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Profile: Free Gaza Movement

Read the full, comprehensive report - Free Gaza Movement: Anti-Israel Boat Campaign Challenges Israel's "Siege of Gaza" (PDF).

Between August 2008 and July 2011, the Free Gaza Movement sent ten boat missions to Gaza to "break the siege" and provoke a confrontation with Israel.

The latest effort, dubbed "Freedom Flotilla II," was organized by an international coalition of groups seeking to send several ships to Gaza. They were ultimately not permitted to leave the Greek port from where they intended to sail with a few hundred activists.

The second flotilla was intended to be a sequel to the May 2010 flotilla that tried to sail to Gaza but was intercepted by the Israeli Navy. The 2010 and 2011 flotillas were both organized by the Cyprus-based Free Gaza Movement (FGM), a wide variety of pro-Palestinian European organizations and Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH), a pro-Hamas Turkish charity.

Since August 2008, FGM had sent several boats to Gaza under the guise of delivering humanitarian aid.  Their missions have consistently sought to provoke confrontation with the Israeli military, in turn creating widespread propaganda value for organizers, who have used the international attention they receive to present their one-sided and biased views of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

FGM's mission, as stated on its Web site, is to elicit international opposition to Israel's policies: "We want to break the siege of Gaza.  We want to raise international awareness about the prison-like closure of the Gaza Strip and pressure the international community to review its sanctions policy and end its support for continued Israeli occupation." 

In the year leading up to the first mission and in the months that followed, organizers criticized Israel's founding, propagated messages about Israel's brutality and recommended international sanctions against Israel. They ran a highly effective campaign that raised several hundred thousand dollars in funds and garnered significant international support and media attention.

While the Israeli government allowed the first five boats to sail into Gaza's port without incident, in late December 2008, Israeli authorities intercepted the sixth FGM mission, which was attempting to sail into Gaza at the height of an ongoing Israeli military campaign in Gaza. Israeli naval forces also blocked the group's seventh mission two weeks later. The last successful Free Gaza boat arrived in Gaza on December 20, 2008, a week before the start of the Gaza War.

FGM's efforts have attracted journalists, parliamentarians and other notable participants, including: Cynthia McKinney, former U.S. Congresswoman from Georgia and the 2008 Green Party presidential candidate; Alice Walker, the author of The Color Purple; Mairead Maguire, 1976 Nobel Peace Prize winner from Ireland; Clare Short, British parliament member and former Secretary of State for International Development; and Lauren Booth, journalist and sister-in-law of England's former prime minister Tony Blair.

FGM is the most significant achievement for the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a grassroots movement that spreads anti-Israel propaganda and misinformation and voices support for those who engage in armed resistance against Israel. Several notable ISM figures have been involved in organizing the campaign and the various missions.

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Five boat missions sailed to Gaza between August and December 2008. Since then, five subsequent missions have ended in failure, including two flotillas to Gaza in May 2010 and July 2011.

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