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Written by Free Gaza team | 28 May 2010
Posted in News

WitnessGaza.com

For over four years, Israel has subjected the civilian population of Gaza to an increasingly severe blockade, resulting in a man-made humanitarian catastrophe of epic proportions. Earlier this month, John Ging, the Director of Operations of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in Gaza, called upon the international community to break the siege on the Gaza Strip by sending ships loaded with humanitarian aid. This weekend, 9 civilian boats carrying 700 human rights workers from 40 countries and 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid will attempt to do just that: break through the Israel’s illegal military blockade on the Gaza Strip in non-violent direct action. In response, the Israeli government has threatened to send out ‘half’ of its Naval forces to violently stop our flotilla, and they have engaged in a deceitful campaign of misinformation regarding our mission.

Israel claims that there is no ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Every international aid organization working in Gaza has documented this crisis in stark detail. Just released earlier this week, Amnesty International’s Annual Human Rights Report stated that Israeli’s siege on Gaza has “deepened the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Mass unemployment, extreme poverty, food insecurity and food price rises caused by shortages left four out of five Gazans dependent on humanitarian aid. The scope of the blockade and statements made by Israeli officials about its purpose showed that it was being imposed as a form of collective punishment of Gazans, a flagrant violation of international law.”[1]

Israel claims that its blockade is directed simply at the Hamas government in Gaza, and is limited to so-called ‘security’ items. Yet When U.S. Senator John Kerry visited Gaza last year, he was shocked to discover that the Israeli blockade included staple food items such as lentils, macaroni and tomato paste.[2] Furthermore, Gisha, the Israeli Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, has documented numerous official Israeli government statements that the blockade is intended to put ‘pressure’ on Gaza’s population, and collective punishment of civilians is an illegal act under international law.[3]

Israel claims that if we wish to send aid to Gaza, all we need do is go through ‘official channels,’ give the aid to them and they will deliver it. This statement is both ridiculous and offensive. Their blockade, their ‘official channels,’ is what is directly causing the humanitarian crisis in the first place.

According to former U.S. President Jimmy Carter: “Palestinians in Gaza are being actually ‘starved to death,’ receiving fewer calories per day than people in the poorest parts of Africa. This is an atrocity that is being perpetrated as punishment on the people in Gaza. It is a crime… an abomination that this is allowed to go on. Tragically, the international community at large ignores the cries for help, while the citizens of Gaza are treated more like animals than human beings.”[4]

Israel claims that we refused to deliver a letter and package from POW Gilad Shalit’s father. This is a blatant lie. We were first contacted by lawyers representing Shalit’s family Wednesday evening, just hours before we were set to depart from Greece. Irish Senator Mark Daly (Kerry), one of 35 parliamentarians joining our flotilla, agreed to carry any letter and to attempt to deliver it to Shalit or, if that request was denied, deliver it to officials in the Hamas government. As of this writing, the lawyers have not responded to Sen. Daly, electing instead to attempt to smear us in the Israeli press.[5] We have always called for the release of all political prisoners in this conflict, including the 11,000 Palestinian political prisoners languishing in Israeli jails, among them hundreds of child prisoners.[6]

Most despicably of all, Israel claims that we are violating international law by sailing unarmed ships carrying humanitarian aid to a people desperately in need. These claims only demonstrate how degenerate the political discourse in Israel has become.

Despite its high profile pullout of illegal settlements and military presence from Gaza in August—September 2005, Israel maintains “effective control” over the Gaza Strip and therefore remains an occupying force with certain obligations.[7] Among Israel’s most fundamental obligations as an occupying power is to provide for the welfare of the Palestinian civilian population. An occupying force has a duty to ensure the food and medical supplies of the population, as well as maintain hospitals and other medical services, “to the fullest extent of the means available to it” (G IV, arts. 55, 56). This includes protecting civilian hospitals, medical personnel, and the wounded and sick. In addition, a fundamental principle of International Humanitarian Law, as well as of the domestic laws of civilized nations, is that collective punishment against a civilian population is forbidden (G IV, art. 33).

