Sunday, August 24, 2008

Salute these brave seafarers bringing hope !

WE don't often get good news from the Middle East, and when that news concerns people acting together to overcome barriers and defy oppression some of our media seem determined we should not get the news at all.

But here's one welcome item.


GAZA (23 August 2008) - Two small boats, the SS Free Gaza and the SS
Liberty, successfully landed in Gaza early this evening, breaking the
Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The boats were crewed by a determined group of international human
rights workers from the Free Gaza Movement. They had spent two years
organizing the effort, raising money by giving small presentations at
churches, mosques, synagogues, and in the homes of family, friends, and

They left Cyprus on Thursday morning, sailing over 350 kilometers
through choppy seas. They made the journey despite threats that the
Israeli government would use force to stop them. They continued sailing
although they lost almost all communications and navigation systems due
to outside jamming by some unknown party. They arrived in Gaza to the
cheers and joyful tears of hundreds of Palestinians who came out to the
beaches to welcome them.

Two small boats, 42 determined human rights workers, one simple message:
“The world has not forgotten the people of this land. Today, we are all
from Gaza.”

Tonight, the cheering will be heard as far away as Tel Aviv and
Washington D.C.


“We recognize that we’re two, humble boats, but what we’ve accomplished
is to show that average people from around the world can mobilize to
create change. We do not have to stay silent in the face of injustice.
Reaching Gaza today, there is such a sense of hope, and hope is what
mobilizes people everywhere.”
--Huwaida Arraf. Palestinian-American, Huwaida is also a citizen of Israel. She’s a co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement, and teaches International Law at Al Quds University in Jerusalem. Huwaida sailed to Gaza aboard the SS Liberty.

“What we’ve done shows that people can do what governments should have
done. If people stand up against injustice, we can truly be the conscience of the world.”
--Jeff Halper, an Israeli professor of anthropology and coordinator of the
Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD),. Jeff sailed to
Gaza aboard the SS Free Gaza.

Others on board the boats included Lauren Booth, sister-in-law of former prime minister Tony Blair, who is now "Middle East peace envoy" among his other well-paid jobs, and left-wing Greek MP Tasos Kourakis.

Announcing its change of mind about stopping the boats the Israeli government asserted that those on board wanted to provoke an incident at sea, but that since it knew who they were it would not stop them. Very magnanimous of it. Yet the courageous volunteers could not count on fear of publicity deterring the Israeli navy, any more than the illegality of its blockade. When Israeli forces shot and wounded Nobel prizewinner Mairead Corrigan at B'ilin neither the British nor Irish media paid much attention.

Jeff Halper's point about what governments can do is important. While the two boats were being readied for their voyage from Cyprus, volunteers who had tried to deliver a van load of medical supplies from Scotland to Gaza were giving up in despair after a month of frustration, as Egyptian authorities refused to let them cross the border at Rafah, and threatened to impound their vehicle and contents.

Sixty years ago the British and US governments flew plane loads of supplies into Berlin to break the Soviet blockade of West Berlin. They were prepared to risk confrontation with the Soviet Union of Stalin, but when it comes to Gaza there has been no question of an airlift (and Israeli forces wrecked the airfield), or even convoys, even when there were warnings from aid agencies of a humanitarian disaster. Britain and the US have supported the Israeli blockade, and the Egyptian authorities have helped maintain it.

So let's cheer the volunteers! Wherever they have come from, they have shamed their governments and shown the way, by acting as human beings.
from illegal and dan

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At 1:59 PM, Blogger white rabbit said...

It's a good story. I blogged on this as well. Slight disagreement - I think the Israelis were fly enough to realise that stopping the boats with added unpleasantness could be a huge PR shambles. The challenge now is to build on this small success. I suggested taking real - as opposed to symbolic medical etc supplies and crewing the boats with Israelis and Paletinians next time. There must be lots of next times.

At 9:09 PM, Anonymous a very public sociologist said...

Excellent news. There's some good pics at the Anti-Zionists Against Anti-Semitism blog. Link here

At 12:36 PM, Blogger Mirek said...

Fantastic news! A brave attempt after some uncertainty and Zionist attempts to frighten the volunteers. There is only a shameful silence from the PA and the `international community`, but that was to be expected. Your reward is not just for breaking the siege, but the demonstration to the Palestinians that they are not alone.


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