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Trivia Night in support of Gaza’s Ark

Help us turn this picture of Gaza's Ark into a reality

Date: 1st November

Time: 7.oopm for a 7.30pm start

Venue: Marrickville, Sydney, NSW

Facebook Event Link: http://www.facebook.com/#!/events/440430162665473/

Free Gaza Australia is hosting an unmissable fundraiser. Bring your friends and colleagues along for anight of progressive trivia (including a bonus Palestine round) in support of Gaza’s Ark > www.gazaark.com

There will be entertainment/live performances and spot prizes

* nibbles provided

* soft/alcoholic drinks will be available for purchase

Tickets in advance: $25 waged/ $10 unwaged/student

Tickets on the door: $30 waged/$15 unwaged/student

Tickets can be purchased by depositing the ticket amount/s and referencing name/s into our:

Bank Account: Commonwealth Bank

Acc. Name: GFF Australia Group

BSB: 062102 Acc. No: 10197185

(insert your name into the reference section and send an email to freegazaaustralia@gmail.com to advise of your payment)

* To assist with logistics if you are organising a team please send us an email advising the names and the number of waged/unwaged tickets you are buying > freegazaaustralia@gmail.com

See you there !

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Rachel Corrie’s humanity lives on in Gaza’s Ark

* Article by Michael Coleman, aka one half of the kayaktivists, edited by Greta Berlin and James Godfrey and first published on Green Left Weekly on Thursday, August 30, 2012http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/52095

Rachel Corrie, 2002

Rachel Corrie was born on 10 April 1979, and raised in Olympia, Washington, USA. She was the youngest of Craig and Cindy Corrie’s three children. Cindy describes their family as “average Americans, politically liberal, economically conservative, middle class”. However, even as a young girl, Rachel’s commitment to human rights was clear, when in grade five she stood in front of an auditorium full of adults and talked passionately about her dreams for the future, giving her now famous “I’m here because I care” speech.

After graduating from college at 23, Rachel’s commitment to human rights took her to the Palestinian enclave called Gaza, to a small city called Rafah  – about as far from Olympia as humanly possible. In Palestine, Rachel volunteered with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), bearing witness to Israel’s daily violations of international law against the 1.4 million people who lived there.

Rachel’s main purpose in Rafah was to try and prevent the Israeli Occupation Force [IOF], from demolishing Palestinian houses along the border with Egypt to create a “security” zone. At the time, the Israeli military had demolished 1,700 homes in Rafah, an action human rights groups claimed was collective punishment. On 16 March 2003, Rachel Corrie died trying to protect a Palestinian home from demolition, when she was crushed by an IOF bulldozer.

Rachel Corrie faces down a bulldozer in Gaza

Shortly before her death, Rachel said that “I feel like I’m witnessing the systematic destruction of a people’s ability to survive”. Unfortunately since 2003 the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip has only deteriorated, and the collective punishment now targets the entire population of the Strip. All of Gaza’s now 1.6 million residents, the majority of whom are children, have been under an Israeli blockade since 2007 ‘officially‘. However the restrictions on the movement of the population of Gaza began as far back as 1991 – when Gaza was first cut off from Israel and the West Bank. The blockade is clearly an act of collective punishment, something the International Committee of the Red Cross has pointed out, stating that “the whole of Gaza’s civilian population is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility.”

The effects of the blockade are well documented. During the past five years when the blockade has been in full effect, the United Nations and the World Health Organisation have reported that the Israeli Military has killed or injured over 10,000 Palestinians residents. 70% of the population is now reliant on aid organisations for their basic human needs such as food, shelter or medical care. 90% of Gaza’s water is now undrinkable; due to a sanitation system that was rendered inoperable by the IOF during Operation Cast Lead. Gaza’s hospitals have faced constant chronic shortages of drugs and equipment for years, while fuel shortages cause power cuts of up to 18 hours a day.

