By Jeff Warner
Free Gaza Movement co-founder Greta Berlin gave a talk about her new book Freedom Sailors, The Story of the Free Gaza Movement (co-edited with Bill Dienst M.D.) at the Levantine Cultural Center Thursday evening. The program was co-sponsored by L.A. Jews for Peace and CODE PINK: Women for Peace, as well as by the local chapter of Women in Black.
Berlin described how the idea of sailing to Gaza originated and the many failures along the way to getting a boat—what in the end were two small, decrepit fishing boats not really outfitted for open sea travel. She reminisced about the first harrowing trip from Cyprus to Gaza Port, accomplished despite Israel blocking all communication channels. Ultimately the trip succeeded and the 44 sailors on board stayed in Gaza for five days, where they were greeted by some 40,000 Palestinians, who assembled on the beach to welcome them.
Later Free Gaza Movement voyages resulted in five more successful entries into Gaza Port, before the fateful Mavi Marmara shootings by the Israeli navy in May 2010 that resulted in the deaths of nine activists.
Thirty people came out Thursday night in spite of the storm in Los Angeles - this writer drove 2 hours and 20 minutes to get from home to the LCC. Several Freedom Sailors who sailed with Greta into Gaza Port were in the audience; they added creditability to Berlin's remarks.
Competing with Berlin's talk was the Vice-Presidential debate and a local debate between Brad Sherman and Howard Berman. The Sherman-Berman confrontation came so close to fisticuffs that security stepped in to keep the debaters apart. Meanwhile, the Levantine Cultural Center served a complementary Middle Eastern meal of fresh falafel, hummus, baba ghanoush, and red pickled turnips.
Jeff Warner is an activist in Los Angeles.