I went to Al-Awda hospital to have my stitches taken out, a fairly good scar now marks my skin for life (courtesy of Israel), the pattern like the teeth of a voracious mechanical shark which infests this sea, hunting his besieged victims, Palestinian fishermen.
How much innocent blood will spill in the Gazan sea? In these days of rough weather, I'm waiting for the sea to calm its anger and to allow us to go offshore again, to claim the violated right to live - or at least, to survive - with these people who are rightfully occupying their country's sea.
There are many reasons why we go out fishing with Palestinian fishermen; some of them are concrete, some others are more symbolic, but no less essential.
One fishing day with us on board, according to the fishermen, is equivalent to one week of ordinary work offshore when, without internationals, they can't dare to sail for more than few miles from the port, where usually fishing is very poor. If they try to go further they risk death - or if they're lucky, "just" injury. It's worth remembering that before the siege was imposed by Israel, there were more than 3,500 fishermen working along the 40 km of the Gazan coasts; today just 700 of them are still trying to survive in a field which was used to be able to provide jobs for at least 40.000 people, if you consider mechanics, fishmongers etc as well as thousands of local fishermen that now are surviving with difficulty.
The day after one of our fishing actions, the fish is sold at the market at a knock-down price. The offer is bigger, prices go down, more mouths will eat. The owners of some of the fishing boats, before we arrived, had the serious intention of selling them, due to the very high price of the fuel and to the absence of a reliable future income. Since we arrived they've told us many times how our support, in addition to helping increase their incomes, has also acted as an injection of hope at a hopeless time.
In addition to the clearly visible achievements obtained with our fishing actions, there are some others more symbolic but equally edifying. With Free Gaza and Liberty we opened the Gaza port, with the rudimentary Palestinian fishing boats we try every day to open the sea, aware of the fact that this is not important only for the fishermen, but for all the Palestinians. This is the reason why we work with them as they attempt to claim their right to live a life free from confinement, from the siege and from the Israeli crimes against humanity.
If the Israeli army believes they put me out of action by wounding me I just want to make a statement for them: you're deluding yourselves.
I, Vittorio Arrigoni, with Darlene, Donna, and others fellow travelers committed in this mission for the protection of human rights, will never retreat from facing these abuses of justice, legality and freedom. You will have to kill all of us and accept this responsibility in front of the world and of God, who both in the Torah and in the Koran doesn't justify in any way the cold-blooded murder of innocent people.
I would like to talk with the Israeli soldiers who attack us every day (the day I was wounded I could see them well enough to see the whites of their eyes). I would like to ask them if they really believe that they are defending Israel when they shoot at unarmed civilians, internationals or Palestinians, while we are simply fishing on Palestinian vessels.
As a pacifist I don't wish it in any way, but I would really not be surprised if one day, one of these young Palestinian fishermen - from whom Israel steals the hope of a worthwhile life, who has accumulated grief upon grief for fathers, friends, and brothers killed, wounded or buried for years in an inhuman Israeli prison - chooses to leave the fishing nets and shoulder a Kalashnikov.
Because this is what Israel is teaching the young Palestinians, with its warships, raids, the military occupation of borders, imposing the siege as a collective punishment and denying all human rights. In this way, by teaching hate to its innocent victims, Israel becomes responsible for the risk all Israeli people are submitted to, from Ashkelon to Tel Aviv.
We will keep on going offshore fishing, not scared by the threats made against us by the Israeli navy, until politics, high-class activism and the politically committed civil society cease to turn their back on the "moral issue of our times" as Nelson Mandela defines the Palestinian issue.
We want to show to the Palestinians, who adopted us, that in this world a minority group of men and women are still awake, ready to challenge the conspiracy of silence and those who face this tragedy with indifference.
I believe that, everywhere on the planet, there are still many human beings immune to the virus of indifference and selfishness, and this is the reason why I'm making a plea: don't leave us to do this alone, don't turn your back on your brothers and sisters burdened by terrible injustice.
Come here to help us or support us in other ways.
Even from a distance - be near us.
guerrillaingaza (at) gmail.com