Sailing to Gaza

By Susan Schwartz , MMNS

–  The deteriorating situation in Gaza is an open wound on the world’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 Israel’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 “Ship of Return” 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 Farra’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.

“It was great seeing new faces interested in our  project” said Greta Berlin. “And we got a lot of response from people who really  didn’t know very much about what is happening in Gaza. We were not preaching to  the choir this time.”

Dr. Paul Larudee has given The Muslim  Observer the following statement.

“The 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 Israeli’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 Gaza’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.”

A third ISM activist and one of the prime movers  in freeGaza is Mary Hughes Thompson. She has told The Muslim Observer:

“The 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 don’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.”

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  Israel’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_ (


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