A boat is seen across a harbour. On the side of the boat are the words "For the children of Gaza"

Freedom Flotilla to sail into Bristol marking Gaza blockade anniversary

Bristol harbour will play host to an unusual visitor next week as the boat Handala docks on its European tour raising awareness of the blockade of the Gaza Strip. 

The Handala, crewed by the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, will arrive in Bristol on Monday, July 10, for 9 days. A welcome party will be held at the Cascade Steps from 5.30pm. 

Its stay will be accompanied by a series of events hosted by Bristol Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) including tours of the Handala, film screenings, panel talks, gigs and a picnic. 

July marks 16 years of the land, sea and air blockade of the Gaza Strip by Israeli and Egyptian armies. 

Helen Wheeler, Secretary of Bristol PSC, said: ‘The blockade of Gaza is illegal, immoral and barbaric. It is designed to punish and control an entire population by limiting their access to the resources required to live fulfilled lives. It needs to be brought to an end alongside Israel’s wider system of apartheid exercised over all Palestinians. 

‘The flotilla’s visit to Bristol is an important means of raising awareness of these injustices and building the pressure on our Government to take meaningful action to hold Israel to account for its violation of Palestinian rights and of international law.’

On July 19 the Handala will depart for Southampton on the next leg of its tour, after which the Freedom Flotilla Coalition has announced its intention to sail to the Gaza Strip in 2024.

What events are happening?

The full itinerary for the Handala’s stay is as follows:

10 July – 5:30pm Welcome the flotilla to Bristol, Cascade Steps, Anchor Road.

11-16 July 12 -6pm Bristol Docks PSC and Flotilla stall, tours of the Handala.

11 July 7pm Film “The Truth: Lost at Sea”, Palestine Museum and Cultural Centre, Broad Street. The story of the 2010 Freedom Flotilla, the Mavi Marmara, which was attacked by Israel en route to Gaza.

12 July 7pm Fundraising concert for the flotilla at Palestine Museum and Cultural Centre, Broad Street. An evening of Moroccan and Sudanese music. Also live link with the Edward Said National Conservatory in Gaza.

13 July 7pm Frome Friends of Palestine’s music night “Freedom Sounds”, 23 Bath Street, Frome. “Breaking the blockade on Gaza” panel talk about the effect of the blockade and why the flotilla is important with Flotilla Crew members and link up with Gaza.

14 July 3pm The flotilla crew join Bristol’s Vigil for Gaza that has been going for over 5 years. Cascade steps.

15 July 7pm “Breaking the Blockade in Gaza” panel talk about the effect of the blockade and why the flotilla is important with crew members, National Director of PSC Ben Jamal, and link up with Gaza. Palestine Museum and Cultural Centre, Broad Street

17 July 6pm Picnic with Palestinian music and poetry. Queen Square

19 July 6:30pm Farewell to the flotilla, Bristol Docks

What is the Gaza blockade?

The blockade, which began in June 2007, prohibits the movement of people and goods between Gaza into Israel and Egypt. 

Under the blockade Palestinians are banned from exiting Gaza via Israel without a permit, which can be granted to day labourers, traders, hospital patients, and aid workers. Further, passage of goods which Israel consider to have a potential military) use, including building materials, some medical equipment, and some agricultural items, is restricted. 

The UN has called for an end to the blockade. A spokesperson for the Secretary-General said in 2022: ‘Largely due to the blockade, poverty, high unemployment rates and other factors, nearly 80 percent of Gazans now rely on humanitarian assistance. More than half of Gaza’s just over 2 million people live in poverty, and nearly 80 per cent of the youth are unemployed.’

Feature image: Rob Browne.

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