January 14, 2009:
The last 45 minutes the Spirit of Humanity is surrounded by Israeli gunboats, 100 miles away of Gaza port, into international waters. The Israelis ask the boat return to Larnaca. The boat continues its trip towards Gaza port.
Monitor the Boat’s Progress
Israeli citizens against the Gaza assault
January 1st, 2009
A former captain in the Israeli Air Force says Israel’s attack on Gaza will do nothing to stop the regions cycle of violence. He says the mainstream media is not telling the full story and is urging people to seek out independent and alternative news sources.
Yonatan Shapira is a former captain in the Israeli Air Force Reserves. In 2003 Shapira initiated the group of Israeli Air Force pilots who refused to participate in attack missions on Palestinian territories. He is a co-founder of Combatants for Peace.
He said today: “The big media is completely biased in not giving a true picture of the situation. People need to listen, watch and read alternative media sources. If you look at the number of people that were killed in the last few days the numbers for the Palestinians are enormous — over 375 people in Gaza! This is an open air prison controlled from all sides. People in Gaza cannot go out, can’t get the food, medicine, clean water, electricity they need and the Israeli Air Force is bombing them and killing innocent children in this crazy operation. The media are simply not telling this story.
“Hamas fires rockets on Israeli towns and yes, four Israelis have been killed and these rockets can kill me and my family. But Israel’s retaliation and collective punishment will not bring us more security, just the opposite. The root cause of the conflict is the ongoing occupation and the refusal of the Israeli government to negotiate with Hamas and to agree to a complete withdrawal to 1967 borders. There’s no real intention to solve the problem by my government unfortunately.
“I want to shout as loud as I can and ask everyone to join us in this struggle, Palestinians and Israelis who want to stop the bloodshed. The massacre will not stop unless people from all over the world will wake up, join us and call for boycott, divestment and sanctions on the Israeli government. I am saying these things as a Jew and as an Israeli who wants to continue to live in this beautiful and sad piece of land.”
Watch this very moving youtube video of Yonatan Shapira’s “Lullaby for Pilots”
From Sameh A. Habeeb, photojounralist, humanitarian & peace activist in Gaza Strip
Day 6 of Israeli War On Gaza
More suffocating bombings claim lives of children, women
Gaza Strip, 1, January, 2009-
The scale of Israeli war escalated today by hitting more targets in various places across occupied Gaza. The army opened the new year with more military fatal actions in Gaza leaving more people dead. Trauma cases raise up and more people are suffering from the air raids. Many facets of harmed people can be found in Gaza. You either find a hit house with a dead one of the family or a hit house in which its residents traumatized and panics. Casualties of Israeli heavy bombings reached 415 while wounded rise up to 2100 persons. Many wounded are in critical condition and there is no ability to respond to their deteriorated cases. Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister, Tsivi Livini, declared that Israel is only targeting Hamas members indicating that Gaza doesn’t suffer from any shortages of humanitarian needs. However, the incoming humanitarian needs are not enough for the populations amounted of 1.5 million. United nation debunks the allegation of Mrs. Livini and says the incoming materials are not enough. Gaza needs 100 vans of flour. Karin Abu zaid the general commissioner of UNRWA said also that around 20 thousand people face troubles in getting the food supplies.
Main Israeli Military Actions in Gaza:* *Now: Loud bombings in all Gaza City and north of Gaza. Naval fire, F16s, Apaches and tanks heavily bombs many targets and darkness prevail Gaza. Israel asks International journalists and peace activists to leave Gaza tomorrow. Israeli army broke into local radios and tunes some statement for people. Israeli F16s destroyed civic defense station and a local organization in the north of Gaza city of Bait Hanon. Many houses partially destroyed. Rockets of F16s hit a target in Al Zaytoun area in Gaza City. More bombings in some areas west of Gaza City.** Heavy bombings in East of Gaza. A house next to an ex-Hamas member destroyed in Al shja’ya area. No news about conditions of house residents.
Israeli F16s bombed the run Palestinian legislative Council. The air raid destroyed half of the premises and caused massive damage in some of the neighboring houses. Israeli heavy artillery takes part in the military operation by hitting many targets in Gaza. Many parts in the eastern areas of Gaza were shelled.
