We are a human rights group that, since August 2008, has sailed ten times to Gaza to break Israel's illegal stranglehold on1.6 million Palestinian civilians. We entered Gaza successfully five times in 2008; however, we have been violently intercepted on four voyages, including Israel's MAY 31, 2010 lethal attack on our Freedom Flotilla when nine of our colleagues were killed and many more injured by Israeli commandos. On the tenth voyage in July 2011, Greece prevented us from leaving, as Israel and the U.S. outsourced Israel's occupation of Gaza to Greece. (See also www.witnessgaza.com)
We sail as an expression of citizen nonviolent, direct action, confronting Israel's ongoing abuses of Palestinian human and political rights and will continue to challenge Israel's illegal siege on Gaza by participating and supporting other initiatives to break the blockade of Gaza by sea.
20 May 2013
Posted in News
May 20, 2013
Three years ago, the Free Gaza movement was wrapping up final preparations for a flotilla of eight ships to head out to Gaza, determined to break Israel’s illegal siege on 1.5 million Palestinians shut into an open-air prison. Most of us were already in Cyprus or Turkey or Greece, as we were the primary organizers, having already sent eight voyages, five of them successful in 2008.
Why a flotilla of boats?
During Israel’s horrific massacres against the people of Gaza (called Operation Cast Lead) in December 2008/January, 2009, our boat, the DIGNITY, had been rammed off the coast of Lebanon as we were taking medical personnel into Gaza. The boat later sank in a storm off the coast of Cyprus.
Then, in July 2009, Israel brutally attacked the “Spirit of Humanity,” even though Nobel Peace Laureate, Mairead Maguire, and former Congresswoman, Cynthia McKinney were on board. The Israeli government stole the boat, threw passengers into Israeli prison and, laughably, deported them eight days later, because “passengers had illegally entered Israel.” It was the first time the Israeli commandoes had actually boarded one of the boats as opposed to ramming them or trying to sink them. http://www.ricenpeas.com/2009/July/cynthia_mckinney_intvw.html
We realized a new approach would have to be designed, one that would include more vessels, more passengers and more media exposure to the brutal closure of Gaza. Sailing one boat at a time was not going to get the message out to the world that Israel was blockading the people of Gaza and committing crimes against humanity.
It took Free Gaza a year to organize. We traveled to Sweden, Norway, France, Turkey, Greece, many Middle Eastern countries, Tunisia, Spain, Malaysia, the UK, the US and Germany. We helped Palestinian support groups raise money and send out the message that the next voyage would have to be organized with worldwide support. We succeeded beyond our wildest imagination, as organizations and individuals got on board the mission, raised money from people around the world, and bought the boats… eight in all, from the boats purchased by the Turkish charity, IHH, to the boats ready to go from Greece, Sweden, Ireland, Malaysia and the U.S.
Our own boats, Challenger 1 and Challenger 2 plus the cargo ship, the Rachel Corrie, were on their way to the meting place off the coast of Cyprus. The Rachel Corrie, bought with money from a charity in Malaysia, http://www.counterpunch.org/2010/05/18/gaza-fever/ had finally left Ireland, its propeller pin suspiciously dropping out just days before leaving, causing the ship to be delayed for days. Had the final inspection not caught the problem, the propeller would have flown off, damaging the boat and putting the passengers and cargo at risk. The Rachel Corrie would not make it in time to join the flotilla but would try to get into Gaza five days later, only to be boarded by Israeli commandos, the passengers brutalized and left in the sun, then thrown into prison.
14 May 2013
Posted in News
ICC Prosecutor receives referral by the authorities of the Union of the Comoros in relation to the events of May 2010 on the vessel ‘MAVI MARMARA’
Today my Office met with a delegation from the Istanbul-based Elmadag Law Firm, acting on behalf of the Government of the Union of the Comoros, a State Party to the International Criminal Court since 18 August 2006.
The delegation transmitted a referral “of the Union of the Comoros with respect to the 31 May 2010 Israeli raid on the Humanitarian Aid Flotilla bound for Gaza Strip, requesting the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court pursuant to Articles 12, 13 and 14 of the Rome Statute to initiate an investigation into the crimes committed within the Court’s jurisdiction, arising from this raid’’.
In accordance with the requirements of the Rome Statute my office will be conducting a preliminary examination in order to establish whether the criteria for opening an investigation are met. After careful analysis of all available information, I shall make a determination that will be made public in due course.
28 April 2013
Posted in News
I’ve been coming to Gaza for a long time. My first time was in 1985 and this is now my seventh trip to the region. In the 80’s, there were no substantial physical barriers between Gaza and Israel. Many Gazans worked as day laborers in Israel and many spoke Hebrew. Group taxis traveled freely between East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and directly into Gaza City. The society here in Gaza was much more Westernized and secularized than it is today. Women wore blue jeans and ponytails, and the hijab and the naqab were not nearly as ubiquitous as they are today. It was hardly a perfect relationship between Israelis and Palestinians; more of a privileged class and servant class based on the birthright of whether or not one was born Jewish. But there was abundant interaction between the two societies back then.
Then came the first intifada and then the Oslo “Peace Process” which was really a “Piece Process.” This culminated in the division of the two societies and the isolation of Gaza from the rest of the world. There was false hope then and a second intifada. Gaza was locked down as a consequence and became the world’s largest prison.
When I re-entered Gaza some 18 years later in 2003, it was a much different world. Dr. Haidar Abdul Shafi, a respected physician and civic leader here in Gaza, explained to me why he had walked out of the Madrid Peace negotiations in 1991. “I concluded that the Israelis were negotiating in bad faith,” he said. It took me a while to fully understand what he was talking about, but slowly it became clearer. Gaza was now surrounded by a hideous “Berlin Wall”. Rachel Corrie had just been mowed down by a giant bulldozer. Houses and apartment blocks were being systematically destroyed under the orders of Ariel Sharon “to look for tunnels”. Over 2000 people in Rafah were made homeless as a direct result of Israel’s pursuit of the tunnels.
11 April 2013
Posted in News
Representatives of the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH), the Turkish nongovernmental organization that coordinated the passengers on the ship Mavi Marmara that was part of the 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla, say that families of the nine passengers killed by Israeli commandos have rejected the country’s recent apology.
The eight Turkish citizens and one American were killed during a nonviolent mission to challenge the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza, and the families do not consider either an Israeli government apology or the offer of compensation for the death of their loved ones a fulfillment of their mission.
The IHH personnel also announced in the wake of the apology that an indictment filed in the Istanbul High Criminal Court on May 29, 2012, against four senior Israeli government military and intelligence officials will proceed. The four defendants—the former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, the Israeli navy commander, the Israeli air force intelligence director and the head of the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate—face charges including willful killing, plundering and seizing maritime vessels.
A political apology by the Israeli government to the Turkish one cannot stop the legal process under way in the Turkish courts, IHH staffers say. Turkey’s president can’t order his nation’s courts to drop the case, and to do so would be a violation of its laws.