Seeking to serve in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla

By Barry Reisch

Having followed years of Israel’s oppression and occupation of Palestinian land, I was not surprised when on Oct 7, 2023, the lid finally came off the pot.

Knowing how well we have armed Israel, things were going to get really bad for Palestine.

Israel’s response is vengeance and hatred with Hamas as its excuse. Indiscriminate killing, especially of innocent children and women, has been heart-wrenching for me. The deliberate destruction of homes, hospitals, water, aid, etc., has been nothing short of inhumane.     

Since last Oct. 7, I have put my life on hold to work on stopping the madness. On March 29 I was given the opportunity to board the Freedom Flotilla Coalition’s challenge of the Israeli siege and deliver 5,500 tons of aid directly to Gaza.

After being accepted to go, I learned about possible scenarios—such as arrest, harassment, communication being stolen, being killed—and began to waffle. But I continued to process the possibilities and it took all the courage I could summon to get on that plane.

Meeting and getting involved with people from all over the world with at least 40 countries represented and multiple languages all here for the same reason was the highlight of the trip for me.

All to help especially the children. Many were there with children and loved ones left behind and I myself leaving babysitting responsibilities and loved ones worried about me.

But we all were doing it because we don’t want a world to grow up in where genocide is okay.

We were told three different times that the trip was delayed. With each postponement I had to recommit myself. These delays were put in place in part by Turkey, who was being pressured by the U.S. government to not allow boats to sail.

On what would have been the fourth opportunity to board, we were told that due to pressure from Israel, Guinea Bissau had pulled its flags from two of the boats and made impossible demands for allowing their reuse.

Coupled with still uncertainty about whether Turkey would ever allow the boats to leave, while not giving up, Flotilla organizers recommended we all go home until getting called again later to come back and try again.

Since 2008 Freedom Flotilla Coalition has sent 15 flotillas to Gaza. The boats will sail again.

Please call the president, Congress, Senate, State Department and demand they allow the release of the Flotilla and provide safe passage directly to Gaza.

— Barry Riesch, FFI Freedom Flotilla Coalition 

Barry Reisch lives in St. Anthony Park and is a retired carpenter and building inspector. He is also a Vietnam veteran, former national president of Veterans For Peace and has been active in the anti-war movement in the Twin Cities and beyond for more than 30 years.

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