As the remaining boats of the Freedom Flotilla left for Gaza yesterday, Israel continues to conduct training exercises to stop the convoy “at any cost.” The Freedom Flotilla is expected to arrive at its destination within 48 hours. A violent response from Israel will breathe new life into the Palestine solidarity movement, drawing attention to the blockade. Already in response to Israel’s publicized military threats, the Gaza Freedom March, a coalition focused on breaking the Israeli siege of Gaza, prepares to launch a worldwide emergency campaign consisting of protests, hunger strikes, public relations, and government pressure in the event the peaceful flotilla is attacked or high-jacked by Israel.
Following the technical failure experienced by one of ships from Greece, its passengers have been successfully transferred to the Turkish ship, Mavi Marmara. Eight ships are now en route to Gaza with over 10,000 tons of medical, construction, and school supplies. The flotilla includes some 800 passengers, including 35 MP’s from 15 countries, 20 newscasters, 11 Gaza Freedom Marchers, and various artists and human rights activists.
Gaza Freedom March calls on all world citizens to voice their dissent at Israeli embassies and other points of contact with Israeli officials this week as the flotilla of ships from Ireland, Turkey and Greece loaded with humanitarian aid attempts to dock in Gaza.
Since August 2008 international human rights workers in the Free Gaza Movement have been sending boats to Gaza in order to break the siege. Although the first five voyages successfully docked, the last three attempts have all been violently stopped by the Israeli military.
Israel’s deplorable attacks on unarmed ships are a violation of both international maritime law and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which states that “the high seas should be reserved for peaceful purposes.” There is no law or moral code in the world that allows Israel to forcibly prevent unarmed ships from carrying humanitarian and developmental aid to a suffering and occupied people.
The ongoing blockade of the Palestinian population in Gaza constitutes collective punishment of an occupied civilian population; an act strictly prohibited under Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which has created a man-made and deliberately sustained humanitarian catastrophe. In December 2008 Israel unleashed a brutal massacre on Gaza and the war crimes committed in the course of “Operation Cast Lead” in Gaza have been judiciously documented in the “Goldstone Report,” an investigation mandated by UNHCR.
Our response must be commensurate with this crisis. Given the sustained failure of the international community to enforce its own laws and protect the people of Gaza, we strongly believe that we have a moral obligation to directly intervene to uphold international principles.
For up to date info on the flotilla and endorsers see the following web sites: