At the end of June, Hedy Epstein of St. Louis left for Greece to join fellow activists as part of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla II. Epstein, an 86-year-old Holocaust survivor, and 36 other Americans were aboard the Audacity of Hope. The vessel was scheduled to depart sometime this weekend along with other boats. The flotilla’s goal was to break Israel’s sea-blockade of Gaza.
No smooth sailing
According to a Huffington Post article also published that day, Greek authorities prevented the flotilla from sailing to Gaza. The American vessel had already left by the time Greece froze the other departures. The Greek coast guard surrounded the Audacity of Hope and escorted it back to shore.
Greek authorities arrested the ship’s captain for “trying to leave port without permission and endangering the lives of the boat's passengers,” according to an article in Al Jazeera.
A video posted on YouTube by one of the activists shows the Greek coast guard taking control of the Audacity of Hope. The video shows an activist shouting, “We are unarmed civilians.”
How is Hedy?
The last three updates from Epstein's Twitter account posted on July 1, read as follows:
- “With great joy we left Parama pier. Under bright blue sky we travelled 33 minutes in calm waters when the coast guard arrived.”
- “Our wonderful captain negotiated with them. We were in a holding pattern for probably 3 hours when the commandos arrived with drawn weapons.”
- “I'm below deck surrounded by a doctor and a nurse and wonderful other people. Our spirits are high. I'm calm, unafraid, hopeful.”
(Epstein's description of events could not be independently confirmed by University City Patch)
Epstein appears in photos on the U.S. to Gaza’s website, along with a group of protesters in front of the U.S. Embassy in Greece. According to a July 3 press release from the same site, eight of the protesters who were fasting in front of the U.S. Embassy were detained and later released. Epstein’s name was not on that list.
More on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla II
- Al Jazeera reports Greek authorities are willing to ship the aid to Gaza themselves through the appropriate means and channels. According to the article, the Greek Foreign Ministry said the ban on the boats stemmed from concerns “with the protection and safety of human life."
- According to an Associated Press article, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a news conference the flotilla was neither a useful nor necessary method to aid the people in Gaza.
- The United States Department of State released a statement strongly urging “all those wishing to deliver goods to the people of Gaza to do so through established channels so that their cargo can be inspected and transferred via established land crossings.”
- According to the New York Times, Israel issued a warning to foreign journalists in the flotilla. Journalists aboard the flotilla “risked being barred from the country (Israel) for up to a decade and having their equipment impounded,” according to the article.
(Editor's Note: University City Patch is reaching out for additional comment and balance.)