Naiman says he hopes the flotilla will show Palestinians that nonviolent struggle can work and to bolster nascent grass-roots Palestinian movements that have sought, with some success, to use nonviolent protests and passive resistance to press their demands.
"Never in the past 25 years has there been anything like this political moment, where half of Palestinian society is poised to go [toward nonviolence], and that’s exciting to me," says Naiman, giving a rough estimate of the Palestinian mood. "The more nonviolence works, the more they will adopt it. That’s why there’s so much excitement about the flotilla."
Last year's flotilla symbolically sought to break Israel's economic siege of the Gaza Strip, which includes a naval blockade. Gaza's port has been shut since 2006, and goods flow almost exclusively through a border crossing tightly controlled by Israel, leading to shortages of fuel, medicine, and construction materials in the territory.
But that flotilla was stopped by an Israeli assault that killed nine activists (one with American citizenship) in international waters, sparking international condemnation that led Israeli to ease, though not lift, its blockade of the impoverished Palestinian territory.
This year, Israel has been furiously lobbying foreign governments and the United Nations to try to prevent boats from sailing. It has issued threats stating that all means will be used to stop the ships from reaching Gaza. The Government Press Office even warned that any journalists on board could – along with activists – be barred from the country for 10 years, although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office later said that the press would be exempt.