Israel has grossly abused its authority as an occupying power, not only neglecting to provide for the welfare of the Palestinian civilian population, but instituting policies designed to collectively punish the Palestinians of Gaza. From fuel and electricity cuts that hinder the proper functioning of hospitals, to the deliberate obstruction of humanitarian aid delivery through Israeli-controlled borders, Israel’s policies towards the Gaza Strip have turned Gaza into a man-made humanitarian disaster. The dire situation that currently exists in Gaza is therefore a result of deliberate policies by Israel designed to punish the people of Gaza. In order to address the calamitous conditions imposed upon the people, one must work to change the policies causing the crisis. The United Nations has referred to Israel’s near hermetic closure of Gaza as “collective punishment,”[8] strictly prohibited under Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. All nations signatory to the Convention have an obligation to ensure respect for its provisions.[9]

Given the continuing and sustained failure of the international community to enforce its own laws and protect the people of Gaza, we strongly believe that we all, as citizens of the world, have a moral obligation to directly intervene in acts of nonviolent civil resistance to uphold international principles. Israeli threats and intimidation will not deter us. We will sail to Gaza again and again and again, until this siege is forever ended and the Palestinian people have free access to the world.

WitnessGaza.com

NOTES:

[1] Amnesty International, Annual Human Rights Report (26 May 2010); http://thereport.amnesty.org/

[2] “The pasta, paper and hearing aids that could threaten Israeli security,” The Independent (2 March 2009)

[3] “Restrictions on the transfer of goods to Gaza: Obstruction and obfuscation,” Gisha (January 2010)

[4] “Carter calls Gaza blockade ‘a crime and atrocity,” Haaretz (17 April 2008), http://www.haaretz.com/news/carter-calls-gaza-blockade-a-crime-and-atrocity-1.244176

[5] “Gaza aid convoy refuses to deliver package to Gilad Shalit,” Haaretz (27 May 2010)

[6] “Comprehensive Report on Status of Palestinian Political Prisoners,” Sumoud (June 2004); Palestinian Children Political Prisoners, Addameer, http://www.addameer.org/detention/children.html

[7] Article 42 of the Hague Regulations stipulates, a “territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army,” and that the occupation extends “to the territory where such authority has been established and can be exercised.” Similarly, in the Hostage Case, the Nuremburg Tribunal held that, “the test for application of the legal regime of occupation is not whether the occupying power fails to exercise effective control over the territory, but whether it has the ability to exercise such power.” Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, like those in the West Bank, continue to be subject to Israeli control. For example, Israel controls Gaza’s air space, territorial waters, and all border crossings. Palestinians in Gaza require Israel’s consent to travel to and from Gaza, to take their goods to Palestinian and foreign markets, to acquire food and medicine, and to access water and electricity. Without Israel’s permission, the Palestinian Authority (PA) cannot perform such basic functions of government as providing social, health, security and utility services, developing the Palestinian economy and allocating resources.

[8] John Holmes, Briefing to the U Security Council on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, 27 January 2009.

[9] Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949, Article I stating, “The High Contracting Parties undertake to respect and to ensure respect for the present Convention in all circumstances.” See also, Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Advisory Opinion, I. C. J. Reports 2004, p. 136 at 138; http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/files/131/1671.pdf.

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http://www.witnessgaza.com

Written by Free Gaza Team | 25 May 2010

Posted in Press releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (Hearklin, Crete, Tuesday, May 25, 2010)

As Israel continues to insist it will stop the seven-ship international Freedom Flotilla, two more ships departed from Greece to Gaza today.

A 2000 ton cargo ship and fifty-person passenger ship owned by the European Campaign Against the Siege of Gaza, and Swedish/Greek Ship to Gaza campaigns left Athens to meet the Freedom Flotilla in international waters. They follow hot on the trail of the cargo ships of Insani Yardim Vakafi (IHH’s) and Free Gaza’s MV Rachel Corrie. IHH’s remaining 1100 capacity passenger ship and cargo ship are to sail shortly from Turkey.

