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As reported by the Chinese press this morning, (yes that’s the Chinese press, not the censored American press), the “Free Gaza” boats arrive in Gaza in protest against Israeli siege.

It is totally incomprehensible that the American press would maintain a total censorship of this event, one equivalent to the March on Selma in the 1960s, when the public was just becoming aware of the evils of Jim Crow segregation. Here, we have the evils of an American supported military occupation and siege of the Palestinian territories. In the meantime, Israel continues to colonize land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, assisted by American news media that censor the news through silence or by presenting a highly propagandized version of events, a role reversal that casts Israel as a victim and the Palestinians as terrorists.

GAZA CITY, Aug. 23 (Xinhua) — Thousands of Palestinians started whistling and screaming on Saturday afternoon when two “Free Gaza” boats with peace activists arrived at Gaza City’s fishermen harbor in protest against Israeli siege.

Flags of different countries, including Turkey, Germany, France, Cyprus, Britain, Lebanon and Greece, were seen fluttering on the two boats, which set off Friday from Cyprus. Slogan “Freedom for Gaza” and “We are coming” are written on one of the boats.

While approaching Gaza beach, the two boats released 5,000 balloons of four colors of black, red, green and white, which are the colors of the Palestinian flag. Each of the balloons bears the slogan of “Free Palestine” and a drawing of the pigeon of peace, while several Palestinian flags fluttered on the two boats.

Several peace activists, a Holocaust survival and the sister-in-law of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair are on board. The two boats also carry medical hearing aids for deaf Palestinian children.

The cheerful Palestinians warmly welcomed the “Free Gaza” boats after Israel finally decided to let them cross into Gazan water.

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The article also reported that the flotilla was greeted by several local Gaza fishing boats and dozens of children and adults who jumped into the two vessels to welcome the visitors. Jamal al-Khodari, head of the Popular Committee to end the siege, also boarded and said, “Welcome to Gaza and thank you for breaking the blockade. This is a great moment to see people supporting our cause to show solidarity with us and to tell the world a message that the unfair siege imposed on the Gaza Strip should end very soon.”

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The deposed Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haneya as well as leaders of Hamas movement is also expected to formally greet the visitors. Haneya called on Arab leaders to send boats and vessels through the sea to Gaza to break the Israeli blockade,

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is currently in Ramallah in the West Bank, also telephoned the visitors and expressed hope that their visit to Gaza is only a first step to end the blockade on the Palestinian territories.

Photos reproduced from the British site Jews sans frontiers.

UPDATE: Haaretz interview with Jeff Halper.

The view from the boat / ‘Ordinary people can do something’

By Ofri Ilani

Haaretz spoke last night by phone with Jeff Halper, an Israeli professor who was among the activists who sailed to Gaza.

“We proved that ordinary people can do something and succeed,” he said. “Even Tony Blair can’t go to Gaza, but ordinary people with drive can. The welcome was amazing. There were tens of thousands of people. People came out in boats and on windsurfers to meet us. Children swam out to sea and flashed the victory sign. I feel like we’re fresh air entering a prison where a million and half people are living.

“I tell myself: We’re in the modern world, the 21st century, and yet such excitement – over what? Over something we take for granted, that two boats arrived. Here it’s a national holiday. Their isolation is so complete,” he said.

Halper said that Gazans were eager to speak Hebrew with him, and to reminisce about the years they spent working in Israel. “Our impression that Gaza is Hamas, that there is only hatred there, is mistaken,” he said, adding that he learned that “we are more of an obstacle to peace than the Palestinians.”

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