Freedom Flotilla: Meet the 85-year-old woman trying to break the Gaza siege
Among the Freedom Flotilla family, which seeks to deliver aid to the besieged Gaza Strip, is an 85-year-old American woman who flew all the way from California to a port in Scandinavia to assert her solidarity with Palestine.
Barbara, a doctor, became immersed in the Palestinian cause nearly 10 years ago after familiarising herself with brutal Israeli occupation. Before that, she specialised in obstetrics in the United States and volunteered in various Latin American countries with her husband.
"I arrived from California on May 17 to join the Freedom Flotilla team, with dozens of different nationalities, I am the mother of many children and the grandmother of many more, but above all, I am a human being. We are facing a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza," she told The New Arab.
"People in the United States show little regard for what's going on outside the country, and I'm never impressed by my country's policy in the Arab region," she said.
For Barbara, Palestine is a humanitarian issue above anything else and believes anyone who has the ability to help Palestinians suffering under apartheid, a brutal occupation and a crippling siege has the responsibility to do so.
"The issue of Palestine should be one that the whole of humanity becomes responsible for. Every human being who sees themselves as part of humanity has the responsibility to do anything for this symbolic issue to highlight the absence of justice. People must strive to recapture even just a small part of that lost justice in the siege of a people in a large prison, Gaza."
Breaking the siege
The four-strong Freedom Flotilla fleet set sail late last month for the Gaza Strip to challenge Israel's decade-old blockade of the besieged territory.
The al-Awda, Arabic for 'The Return', vessel set sail a week ago from Norway and linked up with three other boats in Copenhagen, Denmark, on Sunday, before beginning a tour of European ports which will end in the Gaza Strip.
The boat was named to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, or Catastrophe, in which more than 700,000 Palestinians fled or were forcibly expelled from their homes during the establishment of the Israeli state.
This year's freedom flotilla comes just weeks after Israeli forces opened fire on demonstrators in Gaza protesting for the right of return, killing more than 60.
"The blockade of Gaza is in its 11th year. It is such a gross violation of international law that it can be characterised as a crime against humanity," participant Mikkel Grüner, a Danish national who is city councillor in Bergen, Norway, said.
Volunteers are joining the multinational fleet for different legs of the journey, with a select group assigned to participate in the final run to Gaza.
The flotilla schedule will be kept confidential to guard against interference. In the past, mechanical failures have affected previous flotilla attempts, with allegations Israel may have tampered with the ships.