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Home arrow Blog arrow August 2008 arrow August 5, 2008

August 5, 2008
WAWA Blog August 5, 2008: Remembering Riad + in The Spirit with the Boat Trip to Gaza UPDATE: Aug. 8, 2008 PRESS RELEASE


UPDATE: August 8, 2008

Dear Gaza Friends:

Well, today is the opening of the Olympics, and it's also the day the boats have set sail for Crete. After solving several small technical problems and waiting for the weather to clear, FREE GAZA and LIBERTY are on their way to Chania, Crete, arriving there tomorrow. We will have a press conference, and it will be the first time photographers will be able to take photos of the two boats as they sail into the harbor.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

 SS Free Gaza and SS Liberty Arrive in Chania, Crete, Saturday, 9 August at 21:00 p.m.

 

For further information, contact:  6932 766496 for directions, or Greta Berlin, 00375 99 08 17 67


Nicosia/Lefkosia, Cyprus, August 7.  The Free Gaza Movement announced today that their boats, destined to break the Israelis' siege of Gaza, will arrive in Chania, Crete, on Saturday, August 9, at 9 p.m. and that a press conference will be held to welcome their arrival.  "Internationals are gathering across the world – in Beijing and Cyprus – with the common dream of peace and justice for everyone."

Human rights activists Lauren Booth, journalist,  (sister in law of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair), Huwaida Arraf (a Palestinian-American residing in Ramallah, Palestine), and Jeff Halper (an Israeli Jew who was nominated for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for opposing demolitions of Palestinian homes) will be available at the press conference for interviews.

"This will be the first time that our two boats will be publicly displayed and photographers are welcome to come, take photos and post their images." said Paul Larudee, on board the boats sailing toward Chania.

The Free Gaza Movement is endorsed by an impressive array of international groups and personalities including South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Former Prime Minister of Lebanon Dr. Salim Al-Hoss. For additional information, http://www.freegaza.org

We are a week late, but we are more determined than ever to go to Gaza. By now, almost half of the people are on board or traveling to the boats, and those of us left in Cyprus are finishing up our training, working on banners and trying to control our impatience. When we called the people of Gaza to tell them we would arrive a week late, their reply was, "Don't worry. We know you are coming. And we are waiting," a testament to their confidence that 40 Internationals, two small boats, and tremendous media attention can somehow defeat the Israeli Navy.

Some of the survivors of the USS Liberty have written to us and asked us to be on one of their programs tomorrow night. They wrote this request of us:
 
What is the possibility of you and the crew of the SS Liberty throwing 34 long stemmed roses into the sea as a memorial to the 34 Americans who were killed aboard the USS LIberty? We will pay for the roses or whatever else you have in mind. I guarantee you our newspaper American Free Press will give a HUGE spread in the paper for it. The survivors of the LIberty and their familes would be eternally grateful to you and your ship mates for this gesture as no one has ever done anything like this before.

Another wrote:

I am one of the survivors of the USS Liberty.   A very tired man who woke up somewhat when I heard of the SS Liberty.  I was the petty officer in charge of the body recovery and identification,  and I remember it almost like it was yesterday.
 
May God Be With You
 
So, when we leave Cyprus next week, we hope to have a ceremony for all of those Americans killed by the Israelis on board the ship in 1967.

The media attention has been intense in Europe, people calling constantly asking for interviews. If you GOOGLE Free Gaza, Cyprus, you will see dozens of stories about us and the boats and the response from here. So many angels have stepped in to help, from offering us their homes, feeding us, and driving us around to media appointments. One man called us today and told us that he would loan us the money to cover our expenses for the boats and the equipment, because, "You are making history."

Greta Berlin
The Free Gaza Movement

http://www.FreeGaza.org





UPDATE:

5 August 2008
Tzipi Livni
Foreign Affairs Minister, Israel

Dear Foreign Minister Livni:

On behalf of the Free Gaza Movement, we would like to formally invite you to join us on our upcoming voyage from Cyprus to the Gaza Strip. We feel that your presence on this important mission would help alleviate concerns that have been expressed in the Israeli media about our objectives.

More importantly, we believe that it would be extremely helpful for you to see firsthand the
horrific effects of Israeli policies on the people of the Gaza Strip, as well as to witness firsthand the effectiveness of non-violent action in bringing about positive change.

While we disagree with many of the statements and policies you have made as the Israeli Foreign Minister, we wholeheartedly agree with a portion of something you wrote two years ago when you said:

“For too long, the Middle East has been governed by zero-sum logic. One side's loss was seen as the other's gain. This thinking has brought much suffering to our region” (Tzipi Livni, "The Peace Alternative," Asharq Alawsat, 18 June 2007).

This is absolutely correct. We seek an end to this suffering. We find ourselves, and you must be feeling this intensely yourself, in truly difficult times. The one thing that is clear is that violence has not worked for anyone in this conflict. As a group of avowed non-violent, peace activists, we hope
that you will accept this opportunity, move past the zero-sum logic of your government’s blockade, and join us on this historic voyage to break the Siege of Gaza.

Your government's siege on the people of Gaza has been deemed illegal by numerous human rights organizations, has lead to the death of over 200 patients in the last year as a result of being denied adequate medical care, and has caused a man-made humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip. Clearly this is not the behavior of a civilized government, nor can these policies ever lead to
peace for Israel.

