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Home arrow Blog arrow August 2008 arrow August 11, 2008

August 11, 2008
WAWA Blog August 11, 2008: History Freely Streaming from on Board the SS LIBERTY and FREE GAZA UPDATE: Aug 18: LETTERS Aug 17: "THREATS and INTIMIDATION" LEAD, August 16 and 14, 2008 updates  @ End

UPDATE: Aug. 18, 2008 10:15 AM EST


Israeli Government Recognizes “Humanitarian” Mission to Break the Siege of Gaza

For more information, please contact:

Greta Berlin, Cyprus
+357 99 081 767

Angela Godfry-Goldstein, Israel
+972 547 366 393

NICOSIA, CYPRUS (18 Aug. 2008) - In a letter today to the Free Gaza Movement, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs acknowledged that the group of international human rights activists attempting to break the siege of Gaza were “humanitarian,” and stated that the Israeli government “assume[s] that your intentions are good.”

Greta Berlin, one of the organizers of the Free Gaza Movement stated that, “Since the Foreign Minister’s office responded to our invitation to join us, and said that we have good intentions, we now fully expect to reach Gaza.”

According to recent reports in the Israeli media however, the Israeli military is preparing to use force to stop the nonviolent campaigners from reaching Gaza. It’s not clear if the letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs signals a change of policy, or is simply an attempt to open up an official dialogue between the state of Israel and the Free Gaza Movement regarding the current blockade.

The Free Gaza Movement is preparing to sail two ships into Gaza carrying 40 human rights workers from 17 different countries. They will also deliver hearing aids for children who have lost some or all of their hearing due to Israeli sound bombs and sonic booms.

The ships have been named the SS Free Gaza, and the SS Liberty - in recognition of the USS Liberty, a U.S. Navy ship, carrying 340 that was attacked by Israeli fighter planes and torpedo boats on 8 June 1967, assassinating 34 American sailors and wounding 170.

The Free Gaza Movement hopes to draw attention to the devastating consequences of the Israeli blockade by actively demonstrating the power of non-violent direct action to change inhumane governmental policies.

18 August 2008

Noam Katz
Director, Public Relations Department
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Israel

Dear Mr. Katz,

The Free Gaza Movement thanks Foreign Minister Livni for your response regarding our efforts to break the siege of Gaza. We appreciate Israel’s formal recognition of our human rights mission, as well as its acknowledgement that our “intentions are good.”

However, several factual errors in your letter need to be addressed. You wrote, “Your claim that the residents of the Gaza Strip are suffering from hunger is groundless…” According to the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), “only 43.5% of basic commercial food import needs were met during the period between 3 and 30 December 2007.”

Furthermore, in May 2008, several international aid organizations, including CARE International UK, CAFOD, Christian Aid, Oxfam, and Medecins du Monde UK, stated that, “the stranglehold on Gaza’s borders has made ... the work of the UN and other humanitarian agencies ... virtually impossible. Only a trickle of medicine, food, fuel and other goods is being allowed in. [The Israeli Blockade of Gaza] has made people highly dependent on food aid, and brought the health system and basic services such as water and sanitation near to collapse.”

Although, we appreciate your offer to deliver humanitarian supplies for us, Israel’s deplorable track record of delivering supplies is, in fact, the very reason for our mission.

Your offer also slights our human-rights mission, which is to break your siege of Gaza. We intend to raise international awareness about the open-air prison called Gaza, where Israel collectively punishes 1.5 million Palestinians. We want to pressure the international community to review its sanctions policy and end its support for Israel’s continued occupation. Finally, we want to uphold
Palestine's right to welcome internationals as visitors, human rights observers, humanitarian aid workers, and journalists.

We would like to, once again, invite Foreign Minister Tsipi Livni to join us on our historic voyage to end the siege of Gaza, and to see first hand the devastating effects of Israeli policies on the men, women, and children of the Gaza Strip.

Greta Berlin, Ramzi Kysia, Tom Nelson
Free Gaza Movement, Cyprus
+357 99 081 767


18 August 2008
The Steering Committee for the Free Gaza Movement, Cyprus

Dear Committee Members:

Your letter to Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni as published on your website has been brought to our attention. We assume that your intentions are good but, in fact, the result of your action is that you are supporting the regime of a terrorist organization in Gaza, an organization dedicated to non-recognition of the State of Israel and its right to exist; an organization that sends women and children to commit suicide in order to hurt others; an organization that has committed dozens of terrorist acts against Israeli civilians, including massive attacks of rockets and mortar bombs on Israeli communities in the heart of Israel's sovereign territory.  It is this organization that does not allow the Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace.