In Crete, the Free Gaza Movement is readying its two passenger boats for their imminent departure. ‘Al Samoud’ (The Steadfast’) and ‘Al Haya’ (The Ship of Life) were named by children from schools in occupied Gaza and Jerusalem.

Reports coming from the Israeli Navy say they will jam the flotilla’s signals and communications, isolating those on board the ships, and barring the world from witnessing what could become a confrontation or prolonged naval stand-off.

The strategy of the Freedom Flotilla, however, is to resist any attempts by the Israeli Navy to hijack its ships or to divide cargo ships from passenger vessels.

“The message from Israel is clear: ‘We will stop you. And no-one can prevent us from stopping you.’ said Free Gaza chair, Huwaida Arraf. “However, we will non-violently resist Israeli attempts to seize our boats.

Thousands of people have contributed to making this flotilla a reality, and the people of Gaza are expecting us. “We will not allow our flotilla to be divided. We will stay with our cargo ships – they are the core of the flotilla carrying essential construction materials denied entry into Gaza – cement, steel, and houses.

This action is not a symbolic gesture but a concrete intervention to allow the people of Gaza to rebuild their lives with dignity’, emphasized passenger, Aengus O’Snodaigh, TD Sinn Féin party, Ireland

Ewa Jasiewicz added, “We are not breaking the law, we are upholding it. We are acting out of necessity to prevent a greater crime from taking place – the collective punishment of 1.5 million people imprisoned in Gaza.

The international community is complicit in this collective punishment and must break its silence. Respect for international law is not optional, it is obligatory.’

Contacts Crete Free Gaza Movement 0030 698 377 6683 Cyprus Free Gaza Movement 00 357 99 18 72 78 or 00 357 96 48 98 05

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t

2 people`s, 2 flag`s...............united

Thanks to Marie for picture…………………

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follow the flotilla

www.witnessgaza.com

To follow the flotilla online, including live streaming at times,

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Some of the well wishers:

ALICE WALKER: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r1CAyALSpoQ&feature=related
JOHN PILGER: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l85h44PbgWU&feature=related
RICHARD FALK: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfZ_gG7mYrk&feature=youtu.be&a

Pics from the ships:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/freegaza/

Second Ship Joins the Freedom Flotilla on Way to Gaza

 
Written by Greta Berlin | 22 May 2010
[Istanbul, Turkey – 22 May, 2010]

