December 10th is International Human Rights Day, and it's time we turned our rhetoric on human rights into reality. Together with the Free Gaza Movement, I’m commemorating Human Rights Day this year in Gaza, a tiny strip of land wedged between Israel and Egypt, home to 1.5 million human beings, and subject to an increasingly brutal war being waged against its civilian population by the state of Israel.
We mounted this mission to give our solidarity to the people of Palestine and to highlight the strangulating conditions Israel causes in besieged Gaza. The inhumane effects of this siege threaten to stunt an entire generation - both in terms of physical and mental growth due to malnutrition, terrorisation by bomb attacks, incursions and the use of sonic booms - but also in terms of the generation of students which have won places at academic institutions around the world but cannot fulfill them, and those undermined on the ground in Gaza by a lack of food, medicine, electricity, materials, and the peace and space to make good use of them in.
This is direct democracy - the intervention of ordinary people in acts of solidarity capable of changing the world. From resistance in the streets of Greece against state brutality, to Chicago's window factory workers taking back their workplace, to climate activists radically cutting CO2 at Stanstead, Free Gaza is part of a movement of movements facing a convergence of crises - climate change, capitalism's evictions and social eviscerations, ongoing brutal wars and occupations, and land, food and water struggles. In the face of these oppressions, workers, activists and academics are responding with a convergence of ideas. Slowly, painfully and joyfully, facing all the difficulties of organising movements, we are showing that it is possible to resist and win gains. The un-official slogan of Free Gaza and of many other grassroots movements is (with a hint of irony), 'if we can do this, anybody can...’
Beyond the depravations, poverty and shortages caused by the blockade, over 700 Palestinian students are imprisoned in Gaza: actively prevented by Israel from fulfilling a human right that belongs to every student on earth - the right to education, self-development, and to serve the progression of collective learning, both for their community and the academic communities they will contribute to. They must be free to fulfill their rightful academic destinies and attend the universities which they have been accepted into.
Though we carried in a ton of medical supplies and high-protein baby formula on our ship, our mission in Gaza this Human Rights Day is not to provide charity, but to give our solidarity to the people of Palestine, break the silence of the world over this continuing calamity, and physically break through the blockade of Gaza in an act of direct resistance against the siege. In the end, the oppression and humiliation of Occupation assaults the humanity of both occupier and occupied and cannot and must not be tolerated any longer.-----Ewa Jasiewicz is a writer, journalist, human rights activist and union organiser. She is currently in Gaza as a volunteer organiser with the Free Gaza Movement.