29 May 2011|
But We Will Continue to Sail to Gaza until Israel Lifts its Illegal Blockade
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 30, 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. We are not engaged in illegal activity in the Mediterranean; it is Israel’s blockade of 1.5 million Palestinians that is illegal. And as head of the United Nations, he knows that the UN High Commission for Human Rights (UN HCHR) produced a report that identified the blockade of Gaza as collective punishment – a war crime.
Audrey Bomse, attorney for Free Gaza stated, “The Report concluded that Israel was “clearly unlawful” when it intercepted Freedom Flotilla I in May 2010. Israel had no right to use force against us or detain flotilla passengers. Finally, UN HCHR asked for recognition of the activities of the Flotilla as “an agreed form of intervention” by civil society in humanitarian crises.”
We would remind the Secretary-General that the flotilla violates no international laws 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.
Huwaida Arraf, chair of Free Gaza added, “Suggesting that aid to Gaza should be delivered via "legitimate crossings and established channels" implies that we accept Israel’s brutal and unlawful regime. Would the Secretary-General have said the same to the Egyptian and Tunisian people, telling them to address their grievances to Mubarak and Ben Ali?”
We do not sail just to deliver humanitarian supplies to Gaza. Palestinians don’t want humanitarian aid, they want 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 almost completely since 2006.
Our mission is to end Israel’s deliberate policies that have left Gaza in need of humanitarian aid. 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 like last year where Israel murdered nine of our volunteers.
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.
Mr. Secretary-General, the choice is Israel’s – either end the blockade or continue its violence against the Palestinians and their supporters. The blockade is an act of violence and our effort reflects the will of the international community to stand up to injustice. Therefore, your choice is to support tyranny or to support freedom.
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