In 2005, Israel withdrew all of its forces and all of its citizens from the Gaza Strip so that the Palestinians could manage their own lives; in return, innocent Israeli citizens were the targets of repeated attacks launched from within Palestinian civilian population centers, turning the Palestinian
population into hostages of the terrorist organizations and the Hamas regime. The attacks from the Gaza Strip against Israeli communities continue to this day.

In June 2007, Hamas led a violent coup in Gaza and seized the government illegally, a fact which led to an international boycott and isolation of its government. The international community also set clear conditions that Hamas must fulfill in order to be regarded as a partner for diplomatic contacts and normal economic relations. Hamas is the central player in the Gaza Strip and the address to which you should direct your complaints concerning the situation there. In this protest voyage to Gaza , you seek to remove legitimate pressure on the Hamas government and to violate the conditions of the international community; therefore we cannot cooperate with your efforts.

Your claim that the residents of the Gaza Strip are suffering from hunger is groundless considering the amount of food that passes every day from Israel to the Gaza Strip. There isn't another conflict in the world in which one side supplies all the needs of the other side – food, medicines, water, fuel and electricity. Thousands of Palestinians have crossed into Israel from the Gaza  Strip to receive medical treatment at Israeli hospitals.

We would like to point out that the area to which you are planning to sail is the subject of an advisory notice that has been published by the Israeli Navy, which warns all foreign vessels to remain clear of the designated maritime zone off the coast of Gaza in light of the current security situation.

We have received information that you are planning to bring humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. We would like to bring to your attention that the transfer of humanitarian aid to Israel is effected, at present, through agreed-upon channels, and the Israeli authorities will ensure that the shipment reaches its destination via the land crossing points. We will be happy to assist you in this endeavor.

If your intentions are good, please choose this way; if you do not intend to deliver the humanitarian aid via Israel , this proves that your goal is political and constitutes the legitimization of a terrorist organization.

Noam Katz
Director, Public Relations Department
Ministry of Foreign Affairs

UPDATE August 17, 2008:

Threats and Intimidation

Across the world, there are laws against threatening other people. Verbal threats give rise to great personal and emotional insecurity, and they can be the midwives to terrible violence. Many of us on board the SS Liberty and SS Free Gaza have been threatened in these past few days. It’s appalling enough to receive phone calls, warning us that our boats will be blown up or asking us if we know how to swim, but when the callers go after our families, then that crosses the line from adolescent intimidation to psychological terrorism. This past Thursday, Lauren Booth received one such call.

“On the 14th of August 2008, an anonymous man called my home in France as my daughters played hide and seek in the garden. This stranger spoke to my husband, warning him that 'your wife is in great danger. These ships will be blown up.' My husband asked how it was this person had obtained our private home number. No response was forthcoming, but the illicit threats carried on.”

Other members of our nonviolent project have had their families in Occupied Palestine threatened with violence as well. From these threats, a pernicious pattern of intimidation is beginning to emerge. The question, of course, is just who benefits the most by trying to terrorize and stop us from breaking Israel’s terrible siege on 1.4 million Palestinians in Gaza?

In April, 2008, The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel released a report stating, “The illegal exploitation of family members, who, in most instances, are not suspects themselves, has on many occasions caused severe psychological suffering to interrogees and to their innocent relatives. In more extreme cases, this method takes the form of psychological torture of a detainee rendering him a victim of a cruel psychological manipulation via the illegal exploitation of a close relative.”

Today in the Israeli newspaper, Haartez, Amos Harel writes: “Defense officials favor forcefully blocking two boats, which a group of U.S.-based activists plan to sail to Gaza ... A position paper by the Foreign Ministry's legal department says Israel has the right to use force against the demonstrators as part of the Oslo Accords ... the Foreign Ministry's paper means that security forces could detain the vessels upon entry to Gaza's territorial waters, arrest the passengers and haul the ship to Israel, where the detainees could be interrogated.”

The Oslo accords expired in 1999, but even when they were in place they never advocated or allowed Israel to use deadly force against nonviolent human rights workers. However, Israel has decided to interpret the now-defunct accords as giving them permission to act violently against us.

Given this situation, we, the members of the Free Gaza Movement, would like to make two things very clear to the government of Israel:

1) We are nonviolent human rights activists and we have vowed to take no violent action, in either word or deed, against any other human beings - including against Israeli government and military officials who, apparently, wish us harm.

2) The threats and intimidation that we have received these past few days, though disturbing, do not even come close to the suffering imposed on 1.4 million Palestinians through the illegal and immoral Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip. Given the enormity of this crisis, we will not be deterred.