Last Tuesday, the Corrie family’s decade long struggle for justice for Rachel was dealt a blow when the Haifa District Court ruled that her death was an accident, for which she was responsible. Despite the judge’s decision perpetuating the myth that her death was a tragic accident, the case shed light on Israel’s breaches of human rights and the impunity enjoyed by its military.

However people of conscience around the world have not been deterred by Israel’s murder of Rachel Corrie or the many murders that preceded and followed it. In fact as it has becomes blatantly clear that the only route to a free Palestine is through civil society initiatives like the ISM, the Free Gaza movement, the flotillas, flytillas and other global civilian projects, the numbers of people around the world standing in solidarity with the Palestinians, both in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, has only increased.

The latest creative strategy for challenging Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza is Gaza’s Ark. Gaza’s Ark will not only challenge the blockade physically – it will also build hope on the ground in Gaza by providing investment, training and employment. Gaza’s Ark will also promote Palestinian trade with the outside world through the only port on the Mediterranean that is closed to shipping. Indeed, as James Godfrey of Free Gaza Australia stated: “Gaza’s Ark affirms our belief that the Palestinians of Gaza can rebuild their economy through outbound trade that threatens no-one’s security.”

The legacy and spirit of Rachel’s humanity lives on in projects like Gaza’s Ark and always remember as Cindy Corrie stated following the verdict: “I don’t think that Rachel should have moved. I think we should all have been standing there with her”. The Corrie’s are a truly inspirational family who have both my condolences and gratitude.

Corrie Family awaiting the verdict

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One year after Greece stopped Freedom Flotilla: The struggle to end Gaza blockade continues

BY DAVID HEAP EHAB LOTAYEF > FIRST PUBLISHED JULY 26, 2012 ON RABBLE.CA
http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/canadianboattogaza/2012/07/one-year-after-greece-stopped-freedom-flotilla-struggle-en

One year after the Greek government bowed to pressure and enforced he outsourced Israeli blockade of Gaza, the international movement to challenge the blockade is still very much afloat: we may change our tactics, but not our objectives. Our new campaign to challenge the blockade from the inside out emphasizes the fundamental importance of freedom of movement for Palestinians.

On July 4, 2011 the Canadian boat Tahrir left the port of Aghios Nikolaos (in Crete, Greece) bound for Gaza. After days of waiting for official clearance in the face of increasing bureaucratic and political obstacles, we decided to defy a Greek government ban on Freedom Flotilla departures and simply cast off. There were more than 40 people on board the Tahrir: a wide range of delegates from Australia, Belgium, Denmark and Canada as well as journalists from various countries. Our Greek captain and crew had been replaced for the occasion by volunteers — we were lucky to have among us delegates with professional maritime experience, from engineer to ship’s officers.

We didn’t make it more than eight nautical miles out before the Greek coastguard commandos boarded the Tahrir and took control of the vessel. We were towed back to port where a three people from our group had been arrested (they were subsequently tried and given suspended sentences). The Greeks used minimal force in stopping the Tahrir. They did not interfere with communications nor with media reporting – cameras and live phone interviews were rolling throughout the whole process. Some of the coastguard commandos in fact said they were embarrassed by what they saw as their government’s betrayal of Greece’s traditional Mid-East position.

By accepting to play the role of unenthusiastic enforcers for Israel’s outsourced blockade of Gaza, then-Prime Minister Papandreou was indeed betraying his father Andreas’ historical support for Palestinian liberation. All the pandering to powerful international forces could not of course save the younger Papandreou’s job as PM from the pressures of the austerity agenda, and it remains to be seen whether present or future Greek governments will return to a more independent foreign policy. Meanwhile, we remain more buoyant about our internationalanti-blockade movement than about the Greek political situation.

When the Tahrir sailed again in November, this time from Turkey and with a much reduced delegation (just 12 people on board), we got much further before being captured by the Israeli navy in international waters just 45 nautical miles from Gaza. In stark contract to the Greeks, the Israeli navy began by blocking all communications and throughout did everything possible to prevent journalists on board from doing their work by reporting. By stealing media professionals’ recording equipment, the Israelis showed once again they know their actions are illegal and indefensible.

