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Jun-27-2011 03:50printcommentsVideo

Freedom Flotilla II Crew Members Discuss Reasons for Supporting Gaza

Salem-News.com honors the heroes who put human freedom at the front of their agendas; we salute the activists of Freedom Flotilla II.

Free Gaza

(SALEM, Ore.) - Why would people give up comfortable, safe lives, and pay money to board a ship that will very likely be attacked in a savage illegal way by Israel's military?

Certain people don't need that question answered, because they too follow the call of humanity; trying to turn around the wrong side of what is taking place today.

First of all, they do it for the children. That is what almost all of my activist friends who go to places like Palestine tell me, and I have more than the average reporter. Beyond that, each has their own particular background and set of reasons for wanting to participate in a human aid project of this magnitude.

Abandoned by people who could help like Hillary Clinton, who we actually thought about electing as President; they are going against the odds, but with so much faith and good will that they know their mission will bring change, even if there is blood on the decks.

The Free Gaza team has been hard at work providing information, and in this case video testimony from participants, as to why they are part of Freedom Flotilla II. Here are a few, and please follow the YouTube frames after you watch these to many more.

For those about to rock, we salute you!

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Hedy Epstein

Passenger Hedy Epstein talks about why she is going aboard the US Boat to Gaza with the Stay Human Flotilla at the end of the month.

Hedy Epstein was born in Germany in 1924. She was 8 years old when Hitler came to power in 1933. In 1939, she left on a Kindertransport (children's transport) for England. Her parents and other family members perished during the Holocaust. After World War II she returned to Germany and worked as a research analyst at the Nuremberg trial of the Nazi doctors who performed medical experiments on concentration camp inmates.

Epstein came to the U.S. in 1948, and quickly became involved in civil rights, human rights and peace related issues, both professionally and in her personal life. In 1989, she visited Guatemala, Nicaragua and Cambodia as a peace delegate. Since 2003, she has visited the Israeli occupied West Bank five times, and has made four attempts to visit Gaza by land and sea. She has written and traveled extensively in the U.S. and Europe to speak about social justice issues, with an emphasis on the Israel/Palestine issue. In 1999, her autobiography -- "Erinnern ist nicht genug" (Remembering is Not Enough) was published in German, in Germany.

Epstein will be on the U.S. Boat to Gaza, part of Flotilla 2, her fifth attempt to reach Gaza.

Yonatan Shapira

Crew member Yonatan Shapira talks about why he is going aboard the US Boat to Gaza with the Stay Human Flotilla at the end of the month.

"I was a captain in the Israeli Air Force and a Black-Hawk Pilot until 2003 when together with other pilots I initiated the pilots' letter and refused to take part in the crimes of the occupation".

"Today I am a member of Boycott from Within, a group of Israeli citizens who are actively supporting the Palestinian call for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions.

"I have a Master degree in Peace and Conflict Studies, I facilitate dialogue groups and volunteer as a sailing instructor for children with disabilities.

"I've been sailing since I was a child and in September of 2010 I was a crew member on the Jewish boat to Gaza that was intercepted by the Israeli Navy. I work as a commercial pilot in the US and am still dreaming to be a musician."

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Alice Walker

Alice Walker is an internationally celebrated author, poet and activist whose books include seven novels, four collections of short stories, four children's books, and volumes of essays and poetry. She's best known for The Color Purple, the 1983 novel for which she won the Pulitzer Prize—the first African American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction—and the National Book Award. The award-winning novel served as the inspiration for Steven Spielberg's 1985 film and was adapted for the stage, opening at New York City's Broadway Theatre in 2005, and capturing a Tony Award for best leading actress in a musical in 2006.

Walker has been an activist all of her adult life, and believes that learning to extend the range of our compassion is activity and work available to all. She is a staunch defender not only of human rights, but of the rights of all living beings. She is one of the world's most prolific writers, yet tirelessly continues to travel the world to literally stand on the side of the poor, and the economically, spiritually and politically oppressed. She also stands, however, on the side of the revolutionaries, teachers and leaders who seek change and transformation of the world. Upon returning from Gaza in 2008, Walker said, "Going to Gaza was our opportunity to remind the people of Gaza and ourselves that we belong to the same world: the world where grief is not only acknowledged, but shared; where we see injustice and call it by its name; where we see suffering and know the one who stands and sees is also harmed, but not nearly so much as the one who stands and sees and says and does nothing."

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Kaleo Larson

Passenger Kaleo Larson talks about why he is going aboard the US Boat to Gaza with the Stay Human Flotilla at the end of the month.

Garrett "Kaleo" Irving Hjalmar Larson is a social activist and a musician. He has played with the Sierra Symphony, the Ukiah Symphony, and numerous R&B, funk and jazz bands.