A house destroyed mid of Gaza city, Al Sabra Quarter, leaving around 13 injured. Most of the wounded are women and children who also turned traumatized. Israeli F16s raided on the house of Nizar Rayan, a Hamas key leader. The house is based in Jabalia camp where thousands live in that small refugee camp. Nine Palestinians between children and women killed due to the bombing of Rayan’s house. Some of the killed children were playing near the targeted house.
Five houses partially damaged while bombing Rayan’s house and several other got deadly shrapnel. Israeli heavy F16s’ rockets destroyed the Agricultural College of Bait Hanon, north of Gaza Strip. Israeli navy bombs Gaza shores and opens its heavy fire on some buildings, boats and security offices. Many shells fall down behind some densely populated buildings north of Gaza.
Trauma across the Nusairat Refugee Camp as Israel hit the house of Ahmed Abu Nader twice. The house was totally damaged while neighboring houses partially damaged. Israeli F16s raided on a house of Tawfiq Abu Al Ros, in Al Nusairat Refugee Camp. Many civilians injured. A house of Hani Abu Al Amrain in Al Shaikh Ridawan area bombed by Israeli Air forces. Medical sources reported that many wounded arrived at Al Shifa’ hospital.
A number of wounded resulted in a rocket hit a house for a Hamas member in Rafah. Israeli Air forced totally destroyed two mosques by heavy rockets in Khan Younis and Rafah cties. Few vans of aids, food stuff and medical aids arrived into Gaza. Arab governments to send urgent medical and food aids to Gaza. Airborne assistance expected to land in Al Araish Egyptian airport near Gaza. Neither fuel, nor gasoline nor Benzin in Gaza. Power cuts up to 21 hours. All aspects of life are not longer available in Gaza.
Neither spare parts nor Gasoline available to operate pumps of fresh water. A great number of Palestinians don’t have an easy access for fresh drinking water. Palestinian factions retaliate against Israeli air raids in Gaza. Around 50 homemade rockets fired into Israel with no casualties.
Israeli Gunboats Ram “Dignity”
(Lebanon, Tuesday 30 December) – Today the Free Gaza ship “Dignity” carefully made its way to safe harbor in Tyre, Lebanon’s southern-most port city, after receiving serious structural damage when Israeli warships rammed its bow and the port side. Waiting to greet the passengers and crew were thousands of Lebanese who came out to show their solidarity with this attempt to deliver volunteer doctors and desperately needed medical supplies to war-ravaged Gaza. The Lebanese government has pledged to provide a forensic analysis of what happened in the dark morning, when Israel rammed the civilian ship in international waters, and put the people on board in danger of losing their lives.
The Dignity, on a mission of mercy to besieged Gaza, was attacked by the Israeli Navy at approximately 6am (UST) in international waters, roughly 90 miles off the coast of Gaza. Several Israeli warships surrounded the small, human rights boat, firing live ammunition around it, then intentionally ramming it three times. According to ship’s captain Denis Healy, the Israeli attack came, “”without any warning, or any provocation.”
Caoimhe Butterly, an organizer with the Free Gaza Movement, stated that, “The gunboats gave us no warning. They came up out of the darkness firing flares and flashing huge flood lights into our faces. We were so shocked that at first we didn’t react. We knew we were well within international waters and supposedly safe from attack. They rammed us three times, hitting the side of the boat hard. We began taking on water and, for a few minutes, we all feared for our lives. After they rammed us, they started screaming at us as we were frantically getting the life boats ready and putting on our life jackets. They kept yelling that if we didn’t turn back they would shoot us.”
Cynthia McKinney, former U.S. congresswoman and Green Party presidential candidate, was traveling to Gaza aboard the Dignity in order to assess the impact of Israel’s military onslaught against the civilian population of the Gaza Strip. According to McKinney, “Israeli patrol boats…tracked us for about 30 minutes…and then all of a sudden they rammed us approximately three times, twice in the front and once in the side…the Israelis indicated that [they felt] we were involved in terrorist activities.”
The Dignity departed from Larnaca Port in Cyprus at 7pm (UST) on Monday 29 December with a cargo of over 3 tons of desperately needed medical supplies donated to Gaza by the people of Cyprus. Three surgeons were also aboard, traveling to Gaza to volunteer in overwhelmed hospitals and clinics. The ship was searched by Cypriot Port authorities prior to departure, and its passenger list was made public.
Israel’s deplorable attack on the unarmed Dignity is a violation of both international maritime law and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which states that “the high seas should be reserved for peaceful purposes.”
