We are a human rights group that, since August 2008, has sailed ten times to Gaza to break Israel's illegal stranglehold on1.6 million Palestinian civilians. We entered Gaza successfully five times in 2008; however, we have been violently intercepted on four voyages, including Israel's MAY 31, 2010 lethal attack on our Freedom Flotilla when nine of our colleagues were killed and many more injured by Israeli commandos. On the tenth voyage in July 2011, Greece prevented us from leaving, as Israel and the U.S. outsourced Israel's occupation of Gaza to Greece. (See also www.witnessgaza.com)

We sail as an expression of citizen nonviolent, direct action, confronting Israel's ongoing abuses of Palestinian human and political rights and will continue to challenge Israel's illegal siege on Gaza by participating and supporting other initiatives to break the blockade of Gaza by sea.

By Col. Ann Wright, Free Gaza Board Member

Representatives of the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH), the Turkish nongovernmental organization that coordinated the passengers on the ship Mavi Marmara that was part of the 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla, say that families of the nine passengers killed by Israeli commandos have rejected the country’s recent apology.

The eight Turkish citizens and one American were killed during a nonviolent mission to challenge the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza, and the families do not consider either an Israeli government apology or the offer of compensation for the death of their loved ones a fulfillment of their mission.

The IHH personnel also announced in the wake of the apology that an indictment filed in the Istanbul High Criminal Court on May 29, 2012, against four senior Israeli government military and intelligence officials will proceed. The four defendants—the former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, the Israeli navy commander, the Israeli air force intelligence director and the head of the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate—face charges including willful killing, plundering and seizing maritime vessels.

A political apology by the Israeli government to the Turkish one cannot stop the legal process under way in the Turkish courts, IHH staffers say. Turkey’s president can’t order his nation’s courts to drop the case, and to do so would be a violation of its laws.


Posted on 03/24/2013 by Juan Cole

The one diplomatic success of President Obama’s mainly pro forma visit to Israel and Jordan was Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s pro forma apology to Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan for killing 8 Turkish nationals and 1 American citizen of Turkish heritage aboard the Mavi Marmara aid ship trying to succor the Palestinians of Gaza in 2010.

The Guardian reports that

“The prime minister made it clear that the tragic results regarding the Mavi Marmara were unintentional, and that Israel expresses regret over injuries and loss of life. In light of the Israeli investigation into the incident, which pointed out several operational errors, Netanyahu apologised to the Turkish people for any errors that could have led to loss of life and agreed to complete the agreement on compensation.”

Erdogan appears to have grudgingly accepted the apology (Israel will pay roughly $6 million to the victims’ families), and the two leaders agreed that normal diplomatic relations would be restored, though Erdogan later said it would be a gradual process.


The Obama administration is touting the apology and the step toward return of correct Israeli-Turkish relations as a win. Turkey is a member of NATO and has been excluding Israel from some NATO meetings (Israel is not a NATO member but is often included in its counsels; Turkey as a member can block it).

What is astonishing in all this is that no one is talking about the reason for which the Mavi Marmara was heading to Gaza and for which the Israeli commandos boarded it and shot it up.

It is that Israel has imposed an illegal blockade on the civilian population of Baza. The blockade forbids the export of most of what the Palestinians there produce, depriving them of export markets. There are only 1.7 million Palestinians in Gaza, many of them thrown into desperate poverty by Israeli policy, so they aren’t much of an internal market. The Israelis have a cover story that they are strangling Gaza out of security concerns, but how could exporting goods from Gaza pose a threat to Israeli security? One Israeli official admitted the truth years ago; the Israelis have put the Palestinians ‘on a diet,’ and most creepily actually tried to figure what was the least amount of food they could let in without producing widespread starvation. This policy can only be called fascist and it recalls the worst kind of medical experiments on human beings and social engineering of the mass political movements of the 1930s.

Palestinian children forage for food in trash

Since Turkey (rightly and courageously) rejects the Israeli blockade on Gaza civilians, its actual diplomatic relations with Israel are likely to continue to be roiled. The Israelis maintain that blockades are a recognized tool of war in international law, but in fact Gaza is not an independent country with which Israel is at war! Gaza is Occupied by Israel, and the 1949 Geneva convention on the treatment of civilians in occupied territories strictly forbids such punitive measures. Gaza has no functioning seaport or airport because the Israelis disallow the former and bombed the latter into smithereens.

