Pro-Israel group sails the East River for Shalit
The pro-Shalit Freedom Flotilla yesterday.(All photographs from the author.)
As you may remember, there was this thing a couple weeks ago in which a bunch of boats sailed from Turkey to Gaza in the name of bringing humanitarian aid to Palestinians living behind Israel’s blockade of the Hamas-controlled territory. The effort ended in a disastrous, and fatal, assault on one of the ships, the Mavi Marmara, and in the weeks since, the Netanyahu government, under heavy international pressure, agreed to relax the terms of its embargo without extracting anything in return—such as, for example, a commitment to release captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
Today is the fourth anniversary of Shalit’s capture, and yesterday the New York-based Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations commemorated it by staging its own Freedom Flotilla. This one featured a pleasure boat called the Queen of Hearts, and it left from Pier 40 in lower Manhattan, sailed around the island, and traveled up the East River to the United Nations. It bore a humanitarian aid package, addressed to Shalit.
As the ship prepared for voyage, I stood aboard, sweating with everyone else, some of whom waved posters at the trickle of midday passersby along the Hudson waterfront. “If we can talk to one, two, three people, that’s the least we can do,” explained Rabbi Janise Poticha, who was there representing a small Reform synagogue in the Long Island hamlet of Massapequa.
On deck, Asaf Shariv, Israel’s consul-general in New York, moved through the crowd. “I can assure you that no one on this ship will be attacked by knives or guns,” he told me, referring to video that showed the original flotilla activists brandishing weapons as Israeli commandos rappelled onto the ships. (more…)