Leigh-Ann Naidoo’s diary on the Women’s Boat to Gaza: Day 4

Sunday, 25 September

After a good night’s rest I woke up excited to participate in the non-violence training and to hear from the many women here who have been on previous Freedom Flotillas. What to expect when stopped, when boarded, when arrested, when interrogated and when deported. I’ve always liked to be prepared. I’ve also always prepared for things by going to the worst case scenario. Prepare for the worst so nothing anyone does will be that bad. So this morning is my worst case scenario training and whatever we do practically in training I will probably take to an even worse place in my imagination.

The workshop began with the question, what is non-violence to you? For me it is the creative, critical and strategic response to an oppressive situation. Others answered that it was being human, seeing humanity in others and not just passivity. Our boat leader said it is an attempt to obtain your objective by not harming other people either physically or emotionally and for another organiser it was human solidarity in action.

We heard the testimony of Turkish participant Cigdem Topcuoglu who was on the Mavi Mamara. Her husband was shot by the IDF and died in her arms. She said that they did not go to spread violence in 2010 and that we will go again in peace with the Women’s Boat to Gaza later this week.

Lisa, our trainer, spoke to us about strategic non-violence: “The USA is a very violent country and culture and we carry that violence in ourselves. I recognise that there is a war being waged on people around the world; a war on immigrants, war on Palestine, war on black people, war on women. When there is war, we can choose to fight or not. And if we choose to fight we can fight violently or non-violently. The power of non-violence is about taking the violence of oppression and bringing it back to their home. Bring the crisis back home. Because the crisis will bring deep change.”

It will be very difficult but when in a group then we have to make an agreement and stick to it. It’s important to be clear about what will be best for the common good. This is sacred work; it is not a joke or a game. This is about life or death and people could die on this mission, but I hope it won’t happen. We must remember that the young Israelis have been trained to believe that we are all terrorists, they will be afraid of us, we must understand that fear can produce stupid reactions.

Today we are going to do a variety of activities and discussions. Usually we would do 3 days’ of training but we only have a few hours. We will focus as much as possible on what we must do during this mission.

Power continues because we cooperate. We need to understand the choices that are available to us and what the consequences of these choices are. Our choices will either oppress us or liberate us. It is worth remembering that there are 4 types of power: power over – oppression; power with – shared horizontally; power within – to change the world; power under – we cannot.

Some of the words and phrases from the training that have stuck in my head are: detention centre, holding facility, prison, deportation, arrest, interrogation, imprisoned, detention camp, processed, deported and techniques designed to break your spirit.

Throughout this mission we must remember the women around the world and those in Palestine who are powerful despite their imprisonment, hunger, exhaustion and fear. Trauma is neurological and we must try our best to stay calm and centred. For our 9 days on Zaytouna the laws won’t matter; this is all about politics.

We break for tea, or so we think… We are in a corridor at the bottom of the stairs and an unscheduled role play of the Israeli Occupation Forces boarding our boat begins. There is lots of shouting, lots of commands being given, water is thrown at us and some people are being grabbed. After this exercise it all feels more real. Next are the interrogation simulations. This is all meant to prepare us if the Zaytouna is intercepted in international waters and we are kidnapped by Israel. Fortunately for us we have two women who are 70+ on the mission and they have been through flotilla missions before. Our boat leader, Ann Wright, is a retired US army Colonel. She is amazing and kind. I’m not sure how her amazingness was formed in the brutality and horror that is the US military. She stepped down when the US invaded Iraq.

I was really grateful for the non-violence training. We really do go in peace on this mission and I feel a bit more prepared to deal with the provocation that we might have to withstand. Inshallah we will make it to Gaza without incident. I spend the rest of the day repacking and picking up last minute supplies. I have a night watch shift at the port from 7-11pm to ensure that Zaytouna isn’t tampered with and then I will head to bed.

This post originally appeared on Middle East Monitor.

Featured Image via Twitter.

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