Delivering doctors and urgently needed medical supplies to civilians is a just such a “peaceful purpose.” Deliberately ramming a mercy ship and endangering its passengers is an act of terrorism.
CALL the Israeli Government and demand that it immediately STOP attacking the civilian population of Gaza and STOP using violence to prevent human rights and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people.
Mark Regev in the Prime Minister’s office at:
+972 2670 5354 or +972 5 0620 3264
Shlomo Dror in the Ministry of Defence at:
+972 3697 5339 or +972 50629 8148
Major Liebovitz from the Israeli Navy at:
+ 972 5 781 86248
The Free Gaza Movement, a human rights group, sent two boats to Gaza in August 2008. These were the first international boats to land in the port in 41 years. Since August, four more voyages were successful, taking Parliamentarians, human rights workers, and other dignitaries to witness the effects of Israel’s draconian policies on the civilians of Gaza.
Open Letter from Samia Khoury
Sent: Saturday, December 27, 2008 6:29 PM
Subject: John Berger
I was at a loss for words to express all the brutality of the Israeli attack on Gaza. The following message of the distinguished and courageous British writer and art critic, John Berger came to my rescue.
“We are now spectators of the latest – and perhaps penultimate – chapter of the 60 year old conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people. About the complexities of this tragic conflict billions of words have been pronounced, defending one side or the other.
Today, in face of the Israeli attacks on Gaza, the essential calculation, which was always covertly there, behind this conflict, has been blatantly revealed. The death of one Israeli victim justifies the killing of a hundred Palestinians. One Israeli life is worth a hundred Palestinian lives.
This is what the Israeli State and the world media more or less – with marginal questioning – mindlessly repeat. And this claim, which has accompanied and justified the longest Occupation of foreign territories in 20th C. European history, is viscerally racist. That the Jewish people should accept this, that the world should concur, that the Palestinians should submit to it – is one of history’s ironic jokes. There’s no laughter anywhere. We can, however, refute it, more and more vocally.
Let’s do so.”
27 December 2008
It is crucial to note that, two years ago, John Berger had mobilized dozens of prominent artists and writers worldwide to endorse the Palestinian call for an institutional cultural boycott of Israel:
Neta Golan released from Israeli jail
December 24, 2008
Neta Golan, arrested leaving Gaza on the 22nd December through Erez
crossing, has been released today by Israeli police following her
second appearance in court in Kiryat Gat.
She was not charged and was released without bail. Neta Golan was kept
in isolation for the duration of her time in prison, but had this to
“I left Gaza under Israeli siege to another Israeli prison in Kiryat
Gat. Yet in Kiryat Gat, while I did not have freedom, I was given food,
including bread and dairy, and the cell I was kept in though dirty and
cold had electricity. The Palestinian people of Gaza do not have these
things due to the Israeli policies of collective punishment.”
After successfully breaking the blockade with the Free Gaza Movement,
Neta Golan spent three days in the Gaza Strip observing the effects of
the Israeli siege on Gaza. She visited schools, hospitals and farmers
who’s lives have been devastated by Israel’s policies of collective
Upon being arrested Neta Golan stated;
“How can an act against the collective punishment of over 1.5 million
people be a crime? The policies of the Israeli State towards the people
of Gaza is the real crime”.
Neta Golan is one of the co-founders of the International Solidarity
Movement which was nominated twice for a Nobel Peace prize. She has
actively resisted the occupation, participating in hundreds of
demonstrations against the wall and the illegal settler roads. She is
married and lives in Ramallah with her Palestinian husband and two
Dignity to Gaza: “We’re Back!” – Fourth Successful Voyage Breaks Through Siege of Gaza
(GAZA, 9 December 2008) – The Free Gaza Movement ship “Dignity” successfully broke through the Israeli blockade for the fourth time since August, arriving in Gaza Port at 2:45pm, Tuesday 9 December. The ship carried one ton of medical supplies and high-protein baby formula, in addition to a delegation of international academics, humanitarian and
human rights workers. Three earlier missions made landfall in Gaza in August, October, and November through the power of non-violent direct action and civil resistance. The Free Gaza ships are the first international ships to reach the Gaza Strip in over 41 years.
“Nam, Nehnu Nastatyeh!” is Arabic for “Yes, We Can!”
