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The Irish Emigrant – Articles Free Gaza gears up for humanitarian mission By Amy Invernizzi
The MV Rachel will lead the flotilla.
On May 24, the Freedom Flotilla will set sail for Gaza with the goal of challenging Israel’s blockade of over 1.5 million Palestinians trapped in what has been described as an open-air prison. Ships sponsored by the people of Malaysia and loaded with cargo donated from Ireland, Scotland, Britain, and thousands around the world, will depart from Ireland on the second week of May. When it reaches the Mediterranean, MV Rachel Corrie will be joined by the other boats before beginning the journey to Gaza.
The Gaza Strip is 25-mile-long territory between Israel and Egypt. It is home 1.5 million Palestinians, over half of them children, most of whom are refugees and their descendents that were driven out of Israel during its founding in 1948. Gaza has been under Israeli occupation since 1967 and, since then, Israel has had complete control over airspace, water, imports/exports, and travel into or out of the territory. Since January 2006, the Gaza Strip has been under an increasingly severe blockade. In the past three months, Israel has limited the amount of fuel to run the power station in Gaza, plunging much of the territory into darkness. They have allowed just enough trucks of supplies to come into Gaza to prevent starvation.
Under the coordination of the Free Gaza Movement, the Freedom Flotilla aims to sail three cargo ships and 5 passenger ships to Gaza to bring much needed supplies and humanitarian aid. Numerous human rights organizations are aiding this project, including the Turkish Relief Foundation (IHH), the Perdana Global Peace Organization from Malaysia, the European Campaign to End the Siege of Gaza, and the Swedish and Greek Boat to Gaza.
“All men are created equally, therefore those suffering from war wounds in Gaza have the same right to medical treatment as anybody else, just as they have the right to begin to rebuild their homes and infrastructure,” said Fiachra Ó Luain, a coordinator of the Free Gaza movement.
Cargo ships will be loaded with various supplies necessary for reconstruction, medical and educational aid in Gaza. At least five passenger boats with over 600 people on board will also sail to Gaza, including passengers of parliament from around the world, United Nations, human rights and trade union activists, and journalists to document the event.
“Our mission is designed to help start rebuilding the dignity and esteem of estranged neighbors in the Middle East and remind Medinat Yisrael [The State of Israel] that in the 21st century, no nation can expect to commit war crimes against civilians and expect their friends and allies to always remain silent,” explained Ó Luain “
It is of course symbolic because the need of Gaza is much more than we could take over on the boats but it’s a start, and getting international communities to realize the tragedy of the situation,” he added. “We can’t let the eyes of the eyes of the world be taken off the humanitarian crisis.”
On a broader scale, the Free Gaza movement aims to raise international awareness about the blockade. In doing so, the hope is that there will be a review of sanctions policy and an end for international support of Israeli occupation in Gaza. Participants emphasize that the focus of the campaign is to help the civilians that are caught in the crossfire of war, and concern for the Palestinian’s is a focus of humanitarian effort more than political affiliation.
“Our mission is one for the humans of Gaza before it is one that could somehow be construed as against the people of Israel,” said Ó Luain. “There needs to be a time when you say that this is wrong and these are not the normal rules of war,” he adds. “Beyond any political position you may have on any conflict, civilians on either side are entitled to rebuild their homes if their homes have been destroyed and to medical attention if they’ve been injured, and to receive medical attention if they’ve been injured.”
The organization is accepting donations to buy cement for rebuilding in Gaza.
Information on how to donate can be found http://www.freegaza.org.