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.
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.
26 March 2013
Posted in News
Posted on 03/24/2013 by Juan Cole
The one diplomatic success of President Obama’s mainly pro forma visit to Israel and Jordan was Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s pro forma apology to Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan for killing 8 Turkish nationals and 1 American citizen of Turkish heritage aboard the Mavi Marmara aid ship trying to succor the Palestinians of Gaza in 2010.
The Guardian reports that
“The prime minister made it clear that the tragic results regarding the Mavi Marmara were unintentional, and that Israel expresses regret over injuries and loss of life. In light of the Israeli investigation into the incident, which pointed out several operational errors, Netanyahu apologised to the Turkish people for any errors that could have led to loss of life and agreed to complete the agreement on compensation.”
Erdogan appears to have grudgingly accepted the apology (Israel will pay roughly $6 million to the victims’ families), and the two leaders agreed that normal diplomatic relations would be restored, though Erdogan later said it would be a gradual process.
The Obama administration is touting the apology and the step toward return of correct Israeli-Turkish relations as a win. Turkey is a member of NATO and has been excluding Israel from some NATO meetings (Israel is not a NATO member but is often included in its counsels; Turkey as a member can block it).
What is astonishing in all this is that no one is talking about the reason for which the Mavi Marmara was heading to Gaza and for which the Israeli commandos boarded it and shot it up.
It is that Israel has imposed an illegal blockade on the civilian population of Baza. The blockade forbids the export of most of what the Palestinians there produce, depriving them of export markets. There are only 1.7 million Palestinians in Gaza, many of them thrown into desperate poverty by Israeli policy, so they aren’t much of an internal market. The Israelis have a cover story that they are strangling Gaza out of security concerns, but how could exporting goods from Gaza pose a threat to Israeli security? One Israeli official admitted the truth years ago; the Israelis have put the Palestinians ‘on a diet,’ and most creepily actually tried to figure what was the least amount of food they could let in without producing widespread starvation. This policy can only be called fascist and it recalls the worst kind of medical experiments on human beings and social engineering of the mass political movements of the 1930s.
Palestinian children forage for food in trash
Since Turkey (rightly and courageously) rejects the Israeli blockade on Gaza civilians, its actual diplomatic relations with Israel are likely to continue to be roiled. The Israelis maintain that blockades are a recognized tool of war in international law, but in fact Gaza is not an independent country with which Israel is at war! Gaza is Occupied by Israel, and the 1949 Geneva convention on the treatment of civilians in occupied territories strictly forbids such punitive measures. Gaza has no functioning seaport or airport because the Israelis disallow the former and bombed the latter into smithereens.
I wrote last fall:
“The food blockade had real effects. About ten percent of Palestinian children in Gaza under 5 have had their growth stunted by malnutrition.
A recent report [pdf] by Save the Children and Medical Aid for Palestinians found that, in addition, anemia is widespread, affecting over two-thirds of infants, 58.6 percent of schoolchildren, and over a third of pregnant mothers.
I mean, don’t those figures make you want to do something for those mothers and children? Wouldn’t they melt anyone’s heart?
Although, under international pressure, the Israeli government eased its blockade slightly in 2010, and foodstuffs are no longer interdicted, it still limits imports into Gaza, and its wide-ranging ban on exports has thrown Palestinians into unemployment at Depression levels, imperiling their ability to afford food even when it is available.
A UN Report out last month predicts that if Israel does not change its policies toward Gaza, the strip will be uninhabitable by 2020, when the population will likely be 2.1 million (think Houston). The deterioration of the water, and the sharp downward mobility of the Palestinians, are only some of the problems the territory will face.”
Israel must end this unconscionable blockade of Palestinian civilians (half of whom are children) immediately. If Obama thinks Israeli-Turkish relations can be healthy without that step, he has another think coming.
31 January 2013
Posted in News
IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation has released an extensive report concerning the cases filed across the world into Israel’s 2010 raid on Mavi Marmara, which claimed the lives of nine peaceful activists.
The report tells the judicial battle fought by participants of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in Turkey and across the world.
The report, which states that real persons, judicial persons and third persons have taken various actions to mobilize national and international judicial authorities in the aftermath of the attack, reveals the legal battle which has been going on for more than 2 and a half years.