October 29, 2007
LARNACA – The Free Gaza Movement is delighted to announce that their third boat, the SS Dignity carrying 27 crew and passengers arrived in Gaza at 8:10 Gaza time, in spite of Israeli threats to stop them. In the pouring rain, the boat pulled into port amid cheers from the people of Gaza and tears from the passengers. Read more….
GAZA CITY, FREE PALESTINE (29 October 2008) – This morning I walked to the Indian Ocean and made salt in defiance of the British Occupation of India. This morning I marched in Selma, I stood down tanks in Tiannamen Square, and I helped tear down the Berlin Wall. This morning I became a Freedom Rider. Read more….
Read an open letter from Huwaida Arraf, the daughter-in-law of one of our WCA members, who is on the boat to Gaza. Click here.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Date: 08-26-2008
GAZA CITY, 26 August 2008) – The SS Free Gaza and SS Liberty will leave Gaza for Cyprus on Thursday morning at 9:00 am. Several Palestinian students who have been denied exit visas by Israel will travel to Cyprus on the boats. One Palestinian professor will finally be able to go back to teaching in Europe and one young, Palestinian woman will finally be reunited with her husband. Several of the Free Gaza international human rights workers will remain in Gaza to do human rights monitoring.
By freely traveling to Gaza, on Saturday, August 23rd, in two, small, wooden boats, the Free Gaza Movement forced the Israeli government to issue a fundamental policy change regarding their military and economic blockade of Gaza. Until now, Israel has wanted absolute control of Gaza with no responsibility. Israel has managed to maintain this situation, in spite of international law, because its policies have never been challenged.
When the SS Free Gaza and SS Liberty approached the waters of Gaza, the Israeli government had to decide whether it wanted to publicly acknowledge that Israel remains an occupying power in Gaza, in which case Israel would be responsible under international law for its actions, including war crimes. In the face of intense, public scrutiny, Israel instead chose to acknowledge the inherent right of Palestinians to freely engage with the world. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign affairs publicly announced that humanitarian and human rights missions to Gaza will no longer be stopped or threatened by Israel. With the end of the Israeli siege of Gaza, Palestinians are free to exercise their rights without fear of being stopped or killed by the Israeli military.
Since the organizers of the Free Gaza Movement will not be entering Israeli territorial waters, and since they will request an inspection from the Gaza Port Authority, they expect no interference on the part of the Israeli authorities when they leave Gaza. By Israel’s own admission, it has no authority to inspect the boats or the passengers when they leave Gaza.
With the collapse of the Israeli blockade, the Free Gaza Movement will quickly return to Gaza with another delegation, and invites the United Nations, Arab League and international community to organize similar human rights and humanitarian efforts. The Free Gaza Movement will continue to work to ensure the free passage between Gaza and the outside world will remain safe and open.
For More Information, Please Contact:
(Gaza) Paul Larudee: +972 598 765 370
(Gaza) Huwaida Arraf: +972 599 130 426
(Cyprus) Osama Qashoo: +357 97 793 595 / email@example.com
(Jerusalem) Angela Godfrey-Goldstein: +972 547 366 393 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Sailing into Gaza
By Huwaida Arraf • August 25, 2008
On Saturday, after 32 hours on the high seas, I sailed into the port
of Gaza City with 45 other citizens from around the world in defiance
of Israel’s blockade. We traveled from Cyprus with humanitarian
provisions for Palestinians living under siege. My family in Michigan
was worried sick.
They are not naïve. They knew that Israel could have attacked us — as
Israeli forces did in 2003, killing nonviolent American witness Rachel
Corrie (Editor’s note: Corrie, also of the International Solidarity
Movement, was run over by a bulldozer operated by Israeli Defense
Forces during a protest against the destruction of Palestinian homes;
an Israeli military investigation ruled the death accidental) and Brit
Tom Hurndall (an ISM representative who died nine months after being
was shot in the head in Gaza by an IDF sniper; the sniper was
convicted of manslaughter) as well as thousands of unarmed Palestinian
civilians over the years.
My family members, though, remember that 60 years ago part of our own
family was uprooted and driven from their homes in Palestine by
Israeli forces. This loss no doubt fueled my decision to risk my
safety and freedom to advance the human rights of innocent men, women
and children in Gaza.