We will sail to Gaza, and this siege will be lifted. Members of the Free Gaza and Liberty, setting sail this week.-  Ramzi Kysia  Date : 08-17-2008

August 11, 2008

"Never doubt that a few, thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."-Margaret Mead

Within the next few days, history will be freely streaming from aboard the FREE GAZA and SS LIBERTY as a few committed global citizens focus the world's attention onto the 1.4 million open air prisoners of Gaza who have been collectively punished by Israel's ongoing occupation.

On board are Internationals, Israelis, Palestinians, a Catholic Nun, Child of The Holocaust, Journalists, Human Rights Activists, Fathers and Mothers, Civil Engineers and Coordinators of Children's Programs in Gaza, Professors, Film Makers, Writers, Non-Violence Trainers and Activists, former Marine and Legislative Representative, Musicians and More [1] who have been led by the desire to stand up for the voiceless who have endured under siege conditions before and after the 'disengagement' in 2005, for Israel has always maintained complete control of air, land and sea borders.

"We have been invited by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society of Gaza to go to Gaza. The people of Gaza expect us and will come out in their boats to meet us. We will fish together," Greta Berlin, Co-Founder of the Free Gaza Movement announced at the closing of the 27th annual ADC/Arab-American Anti-Discrimination conference in Washington, D.C. June 10, 2007, which preceded a March on D.C. by over 5,000 dissenting American's Against the Israeli Occupation of Palestine. The MSM was MIA at both events, but the March was well attended by USA Security Forces.
In 2007, the plan had been to sail ten boats through international waters to bring food, water, medicine directly to the people of Gaza. It has been said that you don’t make war with the army you wish you had, but the army you have; the army out to change the world consists of two boats- the FREE GAZA and SS LIBERTY and streaming video.

Co-visionary and Co-Founder of Free Gaza, Dr. Paul Larudee, a former Fulbright-Hayes lecturer and piano tuner had scheduled twenty piano tuning appointments throughout the West Bank during the summer of 2006, but instead, spent two weeks in a Ben Gurion jail cell before being deported for his NON-VIOLENT activism against the route of The Wall and U.S.A. Tax Dollars that Support the Israeli Military Occupation of Palestine.

Larudee explained in 2007, "We are going through international waters; we are not going through Israel. Israel claims Gaza is unoccupied and so, we are going to unoccupied territory…We will embark in Cypress and disembark in Gaza. This can play out in many ways; we may get blown out of the water, we may get towed away, but we will remain nonviolent and exercise the sovereignty of international waters, for we are not going through Israel. We will not allow the Coast Guard to enter onto our boats; we will demonstrate nonviolently our solidarity with the residents of Gaza who invited us. We are taking food, water, medicine, but the issue is solidarity with the people of Gaza. If our rights are denied, we will remain nonviolent."

Also on board is American Israeli Professor Jeff Halper, Founder of Israeli Committee against House Demolitions and famous for his explanation of Israeli democracy, "Israel is not a democracy, but is an Ethnocracy, meaning a country run and controlled by a national group with some democratic elements but set up with Jews in control and structured to keep them in control…Missing from Israel's security framing is the very fact of occupation, which Israel both denies exists...and that 'security' requires Israel control over the entire country...rendering impossible a just peace based on human rights, international law, reconciliation."

Sara Roy, is a senior research scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University and political economist who has worked in Gaza since 1985. She had just returned from there and spoke prior to Greta and Paul at the 2007 ADC Conference:

"There is nothing new in Gaza, just more acute and the internal breakdown due to restrictions and 527 physical barriers and cantonizations make it impossible for Palestinian businessmen to move their goods and they have been forced to hire Israelis as middle men who are able to transport Palestinian goods over the 535 miles of roads that Palestinians have been denied access to. The few Palestinians who are able to access these roads have become a privileged class…This new class is also dependent on international donors who are not building new structures to challenge the occupation and this has resulted in the humanitarization of Palestine; donors and Israelis are not treating them as human beings with political rights.

"This has caused fragmentation, isolation, cantonization which will soon become worse. The physical impediments, roadblocks and required permits have caused most of the people to give up, for their efforts to move their goods increases their costs so much and since there is no guarantee that their efforts will result in them being able to transport their wares, many have given up.

"There is a great sense that the people are robbed of their space and time and this has resulted in a de-development of the human being…The issue is no longer occupation but sovereign control...All vestiges of Palestinian presence is being destroyed by Israel."

The FREE GAZA and SSS LIBERTY are scheduled to set sail for Gaza from Cypress by the middle of August 2008. When the international crew alerted the people of Gaza of some most recent delays, the resilient patient reply was, "Don't worry. We know you are coming. And we are waiting."