Amid cheers and waving of Turkish and Palestinian flags, the second ship to join the Freedom Flotilla left Istanbul this afternoon. Sponsored by the Turkish humanitarian organization, Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH), the ship will carry 600 passengers to Gaza as part of the ‘blockade busting’ flotilla. It joins eight other boats coming from three other countries carrying 10,000 tons of supplies to the Palestinian people, supplies that have been denied to them by Israel.
Boats will meet in the Mediterranean, then turn toward Gaza to arrive at its beseiged slice of beachfront by the end of May. Free Gaza Movement’s  MV Rachel Corrie is already on her way from Ireland and is presently off the coast of Portugal loaded with cement, paper and supplies for school children and medical equipment.
Said John Ging, Head of United Nation’s Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in the Gaza Strip since 2006 said,  “We recommend the world send ships to the shores of Gaza, and we believe that Israel would not stop these vessels because the sea is open, and many human rights organizations have been successful in previous similar steps, and proved that breaking the siege on Gaza is possible.”
For more information:
Free Gaza Movement – Greta Berlin – +357 99187275
Free Gaza Movement – Huwaida Arraf – +306983046697
ECESG – Mazen Kahel – +33 1 46 81 12 92
IHH – Ahmet Emin Dag – +90 530 341 1934
Ship to Gaza / Greece – Vangelis Pissias – +30 697 200 9339
Ship to Gaza / Sweden – Dror Feiler – +46702855777
**********************************************************************************************************************************************
May 18, 2010
“You Need a Proper Boat …
Gaza Fever
By GRETA BERLIN
We’ve all caught the fever, every one of us who works to send boats to Gaza. From August 2006, when a handful of us started the Free Gaza Movement, every one who has joined us has been stricken with a bad case of the disease. It is chronic. It sometimes causes afflicted patients to insist that if just one more voyage can be planned to this small slice of the Mediterranean, we’ll all be in remission. There is no real cure in sight… yet.
Gaza Fever has now attacked thousands of us who have a passionate sense of justice.
The disease began shortly after Israel invaded Lebanon in 2006, as a group of us were in despair that the Palestinians, once again, were the forgotten symptom of Israel’s grand designs. As the world watched the defeat of Israel by a small band of guerrilla fighters in Lebanon, Israel decided it would take its wrath out on the Palestinians, specifically the Palestinians of Gaza. We watched as Israel, in January 2009, deliberately bombed 1.5 million Palestinians into abject poverty, a man-made catastrophe bordering on genocide.
One man in Australia suggested we sail a boat from New York to Gaza in protest of the closures there. That small idea has grown into a flotilla that leaves at the end of May with 700 people on board nine ships.
We, who have traveled by boat to Gaza, come back changed, blisters of outrage forever marking us. Those who have supported us through donations, letters, outraged picketing in front of Israeli Embassies demanding Israel stop its war crimes against a civilian population are also changed, as they watched our small boats sail into Gaza five times, cheering us on our way. Then, when our last three missions were violently stopped by Israel, thousands stepped up and donated to help us buy new boats. 
In July 2009, Tun Dr.Mahathir bin Mohamad, former Prime Minister of Malaysia, and his wife, Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah bin Mohamad visited the Free Gaza Movement in Cyprus. They had heard about the voyages to Gaza and what Israel had done to the last three, ramming the Dignity, turning one back under threat of fire and hijacking the Spirit of Humanity, kidnapping the 21 human rights observers and throwing them into detention for a week.
He wanted to come and see for himself the small fishing boat that had been, in August 2008, Free Gaza’s first vessel to enter the port of Gaza in 41 years. When he and his wife stepped on this small vessel, he was shocked. “You went all the way to Gaza on this small boat? You braved the sea in a boat that was barely seaworthy?”
When we replied that, indeed, we had crossed the sea in not only this small boat, but one even smaller, 44 of us challenging Israel’s blockade on the 1.5 million Palestinians of Gaza, he caught Gaza Fever.
“You need a proper boat,” he said. “I’m going back to my people in Malaysia and see how we can help you raise money to send more boats back to Gaza.”
And that’s exactly what he and his wife did.
They went back to their citizens and, through the Perdana Global Peace Organization, helped to raise over €300,000 for the Free Gaza to purchase a cargo ship and two passenger boats. These are the boats we are sailing to Gaza beginning mid-May.
And when the Irish cargo boat sailed out of Dundalk, it was because of the passion for justice that Tun Dr.Mahathir and his wife, Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah have for the occupied Palestinians and the determination of the members of the Free Gaza Movement.
Malaysia and Ireland and the people who represent this mission embody civil society at its best.
Now our four boats will rendezvous in the Mediterranean with boats from the European Campaign to End the Siege of Gaza (ECESG), Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH), Ship to Gaza Greece, Ship to Gaza Sweden, and the International Committee to Lift the Siege on Gaza.
We’re named the Freedom Flotilla and we sail to deliver reconstruction supplies, paper, medical equipment and toys for the children. The fever has spread to other organizations and other countries.
Will there be a cure?…only if their fishermen can fish without being shot and murdered, only if their farmers can harvest their crops without Israeli military vehicles burning down their wheat, only if Gaza has the same rights as every country on the Mediterranean… the right to free and open trade with the rest of the world.
Then and only then will our severe case of Gaza Fever be cured.

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