Our voyage may seem to be a quixotic endeavor and therefore easily dismissed, but as a group of individuals who fervently believe that such moves can be vitally transforming, and that individuals do indeed each have the power to change our world for the better, we hope that you will take our offer
seriously. We set sail for Gaza in the next few days. Please join us.

Sincerely Yours,
The Steering Committee for the Free Gaza Movement, Cyprus
Tel. +357 99 081 767

http://www.FreeGaza.org




Jeff Halper is an American Israeli, Founder and coordinator of ICAHD who moved to Israel from Hibbing, Minnesota during the Vietnam War years.

When he told his grandmother he was leaving the states, she warned him, "Israel is no place for a nice Jewish boy."

Jeff can no longer count the times he has been arrested for NONVIOLENT acts of civil disobedience against the occupation of Palestine and all of its evils, in particular, the destruction of Palestinian homes by Israel, who receive no compensation for their legally owned homes and land.




AN ISRAELI JEW IN GAZA:

A STATEMENT BY JEFF HALPER

 

In another few days, I will sail on one of the Free Gaza movement boats from Cyprus to Gaza. The mission is to break the Israeli siege, an absolutely illegal siege which has plunged a million and a half Palestinians into wretched conditions: imprisoned in their own homes, exposed to extreme military violence, deprived of the basic necessities of life, stripped of their most fundamental human rights and dignity. The siege violates the most fundamental principle of international law: the inadmissibility of harming civilian populations. Our voyage also exposes Israel's attempt to absolve itself of responsibility for what is happening in Gaza. Israel's claim that there is no Occupation, or that the Occupation ended with "disengagement," is patently false. Occupation is defined in international law as having effective control over a territory. If Israel intercepts our boats, it is clear that it is the Occupying Power exercising effective control over Gaza. Nor has the siege anything to do with "security." Like other elements of the Occupation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, where Israel has also besieged cities, towns, villages and whole regions, the siege on Gaza is fundamentally political. It is intended to isolate the democratically-elected government of Palestine and break its power to resist Israeli attempts to impose an apartheid regime over the entire country.

 

This is why I, an Israeli Jew, felt compelled to join this voyage to break the siege. As a person who seeks a just peace with the Palestinians, who understands (despite what our politicians tell us) that they are not our enemies but rather people seeking precisely what we sought and fought for - national self-determination  I cannot stand idly aside. I can no more passively witness my government's destruction of another people than I can watch the Occupation destroy the moral fabric of my own country. To do so would violate my commitment to human rights, the very essence of prophetic Jewish religion, culture and morals, without which Israel is no longer Jewish but an empty, if powerful, Sparta.

 

Israel has, of course, legitimate security concerns, and Palestinian attacks against civilian populations in Sderot and other Israeli communities bordering on Gaza cannot be condoned. Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel, as an Occupying Power, has the right to monitor the movement of arms to Gaza as a matter of "immediate military necessity." As activists committed to resisting the siege non-violently, I have no objection to the Israeli navy boarding our boats and searching for weapons. But only that. Because Israel has no right to besiege a civilian population, it has no legal right to prevent us, private persons sailing solely in international and Palestinian waters, from reaching Gaza - particularly since Israel has declared that it no longer occupies it. Once the Israeli navy is convinced we pose no security threat, then, we thoroughly expect it to permit us to continue our peaceful and lawful journey into Gaza port.

 

Ordinary people have often played key roles in history, particularly in situations like this where governments shirk their responsibilities. My voyage to Gaza is a statement of solidarity with the Palestinian people in their time of suffering, but it also conveys a message to my fellow citizens.

 

First, despite what our political leaders say, there is a political solution to the conflict, there are partners for peace. The very fact that I, an Israeli Jew, will be welcomed by Palestinian Gazans makes that very point. My presence in Gaza also affirms that any resolution of the conflict must include all the peoples of the country, Palestinian and Israeli alike. I am therefore using whatever credibility my actions lend me to call on my government to renew genuine peace negotiations based on the Prisoners Document accepted by all Palestinian factions, including Hamas. The release of all political prisoners held by Israel, including Hamas government ministers and parliamentary members, in return for the repatriation of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, would dramatically transform the political landscape by providing the trust and good-will essential to any peace process.

 

Second, the Palestinians are not our enemies. In fact, I urge my fellow Israeli Jews to disassociate from the dead-end politics of our failed political leaders by declaring, in concert with Israeli and Palestinian peace-makers: We refuse to be enemies. Only that assertion of popular will can signal our government that we are fed up with being manipulated by those profiting from the Occupation.

 

And third, as the infinitely stronger party in the conflict and the only Occupying Power, we Israelis must accept responsibility for our failed and oppressive policies. Only we can end the conflict.

 

In the Israeli conception, Zionism was intended to return to the Jews control over their own destiny. Do not let us be held hostage to politicians who endanger the future of our society. Join with us end the siege of Gaza, and with it the Occupation in its entirety. Let us, the Israeli and Palestinian peoples, declare to our leaders: we demand a just and lasting peace in this tortured Holy Land.

 

 

(Jeff Halper,  the head of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, was a nominee for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize.  He can be reached at )





   
 
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