Lebanese activists protest Greece’s blocking of Gaza aid flotilla

12/07/2011

BEIRUT: A dozen pro-Palestinian activists held a demonstration Monday in front of the European Union building, after a flotilla heading to Gaza was prevented from leaving Greece and other activists were banned from entering Israel over the weekend.

“We’re protesting EU governments’ complicity in perpetuating the siege of Gaza and indirectly supporting the illegal blockage,” said a protest organizer, Rana Boukarim.

The aid flotilla, trying to break the blockade on Gaza, was prevented from departing Greece by local authorities on July 8, while many activists who had planned to fly to Israel for peaceful protests in the Occupied Territories, part of the “Welcome to Palestine” campaign – dubbed a flytilla – were banned from traveling or detained at Tel-Aviv’s airport.

“Greek authorities are not allowed to stop a private boat but they did it under pressure from Israel and the U.S.,” said Boukarim, who held a sign referring to Greece and reading, “1,000 mabrouk on your new friend, congratulations on the million you just lost.”

She said that while the movement was mainly condemning Greece, the protesters were also denouncing actions taken in France to ban activists from boarding. “France’s flytilla movement [also contained] peaceful activists, but hundreds of them were prevented from leaving from [Paris’] Charles de Gaulle airport,” she added.

Israeli authorities sent foreign airlines the names of some 300 activists who would be banned from entering the country, saying they would have to fly back at the carriers’ expense. Israeli officials said they had prevented hundreds from boarding at their point of departure by notifying foreign airlines about ticket-holders who would not be admitted to Israel.

Protesters waved Palestinian flags Monday and held signs representing the a composite of the Greek and Israeli flags with “Gaza” marked in red letters and held in the direction of drivers on the near-by highway.

“Europe has to help breaking the Israeli siege on Gaza so humanitarian help can get there,” said Salma, a 35-year-old protester who preferred not to give her last name.

She said she was “not very surprised” of EU states’ compliance to Israeli demands and pointed at her sign, which read, “Palestine is in Europe’s conscience but Israel is in its policies.”

“It seems that the decision was taken at the EU level to block action of support to people in Gaza,” she added.

“I’m here to support the [right] of the flotilla to head to Gaza and to protest against EU states that are not letting it,” said 30-year-old Ziad Moukarzel, who blames EU countries for being on the side of “the murderer state of Israel” and “its actions against the Palestinian people and those who support Palestine.”

French protester Caroline, 28, who also preferred not to give her last name, said she joined the protest to express her “anger and shame in the face of the attitude of European countries, including mine.”

She described EU countries’ behavior as an act of “pure collaboration with a country that is no better than South Africa’s apartheid state … Even if we’re not a lot, it’s important.”

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