Despite recognizing that there were no arms or munitions of any kind on the Tahrir and that they would be met with only non-violent resistance, the heavily armed commandos boarded us with overwhelming military force, an act of state-sponsored piracy.

The Tahrir and the Saoirse are still illegally impounded in Israel, along with at least five other boats from different countries which have challenged the blockade since 2009 (after the six successful voyages to Gaza in 2008). We have filed a legal request for the release of our boat and its content but we know the Tahrir faces more delays before we can deliver this gift from Canadian civil society to the Palestinians of Gaza. The U.S. boat to Gaza, the Audacity of Hope has been impounded since last year by the Greek authorities, along with three other vessels.

A few Greek and Turkish boats from the 2010 Freedom Flotilla were finally returned, heavily damaged, from Israeli captivity, and the French campaign Un Bateau français pour Gaza, has filed legally against Israeli authorities for piracy, kidnapping and theft following the illegal capture of their boat Dignité Al-Karama last July. Meanwhile the commercial sailing ship Estelle is making its way from Scandinavia through the ports of Europe to the Mediterranean in order to challenge the blockade. So our international civil society movement against the blockade of Gaza remains very much afloat. Launched in May 2012, Gaza’s Ark is a new campaign in cooperation with organizations and individuals in Palestine, Canada, Australia and the U.S. which aims to build hope on the ground in Gaza in order to sail from Palestine against the blockade. It is not an “aid” project but rather an affirmation of the ability of the Palestinians of Gaza to rebuild their productive export economy, once they regain their freedom of movement. We are funding a boat to be sailed out of Gaza (the only Mediterranean port closed to shipping) by internationals and Palestinians to transport Palestinian products to complete trade deals with international buyers.

Importantly, outbound export trade from Palestine cannot be portrayed as threatening anyone’s security. But it does affirm a very basic human right systematically denied to Palestinians by the Israeli occupation: the freedom of movement within as well as in and out of their country. It also supports the Palestinian fishery’s right to operate in Palestinian territorial waters off Gaza for their livelihood, also threatened daily by the same blockade we are challenging.

Five independent human rights experts reporting to the U.N. Human Rights Council reiterated in September 2011 that the blockade of Gaza is illegal under international law. Until the governments of the world take up their responsibilities towards Palestinian civilians and demand that Israel comply with international law, civil society movements like ours maintain our sights steadily fixed on freedom of movement for all Palestinians. Our tactics may change but our course remains the conscience of humanity.

Linguistics professor David Heap and IT engineer & poet Ehab Lotayef are steering committee members with the Canadian Boat for Gaza and Gaza’s Ark. They were on the Tahrir when it was attacked and seized last November and spent six days in Israeli prison before being deported back to Canada.

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‘Gaza’s Ark’ to challenge Israel’s illegal blockade

This article was first published in Green Left Weekly on Friday, July 13, 2012 and was written by Michael Coleman.

After its successful participation in Freedom Flotilla Two and Freedom Waves last year, Free Gaza Australia (FGA) in cooperation with its international partners is launching a new initiative: Gaza’s Ark — Building Hope. Gaza’s Ark will challenge the illegal and inhumane Israeli blockade of Gaza that collectively punishes more than 1.5 million Palestinians.

Gaza has “officially” been under an Israeli blockade since 2007, but the restriction on the movement of the population of Gaza began in 1991 when Gaza was first cut off from Israel and the West Bank.

The human costs of this blockade have been well documented, although often not reported. By restricting crucial medical and building supplies and blacklisting large amounts of food items, Israel has made 80% of the population of Gaza dependent on aid.

The virtual ban on exports has caused Gaza’s unemployment to soar to more than 30%. Gaza’s exports are now at just 5% of what they were in 2007.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has said: “The whole of Gaza’s civilian population is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility.” The ICRC says the border “closure therefore constitutes a collective punishment imposed in clear violation of Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law”.