The Free Gaza Movement is endorsed by an impressive array of international groups and personalities including South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mairead Maguire and Former Prime Minister of Lebanon Dr. Salim Al-Hoss.[2]

On two small boats, 40 global citizens from 16 countries, [the oldest will celebrate her 84th birthday on board and the youngest is a 22-year-old student from Denmark] on their way to Gaza, will be freely streaming reality video with hope to nonviolently defeat the Israeli Navy and begin the End of the Occupation.

The SS LIBERTY learned their lessons to have documentation on the go, from its namesake the USS LIBERTY, which was attacked while in international waters not far from Gaza by the Israeli Navy and Air Force on June 8, 1967:

"Israel got away with cold blooded murder! Forty years ago the CIA and the NSA all threatened the survivors not to talk! They scared me so much; I didn't for twenty years… Israel wanted the world to believe that Egypt [committed the crime]…Thirty-four were killed and 172 were wounded out of a crew of 294…The Israeli planes marked out the Star of David so we wouldn't know who was attacking us… Our keel was broken, we should have sunk but God kept us alive "- Phillip Tourney, USS LIBERTY Survivor, October 13, 2007.

"It is time to speak openly and honestly about Israel. But, in American politics, that is still forbidden…Pity that we cannot seem to shed our fear of Israel. We are afraid to speak out on Capitol Hill, for fear of losing the next election. They are more like trained poodles jumping through hoops than leaders! Why this fear? How did we get here?

“Forty years ago to this day, June 8, 1967 the change occurred, the floodgates opened and money poured into Israel as never before. When President Johnson heard about the U.S.S. Liberty being attacked by Israel he ordered the rescue fighter planes to return to the deck. The rescue mission was aborted and the survivors have said they heard LBJ’s voice tell Admiral Giess, 'Get those planes back on deck. I don’t care if the ship sinks, I will not embarrass Israel.'

“LBJ also threatened to court martial anyone who reported what had happened. Johnson accepted Israel’s false claim of “mistaken identity” and he knew it was a lie.  That is when the change began and Israel learned they could get away with murdering U.S.A. soldiers."-Congressman Paul Findley, June 8, 2007, 27th annual American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee’s Washington, D.C.

"In the long run, there is no JUSTICE without FREEDOM. There can be no human rights without LIBERTY. All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know the United States will not ignore your oppression or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for liberty, we stand with you."-President George W. Bush, Second Inaugural Address

May God keep the SS LIBERTY and FREE GAZA afloat and freely streaming video of the fearless crew who just maybe harbingers of new 'birth-pangs' of a New Middle East;

One based on Justice which is the only way to Peace.

Get on Board:


 UPDATE from Angela-Godfrey-Goldstein, Media Team Free Gaza Movement

 Guide: Gaza under blockade

By Heather Sharp
BBC News, Jerusalem

The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli blockade since the militant group Hamas seized control in June 2007. What gets in and out of Gaza, what has been the impact of the restrictions, and what has changed since the truce between Israel and Hamas in June 2008?

For the past year, Gaza's 1.5m people have been relying on, on average, less than a fifth of the volume of imported supplies they received in December 2005. Some weeks significantly less than that has arrived.

gaza goods

Only basic humanitarian items have been allowed in, and virtually no exports permitted, paralysing the economy. Reduced fuel supplies and lack of spare parts have had heavy knock-on impacts on sewage treatment, waste collection, water supply and medical facilities.

In the wake of the Hamas takeover, Israel said it would allow only basic humanitarian supplies into the Strip. No specific list of what is and is not classed as humanitarian exists, although aid agencies say permitted items generally fall into four categories - human food, animal food, groceries (cleaning products, nappies etc) and medicines.

In September 2007, the Israeli government declared the Strip a "hostile entity" in response to continued rocket attacks on southern Israel, and said it would start cutting fuel imports. Israel maintains the blockade has at no point caused a humanitarian crisis - but in early 2008, a group of aid agencies described the situation as exactly that, and the worst situation in the strip since Israel occupied it in 1967.


About three-quarters of Gaza's residents rely on some form of food aid. Aid agencies operating in Gaza say they have largely been able to continue to transport basic supplies such as flour and cooking oil into the territory - except during a few short periods when all the crossings have been closed. Israel says it only closes crossings in response to Palestinian militant attacks or for other security reasons.

While most basic foodstuffs have generally been allowed into Gaza, a joint survey by three UN agencies in May 2008 found all Gaza retailers had run out of flour, rice, sugar, dairy products, milk powder, and vegetable oil on at least three occasions since June 2007.

