Challenging the Blockade – 2014

The Next Freedom Flotilla and Continuing Gaza’s Ark

Free Gaza Australia joins with the Freedom Flotilla Coalition (FFC) in condemning Israeli attacks on the Palestinians of Gaza, condemning the ongoing blockade and condemning international collaboration and complicity that allows the massacres and the blockade to continue.

On 10/11 August 2014, the FFC met in Istanbul, Turkey and concluded that it is the responsibility of civil society worldwide to sail to Gaza and challenge the Israeli blockade, the source of most problems facing the Palestinian population of Gaza.

We plan to sail to Gaza as soon as practicable in this year (the UN International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People:
http://unispal.un.org/unispal.nsf/solidarity.htm)

Latest news/updates available at gazaark.org, facebook.com/gazaark, facebook.com/gazaaustralia, or twitter.com/gazaark.

Extracts from media release (August 2014): “The international Freedom Flotilla Coalition (with participation from England, France, Sweden, Norway, Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, USA, Canada and Australia) condemns the ongoing Israeli military assault on Palestinian civilians in Gaza, denounces the failure of the international community to stop the assault, and renews its opposition to the Israeli economic blockade on Palestinians in Gaza as well as the collaboration of other governments.

We note that the demand to lift the blockade is a central feature of talks on ending the violence, and urge governments who reject the blockade to use their influence now to ensure that an agreement that ends the violence, also ends the destructive blockade.

We hereby announce that we are planning another flotilla in the near future, to challenge the blockade of Gaza, with participants from around the world. We announce our intention to sail back from Gaza carrying Palestinian exports, continuing the work of Gaza’s Ark.

We are a peaceful civil society initiative, acting out of solidarity with the Palestinian people, independently from any government…

The Mavi Marmara – the lead ship in the 2010 Freedom Flotilla, which bore the brunt of the Israeli naval assault and on which nine Turkish citizens and a U.S. citizen were killed by Israel – will soon be ready to join the flotilla with hundreds of peace activists from all around the world on board.

More news on our plans will be available in a few weeks. We urge our supporters around the world to stay alert for updates and to ready themselves to join and escalate our campaign to bring down the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

Freedom Flotilla Coalition:

European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza

International Committee for Breaking the Siege on Gaza (ICBSG)

Freedom Flotilla Italia

Gaza’s Ark

IHH

Rumbo a Gaza

Ship to Gaza Greece

Ship to Gaza Norway

Ship to Gaza Sweden”

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Gaza’s Ark Destroyed – Deliberately Targeted by Israel

It is with sorrow and outrage that we announce that Gaza’s Ark was totally destroyed by a direct hit from the Israeli Occupation Forces at 2am, local time on Friday 11 July 2014.  It caught fire as result of the hit and was damaged beyond repair. In the context of all the death and destruction caused by Israel, the material damage to our project pales in significance.

However, it is now clear that Gaza’s Ark was deliberately targeted by Israel (for the second time).  Israel is not worried about its security as it claims, what it is worried about and afraid of are peaceful projects like ours that expose its atrocities.

More information on the next steps for Gaza’s Ark and the Freedom Flotilla Coalition will be posted on www.gazark.org once decided upon.

Pictures and full story here.

 

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Gaza’s Ark attacked… but salvaged

For latest news including pictures, see www.gazaark.org   #GazaArkAttacked @gazaark

At 0345 Gaza time 29 April 2014, Mustafa Abu Awad, the night guard on board Gaza’s Ark was told by phone to leave the boat because it was going to be attacked. He left, but when nothing happened, he returned after 5 minutes. A few minutes later, a large explosion occurred, causing the boat to take on a significant amount of water, although it did not sink. Whilst Mustafa was not injured, he was taken to hospital for tests.

On 2 May, Gaza’s Ark was successfully salvaged and towed to shore with the help of tens of volunteers, including workers who have been refurbishing the boat over the last year, as well as five boats – see pictures)

Mahfouz Kabariti, Gaza’s Ark Project Manager, said: “The extent and nature of the damage are currently being investigated. We will provide an update when available.”

“Gaza’s Ark and all our partners in the Freedom Flotilla Coalition are considering our next move in response to this cowardly act of terrorism, but our position remains clear: Neither this nor any other attack will stop our efforts to challenge the blockade of Gaza until it ends,” said David Heap of Gaza’s Ark Steering Committee.

“Freedom Flotilla boats have been sabotaged before. This attack comes days before our test sail on 4 May and weeks before our planned departure from Gaza. You can sink a boat, but you cannot sink hope or a movement,” James Godfrey another member of the Steering Committee based in Australia said.

More news to follow.

Statements of support following the attack:

Senator Lee Rhiannon

David Shoebridge MLC (NSW)

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Gaza’s Ark – Building Hope

Free Gaza Australia in cooperation, with international partners in Palestine, Canada, the US and Europe, is participating in a new initiative to challenge the illegal and inhumane Israeli blockade of Gaza, Gaza’s Ark.