Gaza’s Ark will not only challenge the blockade physically as the “Flotillas” have done, it will also provide investment, training and employment in Gaza. It will promote Palestinian trade with the outside world through the only Mediterranean port closed to shipping.

Gaza’s Ark will be built in Gaza by Palestinian hands and expertise, with international assistance. We hope that building of the Ark will help revitalise the dwindling ship building industry in Gaza and help ensure the transmission of this disappearing expertise to younger generations.

During this process, training will be provided to Palestinian sailors in the use of modern electronic sailing equipment and techniques that have been denied them for years due to the blockade.

Gaza’s Ark trade deals will be secured between Palestinian producers and international businesses and NGOs. 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, James Godfrey a member of FGA stresses that Gaza’s Ark is not an aid project.

He says: “It is a peaceful action against the blockade which Israel unilaterally and unreasonably imposes on people living in Gaza. Gaza’s Ark challenges the blockade by building hope on the ground in Gaza, which can support the Palestinians of Gaza to rebuild their economy through outbound trade that threatens no-one’s security.”

Once the Ark is complete and trade deals have been secured a crew of internationals and Palestinians will sail it from the port of Gaza carrying Palestinian products and will challenge the three-mile coastal limit imposed by Israel on residents of the Gaza Strip.

Gaza’s Ark will also work closely with Palestinian fishers to draw attention to their plight. Under the “Oslo Accords”, Palestinian fishers would be “allowed” to sail up to 20 nautical miles off the coast of Gaza. However, this was never implemented by Israel, which allowed only a 12 nautical mile limit. This has since been cut to six nautical miles and now three as punishment for the second Intifada and then as part of Israel’s military assault (Operation Cast Lead) in 2010.

This restriction on navigation and fishing has had a huge impact on the fishing industry in Gaza. Mahfouz Kabariti, Coordinator of the Fishermen’s Solidarity Campaign in the Gaza Strip, says: “The Gazan community needs 21,000 tons of fish annually. In the last year, the total extracted fish from the sea was only 3000 tons.” Gaza now imports most of its seafood — the blockade is slowly turning a generation of fishers into fishmongers.

Gaza’s Ark aims to build hope on the ground in Gaza by providing investment, training and business opportunities. Through non-violent direct action we will also expose the blockade that is collective punishment of the Palestinian residents of Gaza.

Please follow the Ark’s progress online at our new international website > http://gazaark.org/

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Cleaned the slate

Dear Supporters,

Following our fundraising lunch “Cleaning the Slate” in Sydney last Sunday we are pleased to announce that thanks to the support of our many friends, we have now ‘cleaned the slate’. We have repaid all of the money we borrowed in order to participate in Freedom Waves to Gaza last November!

This leaves us clear to raise money for the next venture Gaza’s Ark. This project is focussed on building a boat with Palestinians in Gaza, to help export goods by sea from Palestine. It will give individuals and businesses the opportunity to express their solidarity with the people of Gaza by pledging to purchase particular items, the details of which we are currently negotiating.

We are hoping to raise $10,000 in Australia in the coming month to help in the preparations of the boat and hope that you can dig deep and spread the word to help achieve this ambitious target.

You can help by:

1. Giving your financial support:
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 to advise of your donation so we may directly thank you.

2. Giving 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.

Thank you very much for your support.

In solidarity,

Free Gaza Australia

Post: PO Box 542, Leichhardt NSW2040

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GazaAustralia

Twitter: @GFFAusGroup

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50 aid groups demand end to Gaza blockade

As the inhumane blockade of Gaza enters it’s sixth year it’s not enough for 50 Aid organisation to demand an end to the collective punishment of the Palestinian residents of Gaza, as they have done below. It is high time we demand similar calls from our elected officials - contact Julia Gillard and Bob Carr and express you disgust at their inaction over the illegal blockade > FGA – this article was first published on Ma’an News on the 14/06/2012.

