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Flotilla News

Canadian and Irish ships set to challenge Israel’s illegal blockade with Freedom Waves to Gaza

For Immediate Release, 2 November 2011

Canadian and Irish ships set to challenge Israel’s illegal blockade with Freedom Waves to Gaza

The Canadian ship Tahrir and the Irish ship Saoirse have successfully reached international waters, marking the start of the Freedom Waves to Gaza campaign.

The boats are currently in the Mediterranean Sea, preparing to sail for Gaza within a matter of hours.

“Flowing out of the Freedom Flotillas, the Freedom Waves to Gaza are now underway,” says Canadian Boat to Gaza organizer Ehab Lotayef from on board the Tahrir. Also on board in this citizen-to-citizen initiative are delegates from Australia, the US, and Palestine. “We are now in international waters and hope to reach the shores of Gaza in a matter of days. Among the significant obstacles in our way are Israel’s military and the complicity of the Harper government, but we have the wind of public opinion at our back and in our sails, which strengthens our resolve and determination to challenge the illegal blockade of Gaza’s 1.5 million inhabitants.”

“The fact that we have reached international waters is another victory for the movement,” says Canadian Boat to Gaza organizer David Heap from on board the Tahrir. “Despite economic blackmail, despite the outsourcing of the blockade to Greece, despite being forcibly boarded by the Greek Coast Guard, and despite Israel mobilizing a significant portion of its navy to stop us, we are now even closer to reaching Gaza, breaking the blockade, and occupying the occupation.”

“The Palestinians living in Gaza want solidarity not charity, and have made it clear to the world that their primary demand is for freedom. While humanitarian aid is helpful, Gazans are still prisoners with no freedom of movement,” adds Lotayef. “Israel’s illegal blockade prevents not only imports into Gaza, but exports as well. And the blockade prevents Palestinians from moving freely between Gaza and the West Bank, in violation of fundamental human rights.”

The Freedom Waves to Gaza initiative is a non-violent, civil society movement to challenge the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Bios of delegates are available here. There will also be various media outlets reporting on developments aboard the Tahrir, including Al Jazeera and Democracy Now.

Restrictions at the eleventh hour by the port authorities have meant that only one third of the assembled delegates and media have been allowed to embark. Despite this latest challenge, the Tahrir and Saoirse will soon be at full speed ahead toward Gaza.

“While the Tahrir will be delivering much-needed medicines, our primary aim remains to help free Palestinians from the open-air prison known as Gaza,” says Heap. “There’s a song from the civil rights movement with the chorus of “we who believe in freedom cannot rest.” And we will keep challenging the illegal blockade until Gaza and the rest of Palestine is free.”

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For more information or to arrange an interview with a delegate on board the Tahrir:

English inquiries: Dylan Penner, Canadian Boat to Gaza, 613-859-6996

French inquiries: Denis Kosseim, Canadian Boat to Gaza, 514-923-5594

NOTE: Interviews with Tahrir delegates are possible in English, French, Spanish and Arabic.

www.tahrir.ca , Twitter: @CanadaBoatGaza,  #FreedomWaves,   #Canada4Gaza

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Flotilla News News

A call from Gaza: We are waiting for your boats at our shores

Besieged Gaza, Occupied Palestine, September 30, 2011

We the Palestinians of the Besieged Gaza Strip, are calling on the world: enough inaction, enough discussion, enough waiting – the illegal closure on the Gaza Strip must end.  While attention is focused on the Palestinian bid for statehood in the UN do not forget that the blockade and the suffering continue in Gaza.

Shortly after 2006 democratic election which was 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 1400 Palestinians, the vast majority innocent civilians and among them nearly 400 children, and 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.

Almost three years following after Israel’s attacks, almost no homes and few buildings have been rebuilt, our sanitation and sewage system 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 which fishermen are forced to harvest because the Israeli navy shoots at them if they try to fish more than three miles from the Gaza coast—contaminating our drinking water and food supply.

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 exiting 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 2003, 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 through the blockade five times, the Gaza Freedom March, the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, and the many land convoys must never stop their siege-breaking efforts, highlighting the inhumanity of keeping 1.5 million Gazans in an open-air prison.

On the 2nd of December, 2010, 22 international organizations including Amnesty International, 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, saying that despite the reported June 2010 “easing” of the closure, the Palestinians of Gaza continue to live in the same devastating conditions.  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.

We call on the citizens of the world oppose this deadly, medieval blockade. The failure of governments and world bodies to condemn such crimes is tantamount to 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 the nations and citizens of the world to continue and/or reinitiate their plans to sail to Gaza to challenge and break the Israeli blockade. 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 continue to sail until the blockade of Gaza is entirely lifted and Palestinians of Gaza are granted the basic human rights and freedom of movement citizens around the world enjoy.

