Gaza, You Are Not Alone!
The Newsletter of the Free Gaza Movement 3/2008, Dec. 22
"The siege of the Gaza strip has been in place for nearly two years. A total of seven crossing points linking Gaza with the outside world have been closed. Raw materials, food stuffs, spare parts, medical machines and tens of commodities were barred from Gaza. Construction projects, housing and infrastructure rehabilitation were halted, leaving Gaza in dire straits of poverty and chaos." This is what Sameh Habeeb, a photojournalist from Gaza, reports. The Free Gaza Movement, a human rights group, sent two boats to Gaza in August 2008. These were the first international boats to land in the port in 41 years. Since August, three more voyages were successful, taking Parliamentarians, human rights workers, and other dignitaries to witness the effects of Israel's draconian policies on the civilians of Gaza. On 20 December voyage # 5 reached Gaza, this time with a delegation from Qatar, see a two-minute video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2pBlFcIrss. They are expected back this Tuesday. Now, other ships, especially cargo ships, need to follow in our wake. - Also in this issue: President Abbas calls the Free Gaza efforts a "silly game", Mazin Qumsiyeh asks "Why are Europeans Silent?", Fida Qishta reports on activities of the ISM in Gaza, there is a feature on the "Stories from Gazans" page from the Free Gaza website and the quote of the week. This week's photo "Children in a Gaza Refugee Camp" (912 x 684 pixel, 72 dpi) by Sameh A. Habeeb, Gaza, can be downloaded here.
Free Gaza # 5: Qataris First Arab Delegation to Break Blockade
The Free Gaza Movement boat, the Dignity, sent another ton of medicine, baby formula and gifts to Gaza on December 19. It arrived at Gaza Port at 8:00 am the following day after the Israeli Navy threatened to board it and take the two Israelis off the boat. "We know you have Israelis on board, so either turn back, or we will board and take them off," said the voice on the radio. "We are going to Gaza," Huwaida Arraf, the delegation leader, replied. This time, the donations come from the people of Qatar, and two envoys from that nation accompany the supplies. The envoys from Qatar will assess hospitals, schools and civilian centers and will return with recommendations on how to help the beleaguered Palestinians rebuild the infrastructure that Israel has destroyed. One of the much-needed projects is fixing the sanitation system, which Gazans have been unable to do since Israel refuses the entry of vital supplies such as lumber, steel and cement. The only way these supplies will be able to come to Gaza will be via the sea in large ships. "This is just the beginning. After we assess the situation there, we will go back and let the people of Qatar know how we can help. We are delighted that we are finally able to go and see how we can work together to help relieve this terrible situation in Gaza," said Aiz Al-Qahtani, one of the envoys from Qatar. The Dignity also returned two Palestinians who want to go home to their families, as well as Arabs from other countries who have never been able to visit Palestine as a result of Israel's occupation. In addition to these and the human rights workers, there are two Israelis on board, including a journalist from Israel's Channel 10 TV. Traveling back from Gaza to Cyprus on Tuesday are four Palestinians who have been denied their right to leave, even though they have citizenship from other countries. They hope to rejoin family members they have not seen for years. See press release at http://www.freegaza.org/index.php?module=latest_news&id=22eb1aaa4bbacdf8937fc7dfad86fd67&offset=
We Do Not Ask Permission from Israel
The Free Gaza Movement would like to correct a few the statements made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a December 11 interview with Al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper in which Abbas suggested that our efforts are coordinated with the Israelis and a "silly game" and that we are not really breaking the siege. We do not coordinate any of our actions with the Israelis. Israel has grossly abused its authority as an occupying power by collectively punishing the people of Gaza and denying them basic human rights. So, why do we get in, while other efforts are stopped by the Israeli authorities? Because we remove the "security" pretext. Amongst other things, we publicize our passenger list; we depart from a neutral European country; and we submit to a search by the Cypriot Port Authorities to verify that we are not carrying anything that can be considered a threat to Israel's security. We sail from Cyprus waters, into international waters, directly into Gaza's territorial waters, without entering Israeli waters. Israel realizes that it cannot stop us without using force against us, because we will not be turned around easily. President Abbas' statement that we coordinate with the Israelis was misinformed. However, Abbas was correct when he said that we are not really breaking the siege on Gaza. The Free Gaza Movement will continue to send boats to Gaza to challenge Israel's imprisonment of 1.5 million Palestinians, and we will continue to work for freedom and justice for all of the Palestinian people. We do not need Israel's permission and we will never ask for it. We do need President Abbas, the Arab world, and the entire international community to join us. The whole press release is here http://www.freegaza.org/index.php?module=latest_news&id=041f02d610102ad412c3f92ec140d2af&offset==
Why are Europeans Silent?