Fifty international charities and UN agencies called Thursday on Israel to lift its years-long blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Marking the fifth anniversary of the siege, the organizations — among them Amnesty International, Médecins du Monde, Oxfam, and Save the Children — joined agencies like the World Health Organization, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights  UNICEF and four other UN agencies in urging Israel to lift the siege “now.”
“For over five years in Gaza, more than 1.6 million people have been under blockade in violation of international law. More than half of these people are children. We the undersigned say with one voice: ‘end the blockade now,’” the petition said.
Israel imposed restrictions on trade to Gaza in 2001 following the outbreak of a Palestinian uprising and tightened them further in 2007 after Hamas took over in the coastal enclave adjacent to Egypt, which also enforces a blockade.

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Co-existence vs. Co-resistance: A case against normalization

In this article Omar Rahman makes one of the best  arguments against normalisation I have ever read, hear hear Omar > FGA – This article was first published Tuesday, January 3 2012 on +972 Magazine

Although the “anti-normalization” debate has been around a long time, its resurgence in public discourse can likely be attributed to two things: the rise of the BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) movement and the beginning of a transitional period in internal Palestinian politics.

Due to the very nature of the BDS movement, everything pertaining to Israel is put under the microscope and scrutinized. Subsequently, any relationship between Palestinians and Israelis is done so in spades. BDS encourages its adherents to look critically at everything they do and everything that is happening around them. It is important to distinguish what works in the service of achieving Palestinian rights and what does not, or even works against it. This is why the BDS movement has produced strict and coherent guidelines for what can be considered worthy of boycott and what constitutes normalization.

Secondly, the era in which Palestinians and Israelis engaged in dialogue under the wider auspices and example of governmental-led negotiations is coming to an end—at least for the time being. We are now at the cusp of a transitional period in Palestinian politics where the lack of a clear strategy and path forward on the diplomatic and resistance fronts is forcing Palestinians to look internally at the state of their own society and political situation. Reconciliation and reform within their fractured political system are desperately needed in order to move cohesively in a new direction. Thus many Palestinians have started to re-examine the logic of their relationships with Israelis and criticize those Palestinians who have benefited immensely from it over the years while others around them have suffered.

When we consider the resurgence of anti-normalization, we must also remember that the post-Oslo period witnessed an explosion in normalization programs and projects between Israelis and Palestinians. Any organization, group or program that had “joint” or “co-existence” in reference to Israelis and Palestinians was instantly given credibility and financing on the world stage. Such programs became extremely lucrative and many people profited with little regard to the actual state of the conflict and its overall deterioration. Even prior to the breakout of the Second Intifada, but largely afterwards, normalization programs lost their relevance. We were no longer in the post-conflict transitional period we thought Oslo had ushered in, and things got worse, not better.

FEELING COMFORTABLE WITH OPPRESSION

It has become senseless for Israelis and Palestinians to act like nothing is wrong with the status quo and carry-on with such projects. Normalization may be fine for those bridging the gaps between people in India and Pakistan or Venezuela and Colombia—where the two sides are on equal footing—but not in Israel/Palestine where one side lives under the yoke and chain of the other. When we seek to normalize this relationship by giving each other equal standing and equal voice, we project an image of symmetry. Joint sports teams and theatre groups, hosting an Israeli orchestra in Ramallah or Nablus, all these things create a false sense of normality, like the issue is only a problem of recognizing each other as human beings. This, however, ignores the ongoing oppression, colonization, and denial of rights, committed by one side against the other.

Moreover, normalization creates a false sense in the mind of Israelis that they are working for peace, while in actuality, though maybe unwittingly, they are contributing to the calcification of the status quo. Their energy is misdirected away from root causes and channeled into making the current situation more tolerable—largely for themselves—by helping them to cope with wider injustices occurring in their name. Many Israelis who participate in normalization projects believe that they are detached, that they are not part of the problem, because they have some Palestinian friends or colleagues, even if they are doing nothing to rectify the actual injustices that have been committed by their society daily for over half a century. In the words of Israeli architectural theorist Eyal Weizman in his monumental work on the architecture of occupation, Hollow Land: “The history of the occupation is full of liberal ‘men of peace’ who are responsible for, or who at least sweeten, the injustice committed by the occupation. The occupation would not have been possible without them.”

