SS Liberty Set to Deliver Aid to Gaza
Mission Is a Tribute to Men Who Died in Israeli Attack
By Mark Glenn
In early July, America’s most senior military man flew to Tel Aviv to warn Israel not to try to pull another attack on an American ship similar to the USS Liberty incident in 1967. This was a deliberate attempt to sink the USS Liberty, blame it on Arabs and drag America into Israel’s war against its Arab neighbors.
Now, a month later, a civilian-manned ship christened the SS Liberty is getting ready to sail from Crete to Gaza in order to break Israel’s chokehold on the Palestinian people by bringing much-needed humanitarian supplies.
The endeavor, undertaken by the “Free Gaza” project headquartered in California, is manned by activists from 17 countries who range in their professions from doctors, engineers, business entrepreneurs and even a Roman Catholic nun. Another larger boat, called the SS Free Gaza, will be accompanying the SS Liberty. The Greek-flag bearing Liberty was scheduled to leave port in Cyprus the third week of August and sail 230 miles south to Gaza, considered to be the largest open-air prison in the world and home to over 1 million Palestinian Christians and Muslims who are not permitted to leave.
The ship, christened the SS Liberty in remembrance of the USS Liberty that was attacked by Israel during the Six Day War in 1967, was purchased by the Free Gaza movement with donations from members and supporters.
Persons who have endorsed the project include former President Jimmy Carter and Bishop Desmond Tutu.
Crew members include European parliamentarians and the sister-in-law of ex-British Prime Minister Tony Blair. In Israel, discussion of the USS Liberty is something of a forbidden topic and what little discussion does take place is typified by the “tough luck, get over it” attitude.
Israel threatened to “use force” in preventing the crew of the SS Liberty from bringing medical supplies to needy Palestinian children.
Greta Berlin, one of several crew members recently interviewed on The Liberty Hour radio program (hosted by USS Liberty survivor Phil Tourney and this AFP reporter) said “We want to bring it to the world’s attention that Gaza is virtually an outdoor concentration camp” and crew members “do not intend to turn around” if they are confronted by the Israeli navy.
Asked about Israel’s assertion that the crew is “aiding and abetting terrorists,” Berlin’s response was that “The only people with guns and munitions and helicopters and strafing materials in that neighborhood are the Israelis, so it’s rather obvious who is the bully of the Mediterranean,” adding that “If they (navy personnel) board our boats then there’s nothing we can do to stop them. We are non-violent human rights workers. We’ll stand in line, link arms, and tell them they’re not wanted.”
Comments left on various blogs concerning the SS Liberty have delineated the absence of civility characterizing Israel and her supporters.
Terms such as “useful idiots,” “socialists,” “communists,” “terrorists,” “pirates,” “criminals” and many others of similar vein have been hurled at the group of peaceful human rights activists intent on bringing medicine to Palestinian children. Many Zionists have left comments expressing hope that Israel will attack the vessel, kill all persons on board and sink it.
At the request of this AFP reporter Mark Glenn and USS Liberty survivor Phil Tourney, the crew of the SS Liberty (prior to leaving Cyprus) will cast 34 American long-stemmed roses into the sea while the names of the 34 men who were deliberately killed 41 years ago are read aloud. At the same time, off the coast of Gaza (where the USS Liberty was attacked) another remembrance ceremony will occur with 34 carnations being cast adrift.
Those interested in learning more, donate time or money to the cause can visit the website set up for the event at www.freegaza.org.
A former schoolteacher fluent in several languages, Mark Glenn is a prolific writer whose provocative essays have been published worldwide. He and his wife Vicki and their eight children maintain a ranch in northern Idaho.
(Issue # 35, September 1, 2008)