Some 700,000 people rely on food aid from the UN agency for Palestinian refugees Unrwa for their staple foods. The rations provide about two-thirds of their daily nutritional needs, and must be supplemented by dairy products, meat, fish and fresh fruit and vegetables bought on the open market.

While availability of some of these has dropped - for example, according to the UN, commercial food imports were less than half the need in December 2007 - the main problem for Gazans is paying for them.

The bureaucracy of the import process and fuel shortages for transport, together with rising global prices, have pushed up costs, at the same time as the decline of the economy and rising unemployment have squeezed household budgets.

The UN survey found more than half Gaza's households had sold their disposable assets and were relying on credit to buy food, three-quarters of Gazans were buying less food than in the past, and almost all of them were eating less fresh fruit, vegetables and animal protein to save money.

And some items, the report said, including baby food, olive oil, nuts, chocolate, spices, juices and carbonated drinks had been in short supply since the early days of the closure.

Israel says food imports have generally been restricted by its ability to continue to operate the crossings in the face of Palestinian attacks targeting them, rather than Israeli imposed limits on any particular products.


Israel began restricting fuel imports in late October 2007. As well as shortages for drivers, many of whom have begun running their vehicles on cooking oil, the consequences have been far reaching:
gaza fuel

    * Gaza's electricity supply is made up of 120MW from Israel, 17MW from Egypt and 55MW from an EU-run power plant in Gaza. The plant has been receiving only 2.2m litres of industrial diesel a week, but could generate 80MW if this was increased to 3.15m. It has also shut down completely twice. Most parts of Gaza have been receiving only 19-20 hours electricity supply. However, six weeks into the truce, fuel deliveries had increased a little - enough to allow the plant to generate 65MW.

    * Power cuts and shortages of fuel for back-up generators have meant Gaza's three sewage plants have been unable to secure the 14 days uninterrupted power supply required to treat sewage. Gaza's sewage treatment body has had less than 40% of the fuel it needs for much of the past year, and estimates it has been releasing 50-70m litres of raw or poorly-treated sewage into the sea daily during 2008.

    * Aid agencies say water pumping stations have also struggled with power and fuel shortages, as well as a lack of spare parts. In May, 15% of people had access to water 4-6 hours a week, 25% had it every four days, and 60% had it every other day.

    * 70% of agricultural water wells require diesel for their pumps and many farmers have lost crops due to lack of irrigation, according to aid agencies. Other food production has also been affected - for example, rising fishermen's fuel costs pushed up the price of sardines, and one poultry farmer had to slaughter 165,000 chicks because he did not have the fuel for the incubators to keep them alive.

In January 2008, Israel's Supreme Court dismissed a challenge by human rights groups to the practice of restricting fuel supplies.

The court set minimum thresholds that fuel deliveries should not fall below - compared with before the restrictions, these were 63% of industrial diesel supplies, 18% of petrol and 57% of diesel imports.

But figures monitored by international agencies show fuel deliveries dropped even below these minimums at several points in the first half of 2008.

Israel has also closed off fuel supplies completely in response to specific attacks - once to a Palestinian militant attack on a fuel depot near the Nahal Oz fuel crossing point, another to mortar attacks on a crossing itself. Both times the UN has come close to suspending food aid deliveries.

The first time the power plant was shut down, in January 2008, Israel said there was enough fuel in Gaza and accused Hamas of faking a crisis, but officials from the EU, which runs the plant, said at the time that fuel supplies were "very low".

Israel has also accused Hamas of exacerbating fuel shortages, as fuel workers have at times refused to distribute any fuel in protest at the limited levels of imports.


Few items other than food and medicine have entered Gaza in the past year, according to aid agencies. Restrictions on construction materials, particularly cement, and spare parts for machinery have taken a heavy toll on projects ranging from water treatment to grave digging.

Israel says many of these items are considered "dual use" and could be used for weapons manufacture. There are concerns, for example, that water pipes and fertiliser could be used to make rockets, and cement used for constructing smuggling tunnels.

    * Unrwa says a lack of construction materials have prevented it providing accommodation for 38,000 people living in inadequate conditions

    * All factories making construction materials have shut down (13 making tiles, 30 concrete, 145 marble and 250 making bricks)

    * The construction and maintenance of roads, water and sanitation infrastructure, medical facilities, schools and housing/re-housing projects have largely been on hold.

    * Lack of paper and printing materials meant school books were distributed four months late for the 2007-8 school year, Unrwa says, although Israel says it has facilitated access for school supplies and blamed delays on the Palestinian side.