I wrote last fall:

“The food blockade had real effects. About ten percent of Palestinian children in Gaza under 5 have had their growth stunted by malnutrition.

A recent report [pdf] by Save the Children and Medical Aid for Palestinians found that, in addition, anemia is widespread, affecting over two-thirds of infants, 58.6 percent of schoolchildren, and over a third of pregnant mothers.

I mean, don’t those figures make you want to do something for those mothers and children? Wouldn’t they melt anyone’s heart?

Although, under international pressure, the Israeli government eased its blockade slightly in 2010, and foodstuffs are no longer interdicted, it still limits imports into Gaza, and its wide-ranging ban on exports has thrown Palestinians into unemployment at Depression levels, imperiling their ability to afford food even when it is available.

A UN Report out last month predicts that if Israel does not change its policies toward Gaza, the strip will be uninhabitable by 2020, when the population will likely be 2.1 million (think Houston). The deterioration of the water, and the sharp downward mobility of the Palestinians, are only some of the problems the territory will face.”

Israel must end this unconscionable blockade of Palestinian civilians (half of whom are children) immediately. If Obama thinks Israeli-Turkish relations can be healthy without that step, he has another think coming.

IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation has released an extensive report concerning the cases filed across the world into Israel’s 2010 raid on Mavi Marmara, which claimed the lives of nine peaceful activists.

Judicial report of Mavi Marmara trials released

30.01.2013 - Judicial report of Mavi Marmara trials released

The report tells the judicial battle fought by participants of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in Turkey and across the world.

The report, prepared by IHH Human Rights and Judicial Commission, includes information about the Mavi Marmara trial as part of which Israeli commanders stand trial in Turkey and judicial work carried out by national and international judicial organs regarding the Mavi Marmara raid.

The report, which states that real persons, judicial persons and third persons have taken various actions to mobilize national and international judicial authorities in the aftermath of the attack, reveals the legal battle which has been going on for more than 2 and a half years.

OJ was on the first trip into Gaza on board the Free Gaza when we landed on August 23, 2008. She has since been back to this tiny strip on the Mediterranean several times and is there now bearing witness and reporting. Below is her story.

Beit Lahiya, Gaza Strip, Monday 21st January, 2013: A ceasefire was announced on 21st November, ending eight days of horrific bloodshed in Gaza. Has the delicate truce held over the past two months? It depends who you ask. Israelis or Gazans, each going about their daily lives on opposite sides of a border fence.

There has not been a single report of a rocket fired out of Gaza since 21st November. In contrast, four Palestinians have lost their lives and over 80 have been injured by Israeli forces. Yet these violations have received little or no coverage in the mainstream media. Palestinian civilians, whose only crime is to live in the border areas, are terrorized on a daily basis by the Israeli army. This is what everyday life under the ceasefire has meant for them.

Beit Lahiya, in the far north of the Gaza Strip is one such place. A week ago, it saw the brutal murder of 20 year-old Mustafa Abu Jarad. Today, it was the site of another Israeli violation. Abdullah Marouf, 18, was in the west of Beit Lahiya, near the coast, when he was shot in the right leg by Israeli forces, fracturing both his tibia and fibula.

At about 9.00 am on 21st January, Abdullah was in an area approximately 250 metres from the border fence (the ceasefire says they can go to within 100 meters of the fence), catching birds with his two brothers. A group of five or six Palestinians they were unaquainted with were also in the vicinity, closer to the fence than they were. Abdullah had been under the impression that he would be safe, however he noticed an Israeli soldier in a watchtower on the border and others on the ground. The soldiers began firing live ammunition towards them and Abdullah was shot.


Two local farmers brought him to Kamal Adwan hospital where surgeons performed percutaneous pinning of his lower leg, which had sustained damage from an entry wound and a significantly larger exit wound. He requires subsequent surgery in a couple of months to fit internal wires. His recovery is estimated to take at least 12 months.

Abdullah, who is engaged to be married, had been working with his two brothers selling scrap metal. Now they will have to support a family of nine without his help. It is unsurprising that he expressed a lack of faith in the ceasefire agreement.

One can only expect that the Palestinian resistance has also lost faith and is fast losing patience. If a response is provoked, it will appear to be in a vacuum - despite this being far from the case - due to the shameful silence maintained by the international community throughout the ongoing Israeli atrocities. It is for people of conscience to protest this injustice and prevent a further escalation of Israel's attacks on Gaza.

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