Our two boats were greeted upon arrival by thousands of jubilant
Palestinians who in 41 years of occupation had never witnessed such a
scene. To get there we braved anonymous death threats and the Israeli
military interfering with our means of communications despite rough
seas that jeopardized our safety. Before our departure, the Israeli
foreign ministry asserted its right to use force against our unarmed
We nevertheless resolved to act, to symbolically end the siege of Gaza
– and to do as civilians what governments have lacked the compassion
or courage to do themselves. Once here, we delivered critical supplies
such as hearing aids, batteries for medical equipment, and painkillers.
When a massive earthquake rocked China and cyclones ravaged Myanmar,
the world responded. Governments and civilians alike rallied to help.
Yet world governments have witnessed a manmade humanitarian
catastrophe unfold before our eyes in Gaza. Karen Koning Abu Zayd,
head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), has
asserted that “Gaza is on the threshold of becoming the first
territory to be intentionally reduced to a state of abject
destitution, with the knowledge, acquiescence and – some would say –
encouragement of the international community.”
Israel claims that its occupation of Gaza ended three years ago with
its pullout of soldiers and settlers. But because Israel objected to
the outcome of a 2006 Palestinian election that the Carter Center
deemed free and fair, it has blockaded Gaza, severely restricting
movement of goods and people. Dov Weisglass, an adviser to Israeli
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, was quoted shortly before the swearing in
of the new Hamas government as saying, “It’s like a meeting with a
dietitian. We need to make the Palestinians lose weight, but not to
starve to death.”
More than 200 Palestinians have died in the past year according to
Physicians for Human Rights – Israel because they could not exit Gaza
for needed medical care. Over 80% of Gaza’s population now depends on
food aid from UNRWA and the World Food Programme. Unemployment is up
to an astonishing 45%. And hundreds of young people are being
intellectually starved by Israel’s decision to prevent them from
taking up overseas academic opportunities.
Now that we have made it into Gaza, we intend to assist Gaza’s
fishermen. We will sail with them beyond the six nautical mile limit
illegally enforced by the Israeli navy. Palestinian fishermen are
routinely harassed and attacked as they ply the waters to eke out a
living. We hope our presence will keep the Israeli military at bay.
We do this because we are horrified that this siege of 1.5 million
men, women and children is allowed to continue. We are saddened for
the state of our world when decision-makers can sit back and watch an
entire people being slowly and purposefully starved and humiliated.
We know that with our two small boats we cannot open all of Gaza to
the outside world. We could not bring with us the freedom of movement,
access to jobs, medical care, food and other critical supplies that
they are denied today. But we brought with us a message to the people
of Gaza: they are not alone. With our successful journey we show them
that American citizens and others from around the world have been
moved to advance humanitarian principles and human rights. Our efforts
this week are undertaken in that spirit and with the hope that our
elected representatives will one day follow our example.
Huwaida Arraf, a human rights advocate from Roseville, is a lecturer
at Al-Quds University School of Law in Jerusalem and co-founder of the
International Solidarity Movement. This essay was sent to The Free
Press on her behalf by the Institute for Middle East Understanding.
Sent: Tuesday, August 26, 2008 7:11 AM
Subject: From Mary in Gaza
It was a day of smiles and a day of tears for me here in Gaza City. Another early press conference, followed by a visit to the hospital which has seen most of the carnage created in Gaza by Israeli bombs and rockets. The doctor related some of the difficulties faced by the population of Gaza. That 50 children have died because Israel refused to let them enter Israel for treatment. The reason given by Israel? The mothers were under 35 years old and could be terrorists. So the children died. He told us that so far 242 people have died during the siege because of Israel’s refusal to allow them to get the treatment they need. And that there have been 300 deliveries at checkpoints, resulting in 69 babies dead.
Next we visited a room whose walls were filled with horrific photographs of injured and dying and dead children and babies. On the table was a collection of fragments of Israeli artillery — rockets, bombs, shrapnel, bullets…
Next to visit some patients. We didn’t see any victims of this violence there. One small boy, clearly very ill, maybe 7 or 8 years old. He held his mother’s hand and tried to smile at us at she told us he will die without an operation that cannot be performed in Gaza. The Israelis won’t let him into Israel or the West Bank for treatment.
Then we went to the neonatal unit where a dozen babies you could hold in your hand were struggling to survive in patched up incubators. Some were just tiny, some had bandages, all were breathing through tubes. Their tiny chests rose and fell, some moved, opened their eyes, cried out, waved arms or legs. They didn’t seem to be ill, just very tiny. In an American hospital I’m sure they would all survive and thrive. Here we know their lives are fragile because they depend on the electricity it takes to keep their incubators working.
