‘Greek government has bowed to pressure’

Al Jazeera interviews Gaza flotilla activist Khalid Turaani about the Greek government’s decision to block the boats.

Gaza flotilla shot
Khalid Turaani is an American-Palestinian activist and one of the driving forces behind the Gaza flotilla [Al Jazeera]

The Greek government decided to prohibit the departure of a flotilla of ‘aid ships’ from Greek ports to the Gaza Strip. In a statement released on Friday, the Greeks explained that this was done in a bid to prevent a breach of Israel’s naval blockade against the Palestinian enclave.

Khalid Turaani is a 45-year old American-Palestinian activist and one of the driving forces behind the flotilla. His ship is lying in a port on the Greek island of Corfu, as nearby coast guard ships are making sure it does not move.

Al Jazeera spoke with Turaani about the situation.    

Do you think the decision by the Greeks is final?

I don’t believe this decision was made haphazardly. They have taken it into careful consideration. I therefore think that it is irreversable. They just decided that they will pay the price of bad press for stopping the flotilla, which is not going to be too heavy given the state of their economy. So I believe, as far as this flotilla is concered, it is over.

Are you angry?

“I’m not angry. I’m disheartened by the Greek government’s decision to block our flotilla. I was following on Twitter what was going on with the US boat to Gaza as Greek comandos were storming that boat. For me, that brought back bad memories from when the Israeli forces stormed our boat last year during the first ‘Freedom Flotilla’. It is sad that the Greek government now is doing the bidding of the Israeli government.

It seems that the Greek government has bowed to the pressure by the United States and Israel and now they are parroting – in a dumb kind of way – the American and Israeli accusations that this Freedom Flotilla consists of a bunch of extremists. We do not have a death wish. We just believe in what the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish once wrote, that “on this land there is what’s worth living for”. We wanted to go and break the siege on Gaza peacefully, as people of conscience who are standing in solidarity with who are oppressed. 

What will happen to the boat?

We worked really hard over the year to collect money, pennies and cents really, to buy this boat and put this flotilla together. But freedom is not counted in pennies and cents. These are only tools for us in order to bring light to the desperate conditions that the Palestinians are living under, particularly in Gaza.

But I believe that at least one aim is acchieved. We have brought the world’s attention to what is going on in Gaza.

What is next?

We’re going to have a meeting by the co-ordinating committee for the different nationalities on the boat, during which people will put forward their suggestions on what to do next. We want everybody to have their input.

This flotilla might be over, but our stuggle most certainly is not. It will not be over untill the Israeli occupation of on Palestinian land is over. I think this part of our stuggle for freedom is only beginning actually. We’re not going to just lie down and die. We are used to the Israelis pulling all kinds of tricks. Shooting nine activists on last years flotilla was one of them. Sabotaging our Irish boat in Turkey was another one, and sabotaging the Swedish-Greek boat in Athens yet another.

Ban Ki-moon [UN secretary general] was pressured into asking us to go through proper channels to fight the occupation. As if Mandela went through proper channels to defeat apartheid. As if the Tunisian people went through proper channels to oust [Zine El Abidine] Ben Ali. I wonder if this guy [Ban Ki-moon] actually reads newspapers. 

Khalid Turaani is the executive director of INFORM (International Forum on the Middle East) based in Brussells  – informeu.com.

Source: Al Jazeera