Today is the Anniversary of the Maiden Voyage of THE DIGNITY
October 22, 2009
Greta Berlin

A year ago, our boat, the DIGNITY, made her first voyage to Gaza. She
was a beautiful white and silver yacht, donated by people who believed
in the Free Gaza movement after our first successful voyage in August.
On board were dignitaries such as Mairead Maquire, the 1976 Nobel
Peace Prize winner from Ireland and Mustafa Barghouti, President of
the Palestinian National Initiative and a member of the Palestinian
Legislative Council (MP).

It was to be our second trip to Gaza, one postponed for a month,
because we didn’t have the proper vessel to go in the fall until the
week before we were leaving. The DIGNITY shined in the autumn sun as
we got ready to go at dusk that day. Four
physicians were also on board to access the medical situation in Gaza.

We had made a decision after the first voyage to ask Al Jazeera to
come with us on every trip, and they were there with cameras, a
reporter and a camerman. They have been on board reporting through
storms, sea sickness, and dangers from Israel for every trip since.

As usual, we were frantically working on passenger lists, supplies and
media work until the very last minute. Osama Q. and I (we were the
designated land team) watched piles of boxes loaded on board, taking
up most of the cabin space below. Although we took medicine and
medical equipment with us, we knew they were only token supplies. Our
mission was about breaking Israel’s siege of the sea. Our mission was
about telling the world that Palestinians didn’t need hand-outs, they
needed their civil and human rights. We have always been a human
rights organization, not a humanitarian organization, but we took what
we could.

As the vessel steamed out past the breakwall in Larnaca, then took a
right turn and headed to sea, I cried. Twenty-seven passengers and
crew were going at last. We had promised the people of Gaza that we
would return, and we were keeping our promise. Israel, as they did the
first time, continued to threaten us, but decided at the last minute
they would ignore this voyage as they did the first one, hoping we
might be satisfied and go away. They didn’t realize a year ago, that
we would not stop coming to Gaza.

Three more voyages were successful, taking parliamentarians,
physicians, activists and Palestinians to Gaza. Former Representative
Cynthia McKinney named her American initiative “The DIGNITY” in honor
of our boat.

When the Israeli navy deliberately and viciously attacked the DIGNITY
on December 30, 2008, ramming her three times in her side, the boat
was so sturdy and the captain so expert, she didn’t sink with all lost
at sea. She struggled into port in Lebanon but was never the same.
Like a wounded racehorse that ultimately dies of its injuries, she
sank in a storm off the coast of Cyprus in May 2009.

So today, on the anniversary of her maiden voyage, the Free Gaza
movement wants to assure those of you who have supported us for over
three years, that we will return to Gaza We will not stop returning
until the 1.5 million people there have the right to their own sea
lanes without interference from Israel.

Stay tuned for our next voyage. We are coming back.