Aboard the international solidarity boat Al-Awda, part of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition (FFC), we are a more motley crew than the passengers aboard the Minnow in the old US TV series McHale’s Navy: Among those who have joined us on one or more legs of the trip to Gaza are citizens of Spain, Israel, Norway, Malaysia, Canada (Indigenous), Denmark and the United States.
Despite our diverse ages and backgrounds we have something important in common: Minds that comprehend the crimes and human rights violations being committed daily against the people of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories; Hearts that feel deeply the pain of those whose basic freedoms have been denied for 70 years; and Consciences that want to find a nonviolent way to reach out to these people, right the wrongs of the Gaza blockade and achieve a measure of justice.
The legitimate political representatives of our governments have failed us in having the political and moral courage to secure peace and justice for a people facing 70 years of sustained, brutal political and economic subjugation by a foreign power, Israel. Thus, we act. The international Freedom Flotilla Coalition (FFC) sails again.
This time the FFC will not attempt to deliver medical supplies or foodstuffs to the suffering people of Gaza – past experience with previous FFC missions indicates that such materials will likely never end up in Gaza, or will arrive in spoiled or damaged condition. Instead, the “Al-Awda” will deliver itself – a refurbished Norwegian fishing boat – as a solidarity offering to the fisherman of Gaza, who are shot at and harassed on a daily basis, prevented from feeding their families, and whose fishing boats are regularly seized and destroyed by Israel.
There is so much misery in Gaza that could easily be alleviated, since nearly all of it is either deliberately manufactured by Israel (such as the bombing of sewage plants, the electricity grid, Gaza harbor, the undrinkable water) or is an immediate by-product of Israeli policy (widespread post-traumatic stress disorder and associated mental illnesses, a spike in the rates of cancer, once extremely rare among Palestinians).
The economic blockade, the restrictions on foodstuffs and construction materials, the travel bans, and the sealed borders are all aided and abetted by the Egyptian leader al-Sisi, a close ally of Netanyahu. Under al-Sisi the Rafah border to Egypt – the only non-Israeli outlet available to the Palestinians of Gaza seeking medical aid or travel abroad – is almost always closed. These blatant violations of human rights and the Geneva Convention have occurred with the complicit wink of the US and Europe, whose weapons manufacturers profit handsomely from their arms sales to Israel.
The relegation of Palestinians to a less-than-human status by Israel – in particular the inhabitants of Gaza, who are perpetually locked into an open-air prison and subject to the Israeli blockade, was noted by MIT professor Noam Chomsky after a visit to Gaza to attend an academic conference. In comments broadcast by Democracy Now on Nov. 14, 2012, Chomsky remarked:
“It’s kind of amazing and inspiring to see people managing somehow to survive as essentially caged animals subject to constant, random, sadistic punishment only to humiliate them; no pretext. They [the Palestinians] would like to have dignified lives, but the standard Israeli position is that they shouldn’t raise their heads.”
This article has been excerpted from: ‘The Next Boat to Gaza’.