Monday, 9 August 2010

Women's peace ship

Today St Mariam, the all-woman Gaza aid ship is set to sail from Tripoli to Cyprus. It's the first leg of its voyage.

The ship carries medical instruments and medicines to help Palestinians suffering because of the Israeli blockade.

With its sister ship, Naji Alali, the St Mariam (meaning the Virgin Mary)had hoped to set off several weeks ago. It was delayed after Israel launched a diplomatic mission to pressure Lebanon to stop the mission.

Peace activist passengers include Lebanese singer May Hariri(see pic), US nuns,doctors, lawyers, journalists and a very pregnant woman, Serena Shim. Faiths include Muslim and Christians. Some have adopted the ship's name, Mariam.

The participants are aware of the dangers after the Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara in May. Nine activists were killed.

Organiser Samar al-Haj says 'There will be no showers, no skirts and no makeup.' Food with be sparse and accommodation limited.

At a planning meeting Al-Haj reminded the women to be prepared for a confrontation. 'Have blood tests in case we come under attack from Israel and you need a blood transfusion.'

However, she made clear that organisers were going out of their way not to provoke Israel."We will not even bring cooking knives." Read more in Ruth Sherlock's article at

The ship has been termed 'feminist.' I can't quite see it as a sort of floating Greenham Common Peace Camp. Maybe it's meant in the biologically essentialist sense. That is, some women claim that women (as potential mothers)have a special aptitude for ensuring the human race continues, including through anti-war protests.

But any peace initiative is to be valued. And these women are not only brave but patient. They've been waiting for weeks in a Beirut hotel.

If you want to read some horrifying responses to the initiative (anti-Muslim, anti-women, and anti-peace) then see bloggers at

Rabid and stupid comments, apart from 'sink 'em' include naming the ship Pussies Galore. There are jokes about PMT and crabs. The silliest remark is 'Wait’ll the tampon and Midol-stealing starts. They will turn on each other and those "didn’t bring ‘em’ ‘cooking’ knives will come out."

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