Support the flotilla to Gaza

June 16, 2011

Dozens of Palestinian civil society organizations are calling on people, organizations and countries around the world to support the upcoming international freedom flotilla to break the siege of Gaza.

A year ago, Israeli commandoes killed nine Turkish volunteers aboard the Mavi Marmara, the lead ship in an international flotilla bringing badly needed humanitarian supplies to Gaza. Israeli troops boarded the ship in the dead of night and used live ammunition against unarmed activists.

As an ever larger flotilla--carrying both aid and some 1,500 activists from dozens of countries--prepares to set sail in late June, the U.S., Israel and the UN are pressuring governments around the Mediterranean to stop the different ships' departure plans. Israeli officials have also pledged to use snipers and attack dogs against activists aboard the upcoming flotilla.

Here, we reprint a joint call by Palestinian organizations for acts of solidarity in support of Gaza Freedom Flotilla 2.

WE, THE Palestinians of the besieged Gaza Strip, on this day, five years after closures began on Gaza, are saying enough inaction, enough discussion, enough waiting--the full siege on the Gaza Strip must end.

Shortly after the democratic election in 2006, supervised by people and bodies from the international community, nations formerly supporting aid and cultural organizations in Gaza withdrew their support. In mid-2007, our borders, controlled by Israel and Egypt, fully closed, locking Palestinians within and preventing imports and exports from crossing our borders.

From December 27, 2008, to January 18, 2009, Israel waged an all-out slaughter on Gaza, killing over 1,500 Palestinians, the vast majority innocent civilians and among them over 430 children; destroying thousands of homes, businesses, factories and buildings, including universities, schools, hospitals and medical care facilities; and damaging vast tracts of our water and sanitation system.

Two-and-a-half years following the cessation of Israel's attacks, almost no homes and few buildings have been rebuilt. Our sanitation and sewage system situation is more dire than ever. Raw waste continues to be pumped into our sea for want of proper treatment facilities, polluting our water and the fish along the coast. Then fishermen, banned from entering the 20 nautical miles of sea accorded to Palestinians under the Oslo Accords, are forced to harvest these poisoned fish.

The Mavi Marmara, the lead boat in last year's Gaza Freedom Flotilla, docked in Istanbul
The Mavi Marmara, the lead boat in last year's Gaza Freedom Flotilla, docked in Istanbul

Our farmers continue to be shot at, maimed and killed by Israeli soldiers along our border, prevented from working, growing and harvesting their land, denying us a rich supply of produce and vitamins. Nutrient deficiencies and malnutrition continue to rise, affecting our children's growth and their ability to study.

Our economy is shut down by lack of functioning factories and electricity. Our students hold little to no prospects of travel for study abroad, even when placements and scholarships have been secured, due to the Israeli control of the Erez crossing and the Egyptian-controlled Rafah crossing being closed more often than opened. Our sick suffer for want of necessary medications and medical supplies and equipment.

SINCE 2005, over 170 Palestinian organizations have called for boycott, divestment and sanctions to pressure Israel to comply with international law. Since 2005, Palestinians have weekly met in villages in the occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem to protest Israel's occupation policies.

Creative civilian efforts, such as the Free Gaza boats that broke the siege five times, the Gaza Freedom March, the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, and the many land convoys, must never stop their siege-breaking, highlighting the inhumanity of keeping 1.5 million Gazans in an open-air prison.

On December 2, 22 international organizations--including Amnesty, Oxfam, Save the Children, Christian Aid and Medical Aid for Palestinians--produced the report "Dashed Hopes: Continuation of the Gaza Blockade," calling for international action to force Israel to unconditionally lift the blockade. And Human Rights Watch published a comprehensive report "Separate and Unequal" that denounced Israeli policies as "apartheid," echoing similar sentiments by South African anti-apartheid activists.

The recently announced opening of the Rafah crossing has yet to be fully enacted. Even when open, it will mean little with respect to the imports and exports of goods to and from Gaza and will not improve the plight of fishermen and farmers or Gaza's high unemployment and poverty rates.

We request that the citizens of the world oppose this deadly, medieval blockade. The failure of the United Nations and its numerous organizations to condemn such crimes proves their complicity. Only civil society is able to mobilize to demand the application of international law and put an end to Israel 's impunity.

The intervention of civil society was effective in the late 1980s against the apartheid regime of South Africa. Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have not only described Israel's oppressive and violent control of Palestinians as apartheid, they have also joined this call for the world's civil society to intervene again.

We call on civil society organizations worldwide to intensify the anti-Israel sanctions campaign to compel Israel to end to its aggression. We call on the nations and citizens of the world participating in the Freedom Flotilla 2 to continue their plans to sail to Gaza where they will be welcomed by Palestinians.

The civil society initiatives of the Freedom Flotillas are about taking a stance of justice and solidarity with besieged Palestinians when your governments will not. We call on the flotilla movement to grow and continue to sail until the siege of Gaza is entirely lifted and until the Palestinians of Gaza are granted the basic human rights and freedom of movement citizens around the world enjoy.

Signed by: University Teachers' Association, Palestinian Nongovernmental Organizations Network, Al-Aqsa University, Palestine Red Crescent Society in Gaza, General Union of Youth Entities, Arab Cultural Forum, General Union for Health Services Workers, General Union for Public Services Workers, General Union for Petrochemical and Gas Workers, General Union for Agricultural Workers, Union of Women's Work Committees, Union of Synergies--Women Unit, Union of Palestinian Women Committees, Women's Studies Society, Working Woman's Society, Palestinian Students' Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel, One Democratic State Group, Palestinian Youth against Apartheid, Association of Al-Quds Bank for Culture and Info, Palestine Sailing Federation, Palestinian Association for Fishing and Maritime, Palestinian Women Committees, Progressive Students Union, Medical Relief Society, The General Society for Rehabilitation, Afaq Jadeeda Cultural Centre for Women and Children, Deir Al-Balah Cultural Centre for Women and Children, Maghazi Cultural Centre for Children, Al-Sahel Centre for Women and Youth, Ghassan Kanfani Kindergartens, Rachel Corrie Centre, Rafah, Rafah Olympia City Sisters, Al Awda Centre, Rafah Al Awda Hospital, Jabaliya Camp Ajyal Association, Gaza General Union of Palestinian Syndicates, Al Karmel Centre, Nuseirat Local Initiative, Beit Hanoun Union of Health Work Committees, Red Crescent Society Gaza Strip, Beit Lahiya Cultural Centre, Al Awda Centre, Rafah , Al-Quds Bank for Culture and Information Society, Women Section--Union of Palestinian Workers Syndicate, Middle East Children's Alliance--Gaza, Local Initiative--Beit Hanoun

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