Standing on the deck of the Mavi Marmara recently, a Greek activist presented the head of Turkey’s Islamic Humanitarian Relief Foundation, sponsor of the Gaza-Strip-bound aid ship, with a model of an ancient Cretan vessel.
“This is to remind us that the Mediterranean has been a free sea for ships to navigate in for 3,000 years,” Vangelis Pissias declared to applause from about a hundred supporters crowded onto the boat.
How Turkey will define itself in relationship to that past, however, remains an open question.
The Mavi Marmara, currently moored in Istanbul’s Kasimpasha boatyard for repairs, shot to worldwide prominence in May 2010 as part of a flotilla attempting to break Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. A clash between Israeli commandos and activists left nine people on board the Mavi Marmara dead.
The violent debacle sparked off a war of words between Turkey and Israel that prompted Ankara to withhold appointing a replacement ambassador to Tel Aviv.
This year, participants in the so-called Freedom Flotilla have swollen to 1,500 people on 15 boats from around the Mediterranean Sea. They will attempt, at the end of this month, again to converge upon Gaza. They hope a non-violent approach will force Israel to let the ships through, just as the mostly peaceful demonstrators in Egypt and Tunisia prompted their presidents’ resignation.
Flotilla organizers speak of coordinating their sailing toward Palestine with simultaneous land convoys. Most Turks appear to support this mission. In a March poll by Ankara’s Metro Poll, 65 percent of 2,000 respondents named Israel and the United States as their main enemies.
Read more at Eurasianet org