They are just little babies… all different. Some fair, some darker, some red faced… some with hair, some without. They could be Arab babies, or Jewish babies, or Christian babies, or Muslim babies. They are Palestinian babies, and they deserve to grow into healthy Palestinian children and adults. I wonder how it can be that some people believe the lives of Palestinian babies are less precious than those of any others?
We went to the kidney dialysis unit, where 7 or 8 adults were getting their treatment. The doctors told us that often the patients must wait for hours until there is enough electricity for the machines. Israel usually allows them 12 hours of electricity per day, but sometimes only 6, so they constantly fear the machines will stop in the middle of treatment, which sometimes happens. They said also that Israel will not let them import necessary parts to keep the machines, and the incubators, operating properly, or let them have the solution needed to cleanse the blood of the dialysis patients.
And then to lunch with Prime Minister Ismail Hanyeh at his house inside the refugee camp. He greeted each of us individually, and told us we are now citizens of Palestine. He placed a large medal around each of our necks and spoke to us about who we are, and we were able to respond. After lunch he led us into several of the tiny houses, often a single room without furniture, where he and we were greeted warmly by the Prime Minister’s neighbors and their children.
As always the people and the children were friendly and welcoming, greeting us with smiles and reaching out their hands to us. Many of the women folded me and the other women into their arms, or touched our faces, and kissed us, always telling us “thank you for coming” or “welcome to Gaza.” The children were everywhere, running through the narrow alleyways of the camp, waving to us, calling out to us “what’s your name?” and a few hiding behind their mothers, too shy to come near us. One little boy of around three dragged his green blanket around in the narrow little alley, reminding me of my own granddaughter who drags around a green blanket that I knitted for her when she was born.
Afterwards we went to the big outdoor market in downtown Gaza City. There are so many people… it’s such a little strip of land for a million and a half people. Everywhere they waved to us, smiled, held up their fingers in a peace sign. A flatbed truck pulled up beside our bus and we were entertained by a band playing just for us. We walked a lot today, and saw a thousand smiling faces.
Tonight we were entertained by Ramattan TV Network which had a journalist on our boat FREE GAZA. They showed a 6 minute film they have already made of our journey and our arrival in Gaza. There were many tears as we re-lived our rough voyage when many of us were seasick throughout the night, and frightened at the the thought – the expectation even – that we would suddenly be set upon by craft from Israel’s Navy which had warned us we would not be allowed to reach Gaza. And then cheers and smiles when we saw again the incredible greeting we had received as we sailed into Gaza port. There must have been 60 or 70 boats at least, and more than a hundred people in the water swimming beside our boats, or climbing aboard
So here we are in Gaza, and we haven’t seen a single Israeli with a gun. Just three unarmed Israelis who sailed with us on this remarkable voyage.
The last news we received tonight was that the people of Gaza City will build a square for us and name it Free Gaza Square. And all of our names will be displayed there, along with one of our boats (or a replica if we choose not to leave one of our boats behind when we go.}
Tomorrow at 4:30 AM some of us are going out with the Gaza fishermen in their boats to see what we can catch. We hope our presence will provide some degree of protection for these men and boys who risk injury and death from Israeli guns each time they try to work their trade in the waters off the coast of Gaza.
with love from Mary in Gaza City
WCA’s Hedy Epstein, Greta and Mary will be on board the Break the Siege boat.
The Free Gaza Movement
Setting Sail to Break the Siege of Gaza
Around 60 Palestinians, Israelis and Internationals from 15 countries will sail to Gaza during the sixty-year anniversary of the Nakba – the forcible expulsion of more than 700,000 Palestinians from their lands to create Israel –to challenge Israeli control over the open-air prison called Gaza.
Among the crew are a Holocaust survivor and a survivor of the Palestinian Nakba. They sail with the common bond of focusing the world’s attention on the growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza and its collapsing economy which are direct results of Israel’s ongoing occupation and continuing control over Gaza’s air space and territorial waters.
“The siege of Gaza ends only when Palestinians are accorded the basic fundamental human rights of citizens throughout the free world,” says UK passenger, Musheir El-Farra who knows the irreparable human cost of current Israeli government policies. “My family and beloved ones in Gaza have been under siege for over two years now; living without their most basic human rights on their own land.
