Free Gaza update – and cooler-headed commentary

Despite my frustration at the rhetoric they employ and the anti-Semitism of certain members, I am sincerely happy that the Free Gaza Movement has been such an overwhelming success so far, and I’m excited to see that the ships have plans to return to Gaza in the future. I also commend the Israeli government for doing the right thing by letting the boats in and allowing them to fish. (Part of the frustrating rhetoric is the movement’s scattered references to sneaking past the bumbling IDF. It’s easy to stay angry at what you’re fighting against even after they cede ground – but it can be an amazing judo-throw to show them kindness. Pettiness and cheap shots don’t make anyone look good.) My hope is that this movement will spawn other international movements – more ships, more visitors, more nonviolent direct action. My hope is that these movements will prove to everyone watching, in or out of Israel, that Gaza deserves and is capable of autonomy, and that Palestinians are human beings.

Maybe I’ll be on one of those ships sometime. I’d like to be.

See also Laila El-Haddad’s reports from the Gaza coast. Meanwhile, settlement construction in the West Bank nearly doubled this year, and roughly half of those new settlements are going up east of the separation wall.

SS FREE GAZA & SS LIBERTY TO LEAVE GAZA PORT ON THURSDAY

For More Information, Please Contact:
(Gaza) Paul Larudee: +972 598 765 370
(Gaza) Huwaida Arraf: +972 599 130 426
(Cyprus) Osama Qashoo: +357 97 793 595 / osamaqashoo@gmail.com
(Jerusalem) Angela Godfrey-Goldstein: +972 547 366 393 / angela@icahd.org

(GAZA CITY, 26 August 2008) – The SS Free Gaza and SS Liberty will leave Gaza for Cyprus on Thursday morning at 9:00 am. Several Palestinian students who have been denied exit visas by Israel will travel to Cyprus on the boats. One Palestinian professor will finally be able to go back to teaching in Europe and one young, Palestinian woman will finally be reunited with her husband. Several of the Free Gaza international human rights workers will remain in Gaza to do human rights monitoring.

By freely traveling to Gaza, on Saturday, August 23rd, in two, small, wooden boats, the Free Gaza Movement forced the Israeli government to issue a fundamental policy change regarding their military and economic blockade of Gaza. Until now, Israel has wanted absolute control of Gaza with no
responsibility. Israel has managed to maintain this situation, in spite of international law, because its policies have never been challenged.

When the SS Free Gaza and SS Liberty approached the waters of Gaza, the Israeli government had to decide whether it wanted to publicly acknowledge that Israel remains an occupying power in Gaza, in which case Israel would be responsible under international law for its actions, including war crimes. In the face of intense, public scrutiny, Israel instead chose to acknowledge the inherent right of Palestinians to freely engage with the world. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign affairs publicly announced that humanitarian and human rights missions to Gaza will no longer be stopped or threatened by Israel. With the end of the Israeli siege of Gaza, Palestinians are free to exercise their rights without fear of being stopped or killed by the Israeli military.

Since the organizers of the Free Gaza Movement will not be entering Israeli territorial waters, and since they will request an inspection from the Gaza Port Authority, they expect no interference on the part of the Israeli authorities when they leave Gaza. By Israel’s own admission, it has no authority to inspect the boats or the passengers when they leave Gaza.

With the collapse of the Israeli blockade, the Free Gaza Movement will quickly return to Gaza with another delegation, and invites the United Nations, Arab League and international community to organize similar human rights and humanitarian efforts. The Free Gaza Movement will continue to work to ensure the free passage between Gaza and the outside world will remain safe and open.

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