Another ship full of humanitarian aid — this one named after an American activist killed by an Israeli bulldozer — is sailing toward the Gaza Strip even as the furor over a deadly confrontation between Israeli soldiers and another group of activists has yet to subside.
The Cambodian-flagged MV Rachel Corrie, named after the Evergreen State College student killed while protesting Palestinian house demolitions in the Gaza Strip, is carrying 11 passengers, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Corrigan, who was honored for pressing for peace between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland, and former United Nations Assistant Secretary General Denis Halliday.
Another activist aboard the Rachel Corrie said they would not fight back if confronted by Israelis.
“If the Israeli army attacks us and tries to board our ship, we will not attempt any resistance,” Shamsul Akmar told Al Jazeera International. “We will take our boat as far as possible and if they do come on board forcefully, we will not resist.”
Any confrontation between ship and Israeli forces could spread anger over the ongoing Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the Gaza Strip beyond the Arab world to Muslims worldwide.
[Updated, 5:50 a.m., PDT: The latest dispatch from the organizers says the 1,200-ton cargo ship is 150 miles away from Gaza in international waters. “Communication is difficult and sometimes impossible and there are many rumors out there started by Israeli authorities,” said a statement attributed to those on board. “But there is no way we are going to Ashdod,” the Israeli port of entry for most humanitarian aid to Gaza. “We are, for sure, on our way to Gaza.”]
The government of Malaysia, a rising Asian power home to a majority Muslim population of 28 million, has called on Israelis to exercise restraint.
“Any Israeli military action on an unarmed vessel transporting civilians and humanitarian assistance will deepen the international community’s negative perception of Israel,” Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said Thursday night, according to the news website Bernama. “It will demonstrate Israel’s total indifference to its international obligations in defiance of world opinion. Every single item on board the vessel such as educational materials, toys and construction materials have been inspected in Ireland.”
The prime minister of Ireland, which opposes the blockade, has also warned Israelis to back off. Five Irish nationals are aboard the ship.
“We are in constant contact with the Israeli government on this matter, advising absolute restraint in relation to the vessel as it goes about its humanitarian purpose,” premier Brian Cowen was quoted as saying by the Irish Times. “Cement on board the vessel is not regarded by the Israelis as a product that is simply humanitarian. We await what emerges from the definition Israel has put forward.”
The ship is being funded by a non-profit group linked to former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, according to a report by The Star of Malaysia.
— Borzou Daragahi in Beirut