Likewise, these normalization projects are put on display for all the world to see, so that they may all feel comfortable and say: look, the moderates are resolving the differences in a civilized manner. This is probably why the largest contributors to normalization projects are not Israelis and Palestinians themselves, but rather the international community. These programs work in much the same way as endless negotiations, offering a semblance of progress so that the world may deceive itself without having to take real action.

I do not discount the authenticity of Israelis who desire to see a just peace. Nor do I overlook the importance of meeting your enemy on a human level, of the power of these efforts in defusing tension, mistrust, and misunderstanding. But we can’t ignore the negative impact of normalization given the ongoing occupation and colonial enterprise. We must ask ourselves, what did all the normalizing get Palestinians after Oslo except for deterioration in their circumstance? For all the money pumped into these programs why are there no statistics or data showing they work? Why does no one think to question the effectiveness of normalization, including its proponents, in the case of Mr. Abu Sarah’s article? We can sit back and comfort each other that we are not fanatics or extremists, and that may be all well and good, but the fanatics are determining the reality on the ground while liberals and moderates provide a veneer of normality and progress.

The truth is when we “normalize” relations with Israel and Israelis without bearing to the political situation, we legitimize Israel despite its continued oppression of Palestinians and its colonial policies on Palestinian land. We must remember that the greatest boon in Israeli history came after the Oslo Accords were signed. Many countries around the world that had refused to have “normal” relations with Israel reversed their policies. This false peace opened Israel up to the wider international community, spurring unprecedented growth and trade. By reversing the normalization trend, we strip the conflict of many illusions and niceties in favor of exposing the raw truth.

Mr. Abu Sarah portrays anti-normalization like it is based purely on hate for the “other.” In order to do this he ignores the strongest arguments against normalization in exchange for obscure notions that take anti-normalization to the extreme; such as any instance in which a Palestinian and an Israeli come together constitutes normalization. In my own experience meeting people who are against normalization, I came to understand that Israelis are valued and encouraged to take part in the resistance movement to occupation. As long as an Israeli is working for Palestinian rights and the end to occupation, the cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians is perfectly legitimate and justified. This is the concept of “co-resistance” as opposed to “co-existence,” and should hardly be described as radical.

Yet, Mr. Abu Sarah’s article chooses to harp on these extreme cases at the expense of a serious argument over the topic. In what constituted an extensive blog post, there is little argument discussing why normalization activities are valid and beneficial; rather the entire piece is devoted to portraying anti-normalization as irrational. Some of his claims are true, such as those who use “normalization” as a character attack for dubious ends. But none of that still gets to the heart of the matter. I simply want to know, are we better off today because of normalization projects?

THE KIDS RETURN HOME

I wish to conclude this piece with an example of normalization from my own history. When I was fifteen years old, I was a participant in the Seeds of Peace program, which brings young teenagers from conflict zones together to a summer camp in the northeastern United States. Although originally set up for Israelis and Arabs, the program expanded over the years to include Greek and Turkish Cypriots, Indians and Pakistanis, and others. In each session there was also a delegation of American teenagers, of which I was a part. This was still prior to the breakdown of the Oslo Accords and the outbreak of the Second Intifada and most believed we were on the path to peace. Teenagers, who for the most part had never met someone from the other side before, would tell stories from their own experience in the hope of making their enemy understand them. Yet, I can still remember feeling at the time that the effort would be somehow wasted when these kids returned home because even I knew that, despite pretenses, there was no real peace on the ground. During my trips to the West Bank to visit my extended family, I would see and feel the military presence that continued to persist in the still-occupied territories. And in the “co-existence” sessions at Seeds of Peace, I would hear from those Palestinians what life still held for them.