Small amounts of cement and spare parts for specific projects have been allowed in at certain points during the year. In the six weeks after the truce, a limited number of trucks of cement and gravel entered Gaza, as well as a few shipments of clothes, shoes and refrigerators.


The closures have devastated the private sector of Gaza's economy. Nothing, apart from a small number of trucks of strawberries and flowers, has been exported since June 2007.

Combined with the lack of raw materials, and agricultural inputs such as fertilisers, this has left approximately 95% of Gaza's industrial facilities closed or operating at minimal levels.

Before the closure, up to about 750 trucks of furniture, food products, textiles and agricultural produce left Gaza each month. This was worth half a million US dollars a day.

By December 2007, 75,000 of Gaza's 110,000 private sector workers had been laid off and 3,500 of its 3,900 factories had closed, according to a UN report.

Some 25,000 tonnes of potatoes and 10,000 tonnes of other crops have perished or been sold at a fraction of their value, it said. Farmers burned and fed to livestock the flowers they could not export for Valentines Day.

The UN says the economy has suffered "irreversible damage", and that 37% of breadwinners are now unemployed, with on average 8.6 dependents per employed person.


Medicines have generally been allowed into Gaza, but Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) say the health system is "collapsing" and has suffered a "severe deterioration" under the pressure of shortages of equipment and spare parts, fuel and trained staff.

According to the WHO, Gaza health authorities said in April 2008 that 85 urgently needed drugs and 52 items of medical supplies (items such as swabs) were out of stock. The WHO says that the shortages cannot be directly attributed to the Israeli restrictions, but other humanitarian organisations say the bureaucracy of gaining permission for imports has affected the supply chain.

Aid agencies say medical institutions have been largely unable to import spare parts for equipment. The UN said that by December 2007, the majority of diagnostic equipment, such as X-ray machines and MRI scanners, in municipal facilities was no longer functioning. But Israel says it has never limited access to spare parts for medical equipment and blames any lack of equipment on funding shortages on the Palestinian side.

PHR says the inability to send staff outside Gaza for training is also a problem, giving the example of a new radiotherapy facility that could not be used because there were no trained staff to use it.

Fuel shortages have also affected hospitals, with ambulances running out of fuel at points in early 2008, and back-up generators - needed during power cuts - running low on fuel and lacking spare parts.

Patients in need of urgent medical care are allowed through Erez crossing points, but PHR says the number of patients being granted permits has dropped from 89% in January 2007 to just over half in June 2008. Rafah crossing has been closed since June 2007, although urgent cases are sporadically allowed to pass through it. A few hundred patients have left Gaza since then, and more than 3,000 Gazans have returned, according to PHR.

PHR says 200 patients died while waiting for permits in the past year. The WHO attributes at least 20 such deaths, in a two month period, to the fact the patients could not leave the Strip for treatment.

Israel says extensive security screening is necessary, as it says three people with permits to leave for medical reasons have been found to be planning attacks in Israel. It also says it has offered to facilitate passage through Israel to Jordan for Palestinians it refuses permits to on security grounds.

The Latest from Free Gaza and Liberty,
Crete Bulletin
from Lauren Booth
Tuesday 12th August 2008

Well here on baking, blissfully breezy Crete it has been a day of high expectation and yes, again, disappointment.

I spent my first night on board last night, in water so calm it reminded me of Lake Geneva. Our group had enjoyed a late dinner with sympathetic locals in a communal dwelling in what was once Chania's law court and prison. A touchingly run down setting of past grandeur, with a vegan feast thoughtfully prepared. Music was provided by an elderly man singing in Spanish, accompanied on the guitar by a young man with dreadlocks = known only as ''citizen of the world'. I finally arrived back on the boat at 2am certain I could sleep even standing up (much less lying down on a foam mattress). Chania is a rather lively dock even on Monday nights. The nearest taverna was hosting a family celebration complete with Greek musicians, the clink of moonlit glasses and much enthusiastic chatter. Suffice it to say I decided to find a vacant cabin. These are basic, unless you lived your life trawling for sardines.

An hour later the alarm on my mobile phone went - time to take guard of the ships with Jeff Halper, anthropologist and founder of The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. The ships are never left vacant, the risk of sabotage being considered too high. Our turn as guardians of the Free Gaza and Liberty consisted of patrolling with a torch and talking noisily about subjects I was too tired to remember afterwards. However, knowing Jeff I'm certain they were both funny and profound.

