The German-Jewish organization Jewish Voice for Peace in the Middle East is preparing a Jewish flotilla to the Gaza Strip. “We intend to leave around July,” a member of the organization, Kate Leitrer, said to Israeli press agency Ynet. “We have one small craft so far, in which there will be between 12 and 16 people, mostly Jews.”
Leitrer, herself Jewish, said there was great interest in joining. “Getting another boat means more expenses, and we’re discussing this possibility,” she said. “Because of limited space, there will be school equipment, candy, and mainly musical equipment, and there’ll be musicians aboard who’ll teach the children of Gaza. They need to see that Jews are not what how they are drawn in their eyes.”
“The head of UNRRA (United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration) appealed to the world to send ships due to the shortage of important supplies in Gaza,” she said. “By stopping the flotilla, Israel acted criminally. Israel must not act like pirates.”
The activists are frightened, she said, but not by Hamas.
“Jews have been to Gaza in the past, and they were treated in a friendly manner,” Leitrer continued. “We have also talked with them recently, and they are very keen for us to come. We are frightened by what happened on the Marmara, but if you are committed to do good things, you have to act. People were also killed in the fight against fascism.”
She rejected Israel’s fears that weapons would be smuggled into Gaza on the aid boats.
“We haven’t heard there were weapons on the last flotilla, and people were shot and killed there,” she said. “We have contacted Israel figures and told them they are welcome to carry out searches on the boats, but we ask to be allowed to continue to Gaza. These are Gazan waters, and Israel must not control them.”
‘Open a window to Gaza’
Edith Lutz, a German Jewish member of the organization, said to Ynet the vessel is already anchored in Mediterranean waters, and that the organization had received many requests from Jews and non-Jews to take part in the flotilla.
“We began in Germany,” she said, “but many have called us from England, Sweden and the US. There may also be another boat accompanying us, mainly carrying reporters.” Lutz explained that the Jewish flotilla aims to convey a message: Lift the siege.
“Our vessel can open a window between Israel and Gaza residents,” she said. “Two years ago I took part in the Free Gaza flotilla and wore a Magen David (Star of David), and the kids said, ‘Look, she’s Jewish,’ and they all accepted me very well. When we met (Hamas leader) Ismail Haniyeh and they told him about me, he turned to me and said they have nothing against Jews or Israel, only against the occupation.”