The most poignant moment for me, however, was when a Palestinian teenager near the end of the program asked an Israeli teenager if he would still join the army and serve in the occupied territories, to which the answer was “yes”. To me, this said it all. What did this whole program mean if in a few years that Israeli teenager would be sitting at a checkpoint in the West Bank and shoving his M-16 in the face of a Palestinian while asking for his ID? Would it make him a more compassionate soldier serving in an inherently unjust system? When all the fun and games were over, we each returned to our respective societies and things stayed the same.

If these teenagers had returned to a cold peace, it may have been different. They could continue to work to establish more friendly relations between their respective peoples. But for Palestinians and Israelis, they live everyday in a system of imbalance and injustice where one side is oppressing the other through an engineered structure of superiority and subjugation. That is it. Normalization can try to make you forget that fact, but the next time a gun barrel is pointed in your direction, or a cousin is arrested and thrown in prison, or the home of a neighbor is bulldozed, or your relatives in Gaza fall under the bombs, you will be hard pressed to do so.

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Give back the Tahrir

Since Michael’s return to Australia, Free Gaza Australia [FGA] has been running a political campaign to get our beloved ‘Tahrir’ back from Ashdod, where the Israeli navy took her after illegally taking control of her in international waters in November.

We have sent the following letter to Prime Minister Julia Gillard in an effort to enlist her support for the campaign for the Tahrir’s return and for our Government to reposition Australia on the right side of history and international law, and alongside the overwhelming majority of countries in the world who will not support the ongoing systematic abuse of Palestinian people and denial of their human rights.

You can add your support for this campaign by clicking on the link below and adding your name to the call for the ‘Tahrir’ to be returned to its rightful owners.

http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/give-back-the-tahrir.html

In the coming weeks we plan to contact all Federal Members of Parliament and seek their support as well.

In recent months, we have also been talking to our international partners about our next plans – stay tuned for the news of the next ‘waves’ to Gaza.

Dear Prime Minister,

In early November 2011, we wrote to your Government demanding immediate action, to:

1. Pressure the Israeli government to unconditionally release and facilitate the safe return of Michael Coleman and all political prisoners.

2. Demand the release of the Tahrir and Saoirse along with all personal property, as well as compensation for damages incurred by the act of piracy that the Israeli government committed on the high seas.

3. Ensure that Israel ends its illegal blockade of Gaza to enable freedom of movement for people and goods.” Five days after the Tahrir was attacked in international waters and Michael, all other passengers and crew were abducted; he was released and ‘deported’ to Australia via Bangkok and Melbourne.

On 28 November 2011 we received a woefully inadequate response from Samuel Allen (Acting Director, Levant and Iran Section) of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in which no answers were provided to our principal demands for action.

The Australian Government’s response to the act of piracy committed by the Israeli Government against the unarmed flotilla that Michael Coleman was aboard has been pitiful.

Your regurgitated comments about practical support and partnership agreements are mealy-mouthed apologies, which are grossly inadequate and disproportionate for the Palestinian people whose land has been stolen from them by the actions of the ever-expanding Apartheid Israeli ‘state’.

Providing drip feed of ‘aid’ is not the solution to the plight of the Palestinians and the injustices they experience in Palestine and in forced exile. Your ‘travel advice’ that Australians should not attempt to travel to Gaza by sea is cowardly. The Australian Government should be working with other countries to aid the people of Gaza who demand an end to the blockade and with it their ability move and trade freely.

All governments, including yours, must hold Israel accountable for its defiance of international law with regards to the ongoing collective punishment of more than 1,600,000 Palestinians in Gaza, half of whom are under the age of 16 in what is effectively the world’s largest open air prison.

Instead you persist in platitudes to the Israeli Government and business interests who continue to make their money from the theft of Palestinian lands. Indeed we found your recent attendance at and speech to the Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce extremely offensive when Palestinian people are denied freedom of movement and trade.

We contrast your Government’s actions with the visit to Gaza last month by Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore from the Irish Republic and his statement demanding an end to the blockade.