The early morning meeting saw most sailors bright eyed and eager to sail, making plans for the longest leg of the journey to Gaza; the 3 day odyssey from the legendary isle of Crete to Cyprus. Both ships now have professional captains. Matthew who arrived this morning fresh from a private tour of the Greek islands looks very young (I have insisted he grow a beard to look older than seventeen) he assures us all that over three days his face will age. In fact Matthew is in this thirties with a wife and children and knows the waters between the Greek Islands intimately, the groups are very pleased to welcome him aboard. Having spent the morning studying the charts and the local shipping forecast (weather report) at 11 am Captain Mat (as he shall now be known) announced 'Friday night is the perfect time to sail. Before that the journey in these vessels from Crete to Cyprus is not so much dangerous as suicidal.'

What did we do here in Crete at that announcement? For half an hour nails were chewed, each person went into a private purdah considering personal situations, the financial implications of staying longer, the commitment to those hoping for boats of hope to arrive on their shores. I know that the equally keen volunteers in Nicosia have important business commitments they have already delayed time and again for this mission. The news must have hit them hard.

Soon, everyone put the delay aside deciding how best to use this extra time to prepare. Huwaida and Courtney (please see biogs to find out more about them) are keen to brighten up both ships. Both locals and tourists who stop in front of both boats pointing and saying the word "Palestine' are unsure they have found the ships they have either heard or read about. To remedy this, plans are afoot to paint the wheel houses in the red and green of the Palestinian flag, interspersed at Huwaida's suggestion with words by the recently deceased Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish.

Practical preparations continue, this delay means more funding, for the project to break the siege of Gaza needs an urgent boost. Fifty travellers in two locations need to be fed and those in Nicosia need the rent for their housing to be covered in order to remain at the university longer than expected. Meanwhile here in Crete, despite the various pressures put upon them not one single person is leaving the project. How they cope financially with the pressure put upon them I have no idea. The single principle, the only thought on the minds of those here this afternoon is that thousands in Gaza are willing on this small, independent project. It's the people watching the horizon in Gaza that keeps everyone going here in Crete.

Meanwhile the world waits too to see what happens. Today Correiere Della Sera, a major Italian newspaper read by more than 2 million, devoted an entire page of their world news section to the Free Gaza Movement and the injustice suffered by Palestinians. The US media is the only group noticeable by their absence.

Free Gaza have the boats, the crew, and the willpower to challenge Israel's illegal barricade. Now all they need is the weather.

Here is a message to the Gazans watching their sea for signs of ships: the Free Gaza Movement are on their way. When the winds are with them, nothing else should be able halt this mission of peace and goodwill.

Lauren Booth
Journalist and Broadcaster
Mob: 07958 961602
Quote for the day:
We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope. -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

UPDATE August 16, 2008

By Ramzi Kysia in Cyprus

“Come, my friends / 'Tis not too late to seek a newer world. / Push off, and sitting well in order smite / The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds / To sail beyond the sunset…”--TS Eliot, “Ulysses”

Limassol, Cyprus - In a few, short days, the Free Gaza Movement, a diverse group of international human rights activists from seventeen different countries, will set sail from Cyprus to Gaza in order to shatter the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip. I’m proud to stand with them. Over 170 prominent
individuals and organizations have endorsed our efforts, including the Carter Center, former British Cabinet member Claire Short, and Nobel Peace Prize laureates Mairead Maguire and Desmond Tutu.

Adam Qvist, a 22 year old student and filmmaker from Copenhagen, Denmark, is one of the human rights workers sailing to Gaza. He explains his participation in the project in this way:

“I’m interested in telling narratives and advocating people’s existent feelings. The idea of sailing to Gaza is kind of crazy, but it’s also very straight-forward. The whole idea of having just one Palestinian who’s been forced off their land and who is able to return to Palestine - this is something that could demolish the whole Zionist venture. And it just has to be one person. If one person can do it, then others can do it. This project, this boat, is about giving people the freedom to take responsibility. You shouldn’t expect something from others if you can’t do it yourself, and this is true both on a very personal but also on a political level.

“This mission is an amazing opportunity to have a huge impact on this hard-locked, heart-locked, crisis. I’ve never been to Gaza, myself, but I know that Gaza is the forgotten little brother of the Middle East, or at least of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. Everything about this crisis is clearer in
Gaza. The Israeli occupation strategy is much clearer in Gaza, because it’s not specifically about taking more land. It’s mostly about completely destroying a people.”

Over two years ago, in an election process advocated by the United States, the party of Hamas was elected to power in Occupied Palestine. In response, Israel and the United States imposed a near total blockade on the people of Gaza in an illegal act of collective punishment.