Signed:

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,

GazaGeneral 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 Childrens’  Alliance -Gaza

Local Initiative -Beit Hanoun

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News

The Palmer/Uribe Report Whitewashes Israeli Crimes

FREEDOM FLOTILLA II PRESS STATEMENT
For immediate release
Palmer/Uribe Report Whitewashes Israeli Crimes 

Sadly the Palmer/Uribe Report on the 31 May 2010 Flotilla Incident, leaked to the New York Times on 1 September, is an expected whitewash of Israeli crimes. While it blames Israeli forces for using excessive force when they raided our Gaza-bound civilian ships, it erroneously justifies Israel’s blockade of Gaza, casts doubts on the intentions of the flotilla organizers, and does not seek accountability for perpetrators of human rights abuses.

The Palmer/Uribe Panel was flawed from its inception. The appointment of ex-Colombian President Alvaro Uribe as the Panel’s vice-chair casts serious doubt on the integrity and impartiality of the Panel. Uribe’s intimate association with the military and paramilitary practice of murdering civilians in Colombia and notorious disdain for human rights defenders makes his appountment to the Panel problematic. Furthermore, Uribe’s government is on record as advocating closer military cooperation with Israel [1]

In addition to the problems in the composition of the Panel, its goal was not to arrive at the truth of what happened or to seek justice for victims, but rather to reach political compromise in order to repair relations between Israel and Turkey. The mandate of the Panel was limited to reviewing the reports of the national investigations by Turkey and Israel, and it did not interview witnesses or otherwise conduct any in-depth objective investigation. This is a political attempt to overshadow the only independent and impartial investigation and report on the flotilla raid, which was commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council and conducted by three internationally renowned human rights experts. The findings and recommendations of this report, released on 23 September 2010 have yet to be acted on by the United Nations.

One of the most outrageous findings of this Panel is that Israel had a right to impose the naval blockade on Gaza as a legitimate security measure.”

This finding completely ignores the fact that the naval blockade is part of an overall closure regime that numerous human rights bodies, including various UN agencies, have declared illegal. Furthermore, it ignores incontrovertible evidence that the naval blockade and overall closure are not about security, but rather about putting pressure on the people of Gaza. Israeli leaders are on record noting that the purpose of the blockade is economic warfare – to keep the Gaza economy on the brink of collapse in order to pressure the civilians to rise up against the Hamas government [2]

Using civilians as a means of pressuring a government violates international humanitarian law, which prohibits intentionally harming civilians, and constitutes collective punishment, forbidden under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

The Palmer/Uribe Report mistakenly identifies IHH as the “leading group involved in the planning of the flotilla,” accuses us (the Freedom Flotilla organizers) of acting recklessly, and casts doubt on the humanitarian nature of our action (pages 46-48). Six non-governmental, international civil society organizations, all having equal say and responsibility, planned Freedom Flotilla I. Our action was a legitimate form of nonviolent direct action. We reject the Panel’s finding that Israeli soldiers faced “organized violence.” What the heavily armed commandos faced while they tried to forcefully take over the “Mavi Marmara” in the high seas was legitimate acts of non-armed self-defense by a handful of passengers, acting against unwarranted aggression.

Although our ships carried 10,000 tons of much needed cargo for the people of Gaza, we have repeatedly stated that our goal is to break the illegal blockade of Gaza, not simply to deliver aid. The humanitarian crisis that exists in Gaza is a result of a deliberate, illegal and immoral policy. To challenge that policy in order to bring an end to the cause of people’s suffering, is humanitarian.

While the Report correctly faults Israel for using excessive force on unarmed civilians, it does not call for accountability.

The Report notes that Israel has not accounted for the forensic evidence showing that most of the nine volunteers killed were shot multiple times, including in the back, or at close range, or for the consistent accounts of abuse suffered by other volunteers at the hands of Israeli forces. The Report’s recommendation that Israel simply express regret over the incident is insulting to the victims and their families, and seriously undermines international human rights and humanitarian law.

Finally the report fails to address the issue of the remaining 4 ships of the Freedom Flotilla I still under capture in Israel as also its refusal to return to the passengers over $1 million in money and equipment including cameras and videos which are of evidential value.

We welcome Turkey’s decision to downgrade relations with Israel, expelling the Israeli ambassador, and cancelling military ties, as well as its statement that it will take legal action against those Israelis responsible for the attack on the flotilla. Such sanctions are needed in order to put an end to the impunity with which Israel has been violating Palestinian human rights and disregarding international law.

[1] See “Colombia seeks to broaden Israel ties,” Apr 28, 2010, Jerusalem Post at: http://www.jpost.com/International/Article.aspx?ID=174179

[2] See e.g. “Wikileaks: Israel aimed to keep Gaza economy on brink of collapse,” Jan 5, 2011, Haaretz, reporting on a leaked Cable from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv saying Israeli officials wanted Gaza’s economy ‘functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis’ at:

http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/wikileaks-israel-aimed-to-keep-gaza-economy-on-brink-of-collapse-1.335354

For more information:
Ehab Lotayef – 514.941.9792 – lotayef@gmail.com
Sandra Ruch – 416.716.4010 – miriamswell@hotmail.com

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