It is because of the continuing inaction of governments, including the Australian Government that ordinary people feel compelled to act. When our delegate sailed to Gaza, he did so in the firm belief that the blockade of Gaza by the Israeli Government is illegal and inhumane and should end without delay. In this appraisal we believe that we have the support of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the UN Human Rights Council, the International Committee of the Red Cross. and numerous other human rights organisations.

We consider that our assets – the Tahrir, of which we hold a one-tenth share, medical aid we were transporting to give to the people of Gaza and our personal belongings including a satellite telephone have been confiscated illegally by the Israeli Government.

We urge you to actively support our demand that the Israeli Government reloads our medical supplies and our personal belongings and other assets onto our boat and allow us to sail it to Gaza without delay.

We look forward to hearing back from you soon with a considered, positive reply that repositions Australia on the right side of history and international law, and alongside the overwhelming majority of countries in the world who will not support the systematic abuse of Palestinian people and their human rights.

Yours sincerely,

James Godfrey

for Free Gaza Australia

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BREAKING THE ISRAELI BLOCKADE

Free Gaza Australia & Green Left Weekly are holding a joint fund-raiser @ Level 1, 22-36 Mountain St Ultimo 2007 on Friday, March 16, 2012 from 7.00pm.

Come and hear Cathy Peters, Michael Coleman, Vivienne Porzsolt & Patrick Harrison talk all things Palestine + Live music by Mohammed Youssef on the oud & spoken word performances by Soul Beats, L Fresh.

Admission $12/$6

Cathy Peters:
Greens Councillor, Marrickville Council – just returned from an APHEDA study tour of Palestine.

Michael Coleman:
Australian delegate on Freedom Flotilla 2 and Freedom Waves to Gaza, abducted by the IDF.

Vivienne Porzsolt:
Blockaded in Greece on Freedom Flotilla 2, gaoled in Israel.

Patrick Harrison:
Just returned from working in Palestine.

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Australian Michael Coleman detained in Israel arrives home TODAY!

For Immediate Release – Friday, 11 November, 2011 (8am)

Australian detained in Israel arriving home today

Despite a threat from an Israeli judge that they could face two months in prison, Freedom Waves to Gaza activist Michael Coleman has been released and deported back to Australia. 14 Irish delegates remain in detention.

ARRIVAL

What: Michael Coleman will arrive in Sydney after 5 days in an Israeli prison, following their abduction from international waters en route to Gaza to challenge Israel’s illegal blockade.

When: Media Conference 4.30pm, Friday, 11 November, 2011. 

Where:  Sydney DOMESTIC airport (Terminal 2). Arrivals area, ground floor.

 
What: Photo opportunity as Michael’s family, friends and supporters welcome him back from his journey. Michael will briefly comment on his experience on Freedom Waves to Gaza aboard the Canadian boat Tahrir and his time in Israeli prison.

Background: The reason why Michael and the other international peace activists who were detained undertook this journey in the first place was to show solidarity with the ordinary people of Gaza who have lost their basic freedoms as a result of a blockade imposed by the military

forces of Israel, and to take action that would contribute to the end of that blockade.

Freedom Waves was never intended to focus attention on the 27 people aboard the MVSaoirse and the Tahrir, but on the 1.6 million people of Gaza – half of whom are children under the age of 16 – who continue to suffer collective punishment at the hands of the Israeli military. While Australian delegate Michael and international citizens were languishing in prison in Israel for the “crime” of coming to their aid, the population of Gaza continues to languish in what is, in effect, the world’s largest open air prison.

This assault on this the latest of eleven attempts to break the blockade of Gaza via the sea demonstrates once again that Israel is able to act with impunity when it comes to the welfare of the Palestinian people and anyone trying to help them. It is because of the continuing inaction of governments around the world, including the Australian Government, that ordinary people feel compelled to act.

Michael is returning today and will be available for press interviews upon arrival atSydney DOMESTIC airport (Terminal 2).

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Header image by Joi Ito.