the survival of the Palestinian people as a whole," said the statement sent to Ahram Online by Wendy Goldsmith of the Canadian Boat to Gaza campaign.

"We intend to raise awareness about the ongoing struggle of women in Gaza, the West Bank, inside the green line and in the diaspora.”

Women’s Boat to Gaza is supported by a number of women's organisations from around the world, such as Gaza’s Women's Affairs Centre, the Coalition of Women for Peace of Israel, Spain’s Forum de Politica Feminista, Women's Front in Norway, Coordinadora de Solidaridad Palestina of Mexico, CODEPINK Women for Peace of the US, and the Fédération des femmes du Québec in Canada, according to the statement released today on Canadian Boat to Gaza website.

Even though the boat will include only women as passengers, the statement said that men and women from campaigns around the world are organising this project. 

“Within this struggle, men and women play equal roles. In this particular project, it has been decided that women will take on the major role of confronting the Israeli Occupation Force (IOF). This does not minimise in any way the role that men take in both the organising and planning stages,” the statement said.

The boat, which plans to dock at a number of Mediterranean ports along its route, is the fourth Freedom Flotilla mission after the last attempt in 2015 ended with the seizure of the boat by the Israeli army in international waters.

The first attempt to break the siege with a flotilla, which was organised in 2010, ended in the killing by Israel of nine activists in international waters on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara.

A second attempt was organised out of Greece in 2011, but the vessels were turned back by the Greek coastguard.

Freedom Flotilla Coalition is an international Coalition composed of civil society organisations and initiatives challenging “the illegal and inhumane” Israeli blockade of Gaza.

The Freedom Flotilla Coalition campaigns participating in the Women’s boat to Gaza are Ship to Gaza-Sweden, Ship to Gaza-Norway, Canadian Boat to Gaza, Freedom Flotilla-Italy, Palestine Solidarity Alliance-South Africa and Rumbo a Gaza-Spain and partners: US Boat to Gaza and Kia Ora Gaza-New Zealand-Aotearoa.

"Women’s empowerment is linked to the general struggle of the Palestinian people against the occupation and in particular the dire need to lift the blockade. They are an inspiration and role models for all women and men who dream of a better world,” the statement said.

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