Initially I believed that the mechanisms used to publicize the Freedom Flotilla in support of the Palestinians in Gaza were justified because of the nobility of the cause of breaking the blockade. The cause deserves our efforts to be creative in mobilizing public opinion. However, I could not help but fall into the trap of comparing between the eye-catching advertisements run by travel agencies at the beginning of every summer and the propaganda campaigns launched by the sponsors of new voyages. This is because in the same manner that tourist agencies resort to excitement and suspense to attract travellers, the most recent Mariam and Naji al Ali freedom flotillas also adopted the same principle.
Promotion here depends directly on the media and on the figures taking part in such campaigns, the powerful oratory and the ability to attract well-known figures, whether they are social dignitaries, artists or media representatives. As for the most important element of excitement it is the pretence that the names of some of those taking part – whether they are media representatives or others – are kept secret or hiding the exact date of the journey and the point of departure in order to “mislead the Israelis.”
It is hard to be satisfied with merely raising the slogan of a noble goal to refute the inquiries or put a stop to the doubts about these ships with regards to the identities of the organizers, supporters and those taking part in the voyages. However, there is no doubt that there are honest people among them who are truthful about their desire to break the siege that Israel has on imposed on the Gaza Strip.
However, with the increase in Arab and international division over the Palestinian cause and in light of the extent to which this cause is being exploited, it is difficult to turn a blind eye to the ambitions of local and regional parties that explicitly expressed their positions and their superficial ambitions – something the organizers of the “Mariam” and “Naji al Ali” freedom flotillas could not distance themselves from.
The Journalists Without Limits organization paid $100,000 US dollars in outstanding fines to the Lebanese government so that it could lift the restraints on the “Naji al Ali” ship and the organization could set sail [for Gaza], although the ship has a seating capacity of only 16 persons.
An organization in possession of this sum should reveal the source of this money to journalists as it is an organization that speaks on their behalf. The transparency of NGO activity requires disclosure of financial sources especially as this organization is new and this sum of money may raise questions that might harm the enthusiasm, zeal and sincerity of many of those who are part of it.
My natural reaction to the idea of two ships, one for women and one for journalists, preparing to set sail to lift the Gaza blockade would have been a supportive and zealous one. This is because there is no ambiguity regarding the justice of this case, and especially because the activists this time are journalists and women.
Yet every time I saw the organizers of the two voyages on television or heard their statements and read about their positions, I realized that some former journalists fell into the traps sets by others who have achieved nothing in supporting the Palestinian cause but have achieved other feats that I do not want to be part of.