By Mazin Qumsiyeh, http://qumsiyeh.org. In Cyprus at our conference "Mediterranean Innovation and Research Coordination Action" and in the streets we talked to many Europeans. I asked why are Europeans silent about the slow genocide in Gaza. And if they do not care about the 1.5 million people of Gaza, are they not concerned about their own environment? The sewage of 1.5 million people is being dumped into the Mediterranean because of the Israeli blockade/siege of Gaza that cuts of electricity to the pumps, and prevents importation of needed supplies. That untreated sewage of 1.5 million people - many sick and malnourished - is pushed by the currents of the Suez and the Nile Delta north to coast of Europe (in addition to Tel Aviv!). Why are they silent? On the positive side, all are mobilized when informed so it tells us that we need to do a better job of informing/educating. And indeed Europeans are mobilizing and Cyprus is a center of that activity. In Cyprus, I was privileged to meet with two individuals involved in the Free Gaza movement which now regularly takes boats challenging the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Activists also joined ships doing fishing off the coast of Gaza. Israel confiscated three of the five Gaza fishing trollies thus cutting the 1.5 ton of fish caught to 0.5 ton! The inspiring struggle continues. Recently, thanks to activist letters, the European Parliament postponed a vote on upgrade of Israel relationship with the EU. But the foreign ministers of Europe, more beholden to imperial and special interests, just voted to go ahead and upgrade ties anyway. We must not let them get away with supporting apartheid. Write to them if you are a European.
Activities of the ISM in Gaza
By Fida Qishta, ISM Gaza Strip Co-ordinator. The International Solidarity Movement (ISM, http://www.palsolidarity.org) is a Palestinian-led movement committed to resisting the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land using nonviolent, direct-action methods and principles. One of our main activities is documentation - witnessing and reporting to local and international media the experience of daily life under occupation and the countless human rights abuses and violations of international law perpetrated by the Israeli military. A major focus of ISM Gaza Strip's work over the last three or four months has been the accompaniment of Gazan fishermen as they attempt to assert their right to fish in Palestinian territorial waters. ISM volunteers have taken some of the first footage ever of the daily Israeli naval attacks on Palestinian fishermen. We also helped initiate a broader campaign of support for Palestinian fishermen and have since been liaising with the General Syndicate of Marine Fishermen, along with other Palestinian organizations. Our support for Gazan farmers during this year's olive harvest was at the invitation of the Beit Hanoun Local Initiative. This facet of ISM Gaza Strip's work constituted part of ISM Palestine 's 2008 Olive Harvest Campaign. We took part in a farmer's demonstration in the IOF-imposed "Buffer Zone", organized by the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) and attended a conference of Gazan farming associations. We have also accompanied local farmers in different areas close to the Green Line east of Khan Younis. This was in response to their direct requests after experiencing difficulty in accessing their land due to Israeli military aggression. ISM Gaza Strip has participated in events organized by the Popular Committee Against the Siege (PCAS), such as a candlelit demonstration and a protest against the siege at the Erez Crossing. We took part in a demonstration organized by Gazan fishing associations and PNGO, against Israeli restrictions on the Gazan fishing zone and Israeli naval attacks on Gazan fishermen. We also joined a demonstration at the Erez crossing organized by the Beit Hanoun Local Initiative, to protest the tightening of the siege, as well as the abduction of Palestinian fishermen and three of our international human rights observers as well as the theft of three fishing vessels. Regarding this case, we have been working in conjunction with the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) and the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights. Currently, one of our main activities is monitoring the daily Israeli attacks on the Gazan population, especially on unarmed civilians including children. Reports of our activities can be found at: http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/category/gaza/
Stories from Gazans
"Stories from Gazans" is a section of the Free Gaza website where we collect some individual accounts of people who live in the Gaza Strip. They are mostly in English and also not many yet. We want to show with these stories that there are human beings living there, people who have a right to live and to be happy. Almost half of the population is younger than 18. See the "Stories from Gazans" page at http://www.freegaza.org/index.php?language=EN&module=stories
Quote of the Week
"Israel is acting as if it has something to hide, as I suspect it does. I condemn human rights abuses regardless of who commits them or what their history may be. I urge Israel both to respect human rights and to allow international observers to verify that they are doing so." - Dr Bill Wilson, SNP MSP for the West of Scotland, http://www.billwilsonmsp.org. Text of Motion S3M-03116 Bill Wilson (West of Scotland) (Scottish National Party): Israel's Detention of UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights - "That the Parliament notes reports of the detention of Professor Richard Falk, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, thereby denying him access to the Palestinian territories and Israel; further notes that reportedly this is partly in response to his claim that Israel's blockade of the Palestinian coastal territory of Gaza was a "Holocaust in the making", that Israel has previously denied access to Archbishop Desmond Tutu while he was on a UN fact-finding mission in Gaza and that it has deported human rights observers accompanying Gazan fishermen, and considers that if Israel were not guilty of human rights abuses in Palestine then it would welcome human rights observers and that denying them access only lends credence to warnings about the direction of its policies."
The Newsletter of the Free Gaza Movement and the website http://www.freegaza.org present news and background info on the nonviolent Free Gaza Movement and their action to break the siege of Gaza and Palestine. This issue was edited by Anis Hamadeh in Mainz, anis at anis-online.de. German translation at http://www.anis-online.de/2/freegaza/newsletter/03.htm#dt ; Italian: http://tlaxcala.es/pp.asp?reference=6651&lg=it ; Subscription over the "Friends of Gaza" Newslist at https://lists.riseup.net/www/subscribe/gazafriends, contact to Free Gaza: friendsofgaza at gmail.com. Updated Free Gaza media clippings at http://www.freegaza.org/uploads/media/free_gaza_in_the_media.pdf. For general Palestine daily news visit http://www.theheadlines.org