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FreeGaza Movement

Human rights group that sailed 5 times into port of Gaza.

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30 May 2011

[Istanbul] One year ago today, six ships carrying nearly 700 human rights defenders, met at sea to commence the last leg of our voyage to Gaza to break Israel’s brutal stranglehold on 1.5 million Palestinians. A few hours later the Israeli military launched a full-scale assault on our civilian convoy, killing nine of our colleagues and injuring over 50 others.

Despite widespread condemnation and an UN-commissioned investigation that found Israel’s acts unlawful, possibly amounting to war crimes, Israel has yet to be held accountable. Families of the victims killed on the Mavi Marmara await justice and millions of Palestinians continue to demand their human rights respected.

In the wake of continued government inaction to stop Israel’s human rights abuses, we, members of global civil society representing dozens of national coalitions and international organizations will launch next month Freedom Flotilla II – Stay Human.

While we wholeheartedly welcome the decision of the Egyptian government to regularly open the Rafah Crossing between Egypt and the occupied Gaza Strip, Israel’s unlawful blockade remains in effect. The Rafah Crossing is for pedestrians, not cargo. Israel still controls all cargo crossings with Gaza and severely restricts all goods entering and exiting the strip. It prevents Palestinians from using the sea as well as their airspace, making it nearly impossible to rehabilitate Gaza’s deliberately crippled economy. As such, we must continue to challenge this blockade. We call on all states, the United Nations, and international organizations to support our action and demand that Israel refrain from attacking our vessels. We reject calls for supplies to Gaza to be delivered through established Israeli-controlled channels, as this is tantamount to accepting a brutal and unlawful regime. Would we have called on the Egyptian and Tunisian people to address their grievances through the established channels of Mubarak and Ben Ali?

In feeble attempts to downplay the international nature of this mission, and the participation of thousands around the world in organizing it, Israel has tried to portray this as a Turkish flotilla, even sponsored by the Turkish government. Our coalition is heartened by the principled position that the Turkish government has taken, defending the rights of its citizens and standing up for the rule of law. We are also proud to work with IHH and the tens of thousands of Turkish citizens supporting our nonviolent action. But the Freedom Flotilla initiative is an international non-governmental effort. IHH is one of 22 national networks that comprise our Coalition. We represent citizens from all over the world who refuse to stay silent as Israel continues to abuse the Palestinian people, and we refuse to let Israel’s violence deter us.

As we gather in Istanbul today to remember our nine murdered colleagues (eight Turkish and one American citizen), we renew our call to our governments to do their utmost to ensure that Israel does not repeat its attack on us. We welcome the martyrs’ families joining our flotilla to carry on the mission of their loved ones; we are strengthened by their spirit and that of people across this region rising up against violence and tyranny to demand freedom and human rights, and that of people around the world supporting them. We call on our governments to do the same.