Hedy dons a lifejacket
In the words of Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein “What an opportunity to make a change for good, both for Palestinians and Israelis. We intend to open the port, fish with the fishermen, help in the clinics, and work in the schools. But we also intend to remind the world that we will not stand by and watch 1.5 million people suffer death by starvation and disease”.
“My parents fled Palestine in 1948 when I was three years old,” said Naim Franjieh, a survivor of the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe), when 700,000 Palestinians were forced out of their homes during Israel’s founding, “I want to be there, on the boat, to tell the people of Gaza they are not forgotten by those of us who have left.”
- The Free Gaza Movement is supported by, among others, the Carter Centre in the US and Archbishop Desmond Tutu as well as Women of a Certain Age. For a full list of endorsements please visit: http://www.freegaza.org/index.php?language=EN&module=endorse
- The Free Gaza movement has been invited to Gaza by the Red Crescent Society for the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Medical Relief Society, Palestinian Centre for Human Rights and the Gaza Community Mental Health Program.
- Boat passengers will be available for interview prior to the boats leaving Cyprus (between 1st and 5th August) and during the voyage via satellite phone. Please contact us to arrange interviews.
- Individuals and organizations can receive regular updates on the progress of the boats by signing up to The Friends of Gaza e list: https://lists.riseup.net/www/subscribe/gazafriends
SS Free Gaza and SS Liberty Arrive in Chania, Crete, Saturday, 9 August at 21:00 p.m
For further information, contact: 6932 766496 for directions, or Greta Berlin, 00375 99 08 17 67
*Nicosia/Lefkosia, Cyprus, August 7.* The Free Gaza Movement announced today that their boats, destined to break the Israelis’ siege of Gaza, will arrive in Chania, Crete, on Saturday, August 9, at 9 p.m. and that a press conference will be held to welcome their arrival. Internationals are gathering across the world – in Beijing and Cyprus – with the common dream of peace and justice for everyone.
Human rights activists Lauren Booth, journalist, (sister-in-law of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair), Huwaida Arraf (a Palestinian-American residing in Ramallah, Palestine), and Jeff Halper (an Israeli Jew who was nominated for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for opposing demolitions of Palestinian homes) will be available at the press conference for interviews.
16 of the 40 Passengers
“This will be the first time that our two boats will be publicly displayed and photographers are welcome to come, take photos and post their images,” said Paul Larudee, on board the boats sailing toward Chania.
The Free Gaza Movement is endorsed by an impressive array of international groups and personalities including South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Former Prime Minister of Lebanon Dr. Salim Al-Hoss. For additional information, www.freegaza.org
It may be later than we originally planned, but we are more determined than ever to go to Gaza. By now, almost half of the people are on board or traveling to the boats, and those of us left in Cyprus are finishing up our training, working on banners and trying to control our impatience. When we called the people of Gaza to tell them we would arrive a week late, their reply was, “Don’t worry. We know you are coming. And we are waiting,” a testament to their confidence that 40 Internationals, two small boats, and tremendous media attention can somehow defeat the Israeli Navy.
Some of the survivors of the USS Liberty have written to us and asked us to be on one of their programs tomorrow night. They wrote this request of us:
What is the possibility of you and the crew of the SS Liberty throwing 34 long stemmed roses into the sea as a memorial to the 34 Americans who were killed aboard the USS LIberty? We will pay for the roses or whatever else you have in mind. I guarantee you our newspaper American Free Press will give a HUGE spread in the paper for it. The survivors of the LIberty and their familes would be eternally grateful to you and your ship mates for this gesture as no one has ever done anything like this before.
I am one of the survivors of the USS Liberty. A very tired man who woke up somewhat when I heard of the
SS Liberty. I was the petty officer in charge of the body recovery and identification, and I remember it almost like it was yesterday.
May God Be With You
So, when we leave Cyprus, we hope to have a ceremony for all of those Americans killed by the Israelis on board the ship in 1967.
The media attention has been intense in Europe, people calling constantly asking for interviews. If you GOOGLE Free Gaza, Cyprus, you will see dozens of stories about us and the boats and the response from here. So many angels have stepped in to help, from offering us their homes, feeding us, and driving us around to media appointments. One man called us today and told us that he would loan us the money to cover our expenses for the boats and the equipment, because, “You are making history.”
The Free Gaza Movement