On Saturday, around 1000 activists from over 20 countries set sail for Gaza to try once again to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza and deliver humanitarian supplies.
The move is a repeat of last year’s failed aid mission in which nine pro-Palestinian activists were left dead in Israeli military raids. One of the members of the original flotilla, Paul Larudee, received a Ph.D in linguistics at Georgetown in 1973.
The California piano tuner was arrested by Israeli soldiers after he jumped from one of the ships in order to delay the raid. Vox caught up with Larudee late last week to get his perspectives on Georgetown and the Gaza issue.
“My studies at Georgetown facilitates my awareness and activism,” he said. “But I wouldn’t say that they’re directly related.”
“The Jesuit identity encourages activism. There are activists like Steve Kelly [arrested for trespassing on the School of the Americas] who are themselves members of the Jesuit community.”
Larudee is “rather pessimistic” that aid will reach Gaza, but he thinks it is important to try, comparing his efforts to those of the Freedom Riders that defied segregation in the American South.
“This is about principles and rights,” he said. “The principle is that people and goods should pass freely to and from Gaza, except for dangerous things. Dangerous things should be prevented and restricted everywhere.”
The flotilla is currently stalled in Athens awaiting customs and safety inspections. Activists have accused Israeli lawyers of lodging frivolous complaints with Greek authorities in order to stall the mission.
U.S. officials have called the flotilla ”irresponsible and provocative” and warn that U.S. participants could face fines and jail time back home. Larudee asserts that the flotilla is breaking no U.S. law and their intent is not to bolster the Hamas-led government of Gaza, which the U.S. considers a terrorist group.
“Among other things, Hamas is a political party and we would never support any political part of any kind,” he emphasized.
“The principle that is important here is that everyone is treated equally regardless of race, religion,” he added. “The only relevant factor is humanity and that people are allowed to live in their homes wherever their homes may be.”
The effort comes as Israel agreed last week to allow unprecedented amounts of rebuilding materials into Gaza. Also, while officials in the Jewish state have held firm on the 1967 borders, portions of the controversial West Bank separation wall will come down this year.