27 June 2011
Despite pressure and threats of violence, flotilla will sail
[Athens] On Saturday, 25 June, the French boat, Dignity / Karama, left the port of l’ile Rousse in Corsica, France, to meet up with at least nine other vessels sailing to Gaza to challenge Israel’s illegal blockade. Israel’s best efforts to stop our boats at port, including pressure on governments, threats against insurance and communications companies, intimidation of human rights defenders, frivolous lawsuits and other underhanded tactics, have thusfar failed. The Freedom Flotilla has set sail.
In the coming days the rest of the vessels in the flotilla, two cargo ships and seven other passenger boats, will leave from various ports to a meeting point in international waters from which the boats will sail all together towards Gaza. We will carry nearly three thousand tons of aid and hundreds of civilians from dozens of countries, including members of parliament, politicians, writers, artists, journalists and sports figures, as well as representatives of indigenous peoples and various faith groups.
Unfortunately some of our vessels are facing delays admittedly initiated by bogus complaints from the Israel Law Center, attempted sabotage of some boats, as well as administrative obstacles created by the Greek government in response to Israeli pressure. We call upon the Greek government not to become complicit in Israel’s illegal actions by succumbing to this pressure, and to join France in standing unopposed to the flotilla.
There is no question that Israel’s near hermetic closure of the Gaza Strip is illegal; this has been affirmed again and again by numerous international human rights bodies including the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross. And, when prompted by the flotilla effort, international consensus has been unequivocal in the demand for the Israeli siege to end. There is no question that Israel’s closure policy has had a devastating effect on the occupied people of Gaza. This has also been well documented. The only question is why does the international community of states allow Israel to keep violating the law and rights of the Palestinian people with impunity?
Recent steps taken by Israel to address the concerns raised in the public eye by the Freedom Flotilla II – Stay Human initiative, including last week’s announcement of authorization for construction materials for 1,200 homes and 18 schools in Gaza, prove that flotillas work. However, this is not enough, as our effort is not simply about increasing humanitarian aid to Gaza. It is about freedom for Palestinians in Gaza and the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories. Calls by some world leaders for flotilla organizers to use “established channels” to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza show a fundamental disregard for Palestinian human rights. The Palestinian people do not want handouts from the international community; rather they demand liberation – a call we must all support.
Therefore, despite intimidation, pressure, and threats of violence from the Israeli government, which is not ashamed to boast that it will use snipers and attack dogs against unarmed civilians, we will sail. We are part of a growing movement, led by Palestinian civil society campaigning for their freedom, that Israel’s strong-arm tactics cannot stop. We call on our governments to do their utmost to protect their citizens as we take to the sea, without weapons, protection or threat of force, in defense of freedom, human rights, and the rule of law. Gaza, we are coming.