Monday, 11 August 2008

Urgent: “Free Gaza” expedition needs your help

Two years ago, about a dozen human rights activists devised a plan to sail a boat to Gaza in order to break the siege. We rejected a plan to rent a boat as impractical because a similar venture in 1988 failed when the Israelis disabled the boat before it sailed and the three organizers were killed. Thus no boat owner would willingly risk his craft. We ultimately decided to purchase two small boats that could carry 44 passengers,crew and media.

Each of us contributed what we could, and we also received thousands of dollars from individual supporters, most of whom used the Paypal link on our website. We also held fund-raising events, received a few thousand dollars from small grants, and several "angels" helped us along the way. Each passenger has paid his/her own way to get here, and many have raised additional money through their groups, worked extra jobs and asked family and friends to donate. The passengers also paid an additional 600 Euros each for lodging in Cyprus and to cover the cost of supplies and food on land and sea.

Through these efforts we have raised 300,000 US dollars, which we thought covered our costs. (Some of the photos of the boats are on the image gallery page on our website. More will come.)

But the eroding dollar/Euro exchange rate seriously drained our funds. All of our planning did not anticipate this contingency.

We are now in Cyprus awaiting our boats' arrival from Crete. When they come in, we will fuel up (with very high-cost diesel) and stock necessary food and supplies. We hope to cast off for Gaza this weekend. We are told that hundreds of thousands of Gazans will greet us on arrival.

Many people thought we'd never come this far. But here we are and we firmly intend to set sail regardless of some recent staggering debts. Frankly, we have spent much more than we raised; here are just a few of our recent expenses:

  • Two Sailor 250 FleetBroadband systems to allow us to stay in electronic contact and to send streaming video in real time, 16,000 dollars each, or 32,000 dollars;
  • Repairs required to make the boats seaworthy, 25,000-30,000 dollars;
  • Electronics, wiring, connections, satellite uplinks, SPOT Trackers to make the system work, 5000-8000 dollars. (Most of the labour on the electronics and boats has been donated by the Greek crew and technicians.)
  • Forty-four life jackets and two hand-held GPS units, 8000 dollars;
  • Paint and banners for the boats, and balloons and toys for Gaza children, 2,000 dollars. Diesel fuel for both boats, both ways, 15,000 to 25,000 dollars.

Except for part of the diesel fuel, we have already paid these costs by running our personal credit cards to the limit, borrowing money and asking some of the Greek crew to help. Frankly, we're tapped out.

We need your help so that we sail on the Mediterranean Sea but not on a sea of debt.

Please donate through the Paypal account on our website, send a tax-deductible cheque to the US address on the website and/or send a cheque to the address in the UAE. Every donation, large or small, will help keep us afloat.

And, finally, thanks for your interest, support, and prayers!

The Passengers and Crew on FREE GAZA and LIBERTY

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