Gaza’s Ark is building a boat in Gaza, using existing resources. Once completed it will be sailed out of Gaza with a crew of Palestinians and internationals aboard, carrying Palestinian products to fulfill trade deals with international buyers.

Gaza’s Ark is being constructed in Gaza by Palestinian hands and expertise, with international assistance.

Gaza’s Ark is helping revitalise the dwindling ship building industry in Gaza and helping ensure the transmission of this disappearing expertise to the younger generations.

Through Gaza’s Ark trade deals will be secured between Palestinian producers and international businesses and NGOs.

Gaza’s Ark will also provide training to Gaza’s sailors in the use of up-to-date electronic sailing equipment and techniques which they have been denied for years as a result of the blockade.

Although it will help in a very limited manner to alleviate Gaza’s unemployment crisis by paying wages to the boat builders and providing business opportunities to traders, Gaza’s Ark is not an aid project. It is a peaceful action against the blockade which Israel unilaterally and unreasonably imposes on Gaza.

Gaza’s Ark also stands in solidarity with Palestinians seeking to derive a livelihood from fishing in Gaza, whose ability to operate in territorial waters is threatened by the same Israeli blockade which our campaign is challenging.

Gaza’s Ark challenges the blockade by building hope on the ground in Gaza, and affirms our confidence that the Palestinians of Gaza can rebuild their economy through outbound trade that threatens no-one’s security.

With your support, we have purchased a 24 metre long fishing boat and work on Gaza’s Ark has now started. You can follow the Ark’s progress at gazaark.org or on Facebook and Twitter.

Michael Coleman from Sydney returned from Gaza in July 2013 following four months working with the project in Palestine. Here is his report:

I have just returned to Australia after four months in the Gaza Strip working on the Gaza’s Ark Project (www.gazaark.org). During this time, I saw for myself and experienced some of the daily hardships that Palestinian people suffer, including salty and unclean water and a sea where you cannot safely swim due to pollution caused by the sewerage systems that are destroyed by the Israeli military. I sailed out with fishers and visited farmers who are harassed constantly by the Israeli Occupation Forces and saw for myself the conditions in which they struggle to maintain their livelihoods. I participated in the purchase of a 24 metre long fishing boat and the public launch of the Project in Gaza. I also met with potential suppliers of goods and produce, which we are now selling and which will be transported on Gaza’s Ark. I helped establish a local youth committee to support Gaza’s Ark and met with many organisations and individuals who have agreed to endorse Gaza’s Ark. For more details of my solidarity activities in Gaza, visit: http://occupiedterritories.wordpress.com/.

My time in Gaza increased my belief in the importance of the project. The high rate of unemployment in Gaza is a direct effect of Israel’s illegal blockade and no amount of aid will change the despair of those currently unemployed. By attempting to establish a trade route between Gaza and the rest of the world, Gaza’s Ark provides a ray of hope to the Palestinians of Gaza for an economy independent of their occupying power. This is a vital step towards self-determination, a step the Oslo process of the 1990s – which was supposed to lead to a final peace in the region – has failed to deliver.

However Gaza’s Ark to me, and the Palestinians of Gaza, is much more than a trade mission. It is an act of solidarity which raises awareness of the situation the residents of Gaza currently face. Whilst the people of Gaza have a lack of export opportunities – just 2% of pre-blockade levels – the living conditions of the vast majority of the population are summed up by the UNRWA in its recent comprehensive report on the Palestinian enclave, which concluded that: “Gaza will no longer be ‘liveable’ by 2020 unless urgent action is taken to improve water supply, power, health and schooling”.

With governments around the world ignoring Israel’s regular violations of international law, I feel it is important to show the Palestinian people through direct actions, that our governments do not speak for us on the issue of their human rights. History has shown us that on issues of social justice, people lead and governments follow. To get the people to lead, though, they need to know the facts and not the myths.

Gaza’s Ark can only continue and progress with your support. You can help fund the refurbishment process, or you can purchase Palestinian products that will be exported aboard the Ark. And let’s be honest, how often in this modern world do you get a chance to purchase a share in hope!

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If you are as excited about Gaza’s Ark as we are, you can help in several ways:

1. Give of your time/skills – contact us to discuss how you would like to be involved: Publicity/Outreach, Fundraising, Media, Social Media, Website Development or Planning.

2. Give your financial support:

a) Buy symbolic shares in Gaza’s Ark – (Canadian) $50 each – via this link.
and/or
b) Contribute towards the cost of an item needed to prepare the boat to sail, via this link.
c) Make a donation via our local account below or via PayPal on the global site.

Bank: Commonwealth Bank
Acc Name: GFF Australia Group
BSB: 062102  Acc No: 10197185

* Please insert your name into the reference section and send us an email (freegazaaustralia@gmail.com) to advise of your donation so we may directly thank you.

Or you can even post us a cheque or Postal Order made out to GFF Australia and post it to PO Box 542, Leichhardt, NSW 2040


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Header image by Joi Ito.