In most of the world, May 1st is a day of international labor solidarity. It is a day of joy as workers picnic together with their families and celebrate the achievements of one of the most phenomenal movements of the 20th century.
It is fitting, then, that the Free Gaza Movement chooses May 1 to announce the launching of the HOPE FLEET TO GAZA. We are leaving on June 1 as an act of solidarity with the Palestinians, a people who have been massacred, terrorized and suffocated by the Israeli military.
We sail again to break Israel's blockade of 1.5 million civilians, 80% unemployed because of Israel's draconian siege. "I believe the Israeli government policies are against international law, against human rights, against the dignity of the Palestinian people," said Mairead Maguire whose efforts for a peaceful solution to the violence in Northern Ireland earned her the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize. "And I feel grateful to be able to go again on one of these boats to visit the people of Gaza."
The Free Gaza Movement will use the Free Gaza as the lead vessel in the flotilla. In August 2008, it was the first boat to dock in the Gaza port in 41 years. The movement intends to donate it to the fishermen who labor every day to make a living under the gunboats of Israel.
The Dignity will carry Mairead as well as two other high-profile passengers, 84-year-old Hedy Epstein, a holocaust survivor and Cynthia McKinney, former Georgia Congresswoman and candidate for U.S. President under the Green Party. McKinney was on the Dignity when it was rammed three times by the Israeli navy on December 30, 2008 when they tried to sink the small sturdy yacht.
"We cannot let Israel's threats and aggression deter us. To do so would give in to violence and concede that might is stronger than right. To do so would turn our backs on our brothers and sisters in Gaza who have been waiting far too long for the international community to stand up to this injustice," said Huwaida Arraf, one of the delegation leaders on the Hope Fleet.
Our boats are a part of a larger flotilla making its way to Gaza loaded with humanitarian aid and building supplies such as generators and electronic equipment for hospital emergency machines. The people of Gaza need cement and lumber and PVC to rebuild their shattered infrastructure, and Israel refuses to allow anything into the small enclave except for food and some medicine.
"The Palestinians don't want hand-outs from the international community. They want their lives back. They want their human and civil rights. They have a great labor force wanting to rebuild their communities. They are perfectly capable of that if their borders, including the sea border, were open," states Lubna Masarwa, another delegation leader of this flotilla and a passenger on board the rammed Dignity.
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