A broad campaign has started in the capital Sana'a for collecting donations for preparing and sending a four-ship flotilla to break the blockade on the Gaza Strip.By virtually any measure, Yemen is in much worse shape than Gaza. Yemen's infant mortality rate is triple that of Gaza; its life expectancy is ten years lower than Gaza's, and Yemen ranks 151 out of 177 countries in the Human Development Index. It is the poorest Arab country.
The campaign was officially inaugurated by Rashad al-Alimi, deputy Prime Minister for Defence and Security Affairs.
MP Mohammad al-Hazmi, who participated in the Freedom Flotilla and who was arrested by Israel along with two other MPs and a Yemeni activist, said: "Since we returned to Sana'a and were received by President Ali Abdullah Saleh, we have proposed the topic of sending Yemeni ships for breaking the Gaza blockade to President Saleh. So he accepted this, and the Yemeni Popular Committee for the Support of the Palestinian People has adopted this very strongly and enthusiastically."
"The official position is in harmony with the popular position, and the Palestinian cause is the uniting cause for all Yemenis. Therefore, we find that Yemenis - on the official and popular levels - support the Palestinian cause, the right to resistance, and the right of return, the liberation of Palestine, and the establishment of an independent state, with Jerusalem as its capital", Al-Hazmi added.
On the number of participants in the flotilla, Al-Hazmi said: "I would not be exaggerating if I said that tens of thousands of Yemenis want to participate in the Yemeni ships to break the Gaza blockade. Even women have demanded that there should be a place for them in the flotilla. Men and women are greatly yearning, and, in fact, some people are begging to take part in the flotilla, and some other people are collecting money for the flotilla on condition that they should participate in it."
For his part, Abd-al-Qawi al-Shumayri, general coordinator of the Yemeni flotilla, said that the Yemeni flotilla is in the context of international moves to break the blockade on the Gaza Strip. These moves have emerged and grown since the Israeli aggression against the Freedom Flotilla on 31 May 2010.
Al-Shumayri added that "what is required is to purchase four ships, and not to lease them. The cost of each ship, with a capacity 1,000 tonnes, is around $1 million. Therefore, we mainly depend on collecting donations from the members of the Yemeni people, who interact with any matter of concern to Palestine and Gaza and who sacrifice everything precious to champion their Palestinian brothers."
He noted that the flotilla has set 1 August 2010 as the date for its departure to the Gaza strip. He said that the participants in the Yemeni flotilla will represent all groups of the Yemeni people, including political, ideological, and social parties and trends, including officials and party figures.
On fears that the flotilla and those onboard it will face an Israeli attack, Al-Shumayri said: "We are ready to sacrifice blood, and not only money."
Chances are, the flotilla will never get off the ground. If they don't even have the ships yet, it seems unlikely that they can launch a flotilla next week! This announcement appears to be simply a way for Yemeni authorities to distract their people from their own real problems.