He currently plays with the Symphony of the Redwoods in Mendocino, California. Born in Hawaii, Kaleo was educated in public school in San Francisco.

Kaleo attended City College and Skyline Community College before being drafted into the Vietnam War. After returning from the war, Kaleo became a journeyman plumber with Local 38 Union in San Francisco and later worked as an Emergency Medical Technician in Santa Rosa; he currently serves as assistant to Alice Walker.

Mr. Larson's work with Ms. Walker in support of human rights has taken him to places such as Gaza, Thailand, Burma, Jordan, Egypt, India, South Africa and Iceland, as well as throughout the United States and Mexico.

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Hagit Borer

Passenger Hagit Borer talks about why she is going aboard the US Boat to Gaza with the Stay Human Flotilla at the end of the month.

"I was born in Israel in 1952. That is where I grew up and where I lived until 1977, when I came to the U.S. to study. In 1992 I became an American citizen and am now a Professor of Linguistics at the University of Southern California.

"The 1967 war found in me a rebellious high school student, but neither my education nor my upbringing would have allowed me to question the official presentation of the events or the motivation behind that war. I believed Israel wanted peace, and I believed it would trade its 1967 victories for peace For me, what Israel came to control in the wake of the 1967 war has never been real estate. It was, and continues to be, people. My foremost and lasting impression of the occupation was formed by the expression of numbed shock in the eyes of the residents of East Jerusalem some three weeks after the war. Several years went by before I realized that Israel is not interested in a just peace. It was only then that I was able to challenge the official narratives of a Jewish state. By the mid-seventies I became an activist, and since then worked with a variety of groups in Israel, the UK and the U.S. I have lectured extensively on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, primarily throughout the US to community and academic audiences, but also in other countries, and have written and published on the topic.

"In the many years that I have been an activist there has been little to make me optimistic. Israel has become progressively more oppressive and brazen, both within and without the 67 borders, while the situation in the Occupied Territories has become considerably worse.

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Libor Kožnar

Passenger Libor Kožnar talks about why he is going aboard the US Boat to Gaza with the Stay Human Flotilla at the end of the month.

Libor grew up as an artist/activist in the Czech Republic where, in1992, he joined a range of solidarity groups, including environmental-indigenous-feminist-animal rights groups as well as groups that opposed war, racism, sexism, globalization, homophobia, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and xenophobia.

He also became a vegetarian as part of his work towards a more just and equitable world. After receiving his diploma in Operational Engineering, Libor refused to serve in the Czech military and became a conscientious objector. He received a degree in International Marketing from Central Connecticut State University and is co-founder of Art And Struggle (artist & activist collective) and Vice-chair of Middle East Crisis Committee, which runs a weekly TV program called The Struggle -- a grassroots media production covering human rights issues in the Middle East and beyond.

A multi-media artist-activist, Libor has been exhibiting, participating and organizing social justice events and exhibits with like-minded artist/activists, including Far From Ordinary, Uprising, Anti-Imperialist-People's Soccer Tournament, Israeli Apartheid Week Art Festival and many others. In the fall 2010 he won a 5k Run Race for Tarek Mehana & Leonard Peltier.

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There are so many more! Please follow the YouTube frames to see many more crew members talking about their participation in Freedom Flotilla II. Better yet, just go to the US Boat to Gaza YouTube page. Pray for these brave human beings as they seek to break the illegal blockade of Gaza with Holocaust survivors as crew members.

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Americans for a Stronger Israel




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DC Bennett June 28, 2011 11:15 am (Pacific time)

Mr. Joe Zeev has the typical knee jerk response of the "Israel is ALWAYS RIGHT” crowd, no matter what outrages it commits! Because we all know that two wrongs make it right. And I so love the attempt to stir American anger by referring to 9/11. I know why Hamas cheered. It was because of the USA's mindless support of Israel. We will sometimes reap what we sow.


Joe Zeev June 27, 2011 2:42 pm (Pacific time)

As a 78 year Canadian I cannot have any respect for those "so called" Israelis who betray and attack their own Country and then Betray USA by joining the Flotilla which Sides with Hamas Terrorism. HAMAS WAS CHEERING when THE MOSLEM TERRORISTS ATTACKED USA killing over 3000 innocent persons. ALLIED SOLDIERS ARE FIGHTING IN PAKISTAN, IRAQ, ....THESE PERSONS SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO RETURN TO THE COUNTRY THEY ARE BETRAYING..IF THEY DO THEY SHOULD FACE CRIMINAL CHARGES FOR AIDING THE ENEMIES OF THE UNITED STATES...

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