For more than two years, Israel has blocked Gaza’s access to tax revenues, humanitarian aid, and even family remittances from Palestinians living abroad. Predictably, Gaza’s economy has completely collapsed, and malnutrition rates have skyrocketed. Today, because of the blockade, eighty percent of the people of Gaza are dependent on United Nations’ food aid just to be able to eat.

This is intolerable.

U.S. Presidential candidate Barack Obama often speaks about the “audacity of hope.” But hope can never be a passive emotion. Centuries ago, St. Augustine wrote that Hope has two, beautiful daughters: Anger and Courage. To hope for a better world is to be angry at the injustices that prevent that world from emerging, and it requires the courage to stand up and create newer worlds for ourselves.

Tom Nelson, a lawyer from Welches, Oregon, is sailing to Gaza to seek that newer world. According to Tom:

“Americans are terribly ignorant of the human effects of what they support. I think this boat is one of the most effective means of raising consciousness - particularly American consciousness - about the problems caused by American foreign policy. Americans have to know the consequences of these policies ... I’m sixty-four years old, my children are grown, and my affairs are in order. I think about Rachel Corrie, and about what Israel may do to us. I know it’s risky, but I take a risk when I ride a motorcycle, and I think that if we’re really going to change things then somebody has to begin putting something on the line for that change to happen.”

Eliza Ernshire is a thirty-two year old schoolteacher from London. Her reasons for sailing to Gaza are much the same:

“For years and years - seeing place in the world that were being totally destroyed, and people that were being totally destroyed by other people and governments - I thought there’s nothing that I could do. But I realized that we can change things in small ways, and we have a responsibility to do this.

“No one is paying attention to what’s happening in Gaza. No one is listening to Palestinians. They are slowly being strangulated by Israel, and no one is even listening. I can’t sit outside of this and just let it happen …We as human beings have an obligation to stand up, and I can’t be passive
about it. You can’t stand up in London and just say that you don’t agree. We need to find ways to connect people in the Middle East, particularly young people, to people and groups in wealthier countries. Together we can inspire each other, and together we can be much more than we are alone.”

Eliza speaks a powerful truth. Politicians and pundits often complain that the conflicts in the Middle East are complex and intractable, but two things are absolutely clear: One is that the use of violence - and, in Israel’s case, overwhelming violence - has not helped any side to achieve peace or security.
And the other is that our governments, across our entire world, have completely failed to do anything productive to address this crisis.

It’s time we the people stand up for ourselves against unjust laws, wanton violence, criminal blockades, and the hardness of heart that makes these thing possible. It’s time we stand against fear-mongering and war-mongering, and build connections, for ourselves, with our sisters and brothers in the Middle East. Our politicians have long since failed us. Now it’s our turn to stand
up and seek a newer world for ourselves.

Ramzi Kysia is an Arab-American writer and activist, and a member of the Free Gaza Movement. You can receive regular updates on their efforts to break the siege of Gaza by signing up for their newsletter. If you’d like more information, or if you’d like to donate to their efforts, please visit their website at



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"HOPE has two children.The first is ANGER at the way things are. The second is COURAGE to DO SOMETHING about it."-St. Augustine

 "He who is not angry when there is just cause for anger is immoral. Why? Because anger looks to the good of justice. And if you can live amid injustice without anger, you are immoral as well as unjust." - Aquinas

BEYOND NUCLEAR: Mordechai Vanunu's Freedom of Speech Trial

Published 10/30/10

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The Paradoxical Commandments
by Dr. Kent M. Keith

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

© 1968, 2001 Kent M. Keith

" In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway."-Mother Teresa

“You cannot talk like sane men around a peace table while the atomic bomb itself is ticking beneath it. Do not treat the atomic bomb as a weapon of offense; do not treat it as an instrument of the police. Treat the bomb for what it is: the visible insanity of a civilization that has obey the laws of life.”- Lewis Mumford, 1946

The age of warrior kings and of warrior presidents has passed. The nuclear age calls for a different kind of leadership....a leadership of intellect, judgment, tolerance and rationality, a leadership committed to human values, to world peace, and to the improvement of the human condition. The attributes upon which we must draw are the human attributes of compassion and common sense, of intellect and creative imagination, and of empathy and understanding between cultures."  - William Fulbright

“Any nation that year after year continues to raise the Defense budget while cutting social programs to the neediest is a nation approaching spiritual death.” - Rev. MLK
Establishment of Israel
"On the day of the termination of the British mandate and on the strength of the United Nations General Assembly declare The State of Israel will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel: it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion it will guarantee freedom of religion [and] conscience and will be faithful to the Charter of the United Nations." - May 14, 1948. The Declaration of the Establishment of Israel
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