By Susan Schwartz , MMNS
– The deteriorating situation in Gaza is an open wound on the worldâ€™s conscience. While rhetoric far outstrips action in attempts to help the beleaguered people of Gaza, one group has a daring plan.
Late this summer a boat – possibly two – will attempt to enter Gaza on its Mediterranean border. While this plan is primarily an attempt to break the Israeli siege of Gaza and to challenge Israelâ€™s claim that it does not control Gaza, the secondary purpose is to bring some needed supplies. These are supplies which are forbidden to the people of Gaza by the Israelis such as hearing aids and batteries. The first boat is called the FREEGAZA.
Given the extreme shortage of potable water, the project also hopes to bring water filters since they are essential to the health and well being of Gazans, especially to the children of Gaza who are more susceptible to water borne diseases.
The ship(s) that sails into Gaza will carry these items and some medicines.
Two leading International Solidarity Movement (ISM) activists, familiar to readers, Greta Berlin and Dr. Paul Larudee, are among the founders of this movement. They will take part in the event.
The ship(s) will have continuous communication with the outside world through computers, video feed, and satellite telephones. Members of the media will also be on board. The organization feels that the more publicity this action receives, the safer the volunteers will befrom hostile Israeli action.
In 1988, at the time of the first Intifada, a ship named â€œShip of Returnâ€ planned to sail from Cyprus to Haifa with Palestinians refugees on board. The plan was to return these refugees to their homes. The ship was leased, and Israeli authorities pressured the lessor to break the contract. When the ship was purchased, the Israelis blew up its engine.
Therefore, volunteers at freeGaza have purchased the ship they plan to use, and their proposed plan is highly public having to date received much media coverage.
The volunteers will meet in Cyprus on August 1st of this year and embark for Gaza from there. The ship will have an experienced captain and two similarly expert back-up captains. There will be a crew of five on board with considerable maritime experience and knowledge of maritime law.
Dr. Mona Al Farra from northern Gaza, a medical doctor and an activist in the struggle for the liberation of Gaza, is the contact person for the free Gaza volunteers. Her brother will be on board the boat coming to Gaza.
Readers may remember Dr. Al Farraâ€™s successful American tour a year ago.
Most recently freeGaza held a successful fundraiser in Glendale. It was well received and more than half of the attendees were people new to the movement. The members of freeGaza raised more than $5000 at the event. All money raised goes to the purchase of the boats.
â€œIt was great seeing new faces interested in our projectâ€ said Greta Berlin. â€œAnd we got a lot of response from people who really didnâ€™t know very much about what is happening in Gaza. We were not preaching to the choir this time.â€
Dr. Paul Larudee has given The Muslim Observer the following statement.
â€œThe Israel-Gaza border is sealed. No products enter Israel from Gaza and the only products that enter Gaza from Israel are enough food, medicine and fuel to prevent famine and pestilence.
To state the obvious, Israel survives and even thrives without imports from Gaza because its goods and people can pass freely across Israeliâ€™s other borders. Why cannot Gaza do the same?
If Israel wants to control the passage of people and goods through its territory, international law recognizes its right to do so, within limits.
However, it has no right to deny Palestinians their right to control people and goods in territory that Israel does not claim, and even denies occupying.
That is why we are sailing to Gaza: to exercise Gazaâ€™s right to receive and send goods and travelers to and from international waters without interference from Israel. We hope that our voyage will be a first step in permitting Palestinians to enjoy the freedoms that Israelis and other peoples around the world take for granted.â€
A third ISM activist and one of the prime movers in freeGaza is Mary Hughes Thompson. She has told The Muslim Observer:
â€œThe people of Gaza feel they have been abandoned by the world, because Israel closed the doors to all their friends after Rachel Corrie was murdered in 2003. I hold my country equally responsible with Israel for the fact these innocent people are being systematically starved and ethnically cleansed from their homes and their land. Nothing is more important to me than this attempt to break the siege and visit my friends. We donâ€™t know what the Israelis will do to stop us, but I am more than willing to let them kill me too if it will save a single Palestinian life.â€
International public figures such as former President Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Margaret Chan, and European Union (EU) External Relations commissioner, Benita Ferraro Waldner have made public their outrage at Israelâ€™s collective punishment of the residents of Gaza.
Endorsements have come in from all over the world. The following are but a small percentage of those endorsing the event: The Carter Center (Georgia); Archbishop Desmond Tutu (South Africa); International Action Center (IAC), (San Diego); The Rachel Corrie Foundation (Washington); Global Exchange (San Francisco); Women in Black (WIB), numerous chapters; Code Pink; The Palestinian Youth Network (Palestine/Israel); International Solidarity Movement (ISM), (London), and Palestine Relief Fund (Australia).
The freeGaza organization is a 501(c)3 group. For more information and/or to make a contribution, please contact _www.freeGaza.org_ (http://www.freegaza.org/).