May 28, 2011
The Free Gaza movement welcomes Ban Ki-Moon’s request that all nations, including Israel avoid violence when our flotilla sails to Gaza at the end of June.
We also welcome his comments that, “Israel take "meaningful and far-reaching steps to end its closure of Gaza.”
News organizations over the past two days have decided to emphasize Ban’s concern for our flotilla by reporting he is telling governments to stop us. He can’t tell them that. He knows we are not the illegal entity in the Mediterranean, but Israel’s blockade of 1.5 million Palestinians is illegal. And as head of the United Nations, he knows that the UN High Commission for Human Rights produced a report that identified the blockade of Gaza as collective punishment – a war crime.
We would also remind the Secretary-General that while governments and international organizations are free to have a public opinion, the flotilla violates no international or laws of the sea and so an outright ban on our sailing to Gaza is essentially a statement against the rights of the Palestinian people to control their own ports, and lives.
We do not go to deliver humanitarian supplies to Gaza. Human rights work is already defined as humanitarian. Palestinians don’t need humanitarian aid, they need the right to trade and have open borders and come in and out of their territory without walls and gunboats and snipers shooting at them. Palestinians in Gaza have a right to their own sea, something Israel has denied to them in some form since 1967, and amost completely since 2006.
Our mission is to break that illegal siege on Gaza. Since governments seem to have their hands tied behind their backs, it is up to civil society to hold Israel’s feet to the fire. It seems as though, in diplomatic language, Ban is more concerned about how Israel’s violent response to our flotilla looks and does not want another international incident where Israel murdered nine of our passengers last year.
However, freedom riders in the US during the 1960s paid no attention to governmental warnings; and Arabs in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Bahrain and Syria seeking freedom are also ignoring similar threats, and so will we.
We are sailing at the end of June, and most countries and international bodies have made it clear they cannot stop us, because we are doing nothing illegal.
Mr. Secretary-General, the choice is Israel’s alone – either end the blockade or continue its violence against the Palestinians and their supporters. The blockade is violence and our effort reflects the best of the potential of the international community to stand up to injustice. Your choice is to support tyranny or to support freedom.