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Breaking Into a Prison

I want to tell you a secret and I want to ask you a question.

Shhh! – Come closer. Listen carefully: I’m part of an international conspiracy to break into the world’s largest open-air prison this summer by sea. Will you help me?

This August, the Free Gaza Movement will set sail from Cyprus to Gaza on a ship carrying needed medical supplies. We will not be asking Israel for permission.

For over two years the state of Israel has severely restricted the Gaza Strip’s ability to import fuel, spare parts, and other necessary materials. Israel maintains complete control over Gaza’s air space and territorial waters, near complete control over travel into or out of Gaza, near complete control over Gaza’s imports and exports, and near complete control over Gaza’s own tax revenues. Little is allowed in. As a result, Gaza’s economy has completely collapsed. [1]

This has consequences, both vast and personal.

In Gaza City, the Atfaluna Society for Deaf Children operates a school for 275 students, ages four through seventeen. That is, they used to operate a school. It was forced to close in mid-April because of the severe fuel shortages caused by the Israeli blockade. Atfaluna has also been unable to supply children with new hearing aids or batteries for over eight months – ever since Israel blocked their importation due to “security” concerns. The Atfaluna Society has asked for our help. Will you help them? [2]

The troubles faced by the children of Atfaluna are but one story in a sea of human misery. Because of the siege, eighty percent of families in Gaza are now dependent on international food aid just to be able to eat. [3] There is over forty percent unemployment , and ninety-five percent of Gaza’s industries, as well as a majority of private businesses, have been forced to shut down. [4] Because of shortages in fuel and spare parts, Gaza’s only power plant is running at less than seventy percent of capacity, and electrical outages of several hours a day are the rule rather than the exception. [5]

Running water is now available to most households for only four to six hours a day. Sewage treatment centers no longer function properly. Millions of liters of raw sewage have been pumped into heavily populated neighborhoods, and in order to avoid being forced to literally flood these residential areas with even more raw sewage, the Mediterranean Sea has been turned into a toilet. Since January of this year over 10 billion liters of untreated and only partially treated sewage have been released into the Mediterranean. Gaza’s fishermen state that the sewage has killed off most of the sea life in the immediate vicinity. [6]

The humanitarian condition of the one and a half million men, women, and children illegally incarcerated in Gaza is now at its worst point in the last forty years of Israeli occupation.

Israel’s pitiable attempts to achieve absolute security through absolute domination have only led us all into disaster. The rocket attacks by militants in Gaza against Israeli civilians are as deplorable as they are predictable – given the suffering caused by this blockade, – but these attacks are also irrelevant to the humanitarian catastrophe caused by Israel’s siege. The one does not justify the other. The one cannot justify the other.

What is needed in our world today is not simply protest against the violence of terrorist groups and terrorist governments. What we need is a new militancy, a greater resolve, rooted in the profound respect for human life, and sustained by the profound disrespect for any government or group that attacks our sisters and brothers around the world. Protest is not enough. Our living, and our dead, both cry out for more. We must build a movement of direct civil resistance against violence and oppression.

In one month, the Free Gaza Movement will sail on just such a mission of civil resistance.

We are students and teachers, human rights observers and aid workers, lawyers, medics, activists – parents and grandparents. We are Americans and Europeans, Israelis and Palestinians, Australians, South Africans, and more. We are of all ages and backgrounds. Collectively, we have years of experience volunteering in Gaza and the West Bank. Because of our human rights work, the state of Israel has banned many of us from re-entering Palestinian areas. Because of the ongoing blockade, the rest of us find it almost impossible to enter Gaza at all. Despite deteriorating conditions, the great need for international assistance, and the invitations of our Palestinian partners – the Israeli Government will not allow us into Gaza to help. Will you help?

We must break the siege of Gaza. Conditions there are already catastrophic. We have to raise international awareness about the prison-like closure of Gaza and deeply pressure Israel and the international community to lift the blockade and end the Occupation. As people of conscience our actions must be commensurate with the crisis.

We’ve tried to enter Palestine by land. We’ve tried to arrive by air. Now we’re getting serious. We’re taking a ship. Please look into your hearts and ask yourselves if the collective punishment and virtual imprisonment of one and a half million human beings can ever be justified. If your answer’s “no,” then we want your help this August when we break into Gaza and try to break out of this siege.

RAMZI KYSIA is an Arab-American writer and activist, and a member of the Free Gaza Movement. You can receive regular updates on their efforts to break the siege of Gaza by signing up for their newsletter. If you’d like more information, or if you can donate money or medical supplies (such as hearing aids), please visit their website at FreeGaza.org.

REFERENCES

1. “Power Shortages in the Gaza Strip,” United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 8 January 2008; “Impact of Fuel Shortages on Gaza Sanitation,” OCHA, 29 April 2008.

2. Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Narratives Under Siege

3. “Gaza Humanitarian Crisis,” A Joint Statement by Nine Israeli Human Rights Organizations: B’Tselem, Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Amnesty International Israel, Bimkom, HaMoked, Gisha, PHR Israel, Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, and Rabbis for Human Rights; 16 November 2006; “The Gaza Strip: A Humanitarian Implosion,” A Joint Report by Amnesty International, CAFOD, CARE, Christian Aid, Medecins du Monde UK, OXFAM, Save the Children UK, and TRoCAIRE, Executive Summary, March 2008.

4. “The Gaza Strip: A Humanitarian Implosion,” Joint Report, p. 8, March 2008.

5. “Impact of Fuel Shortages on Gaza Sanitation,” OCHA, 29 April 2008.

6. “Power Shortages in the Gaza Strip,” OCHA, 8 January 2008; “The Gaza Strip: A Humanitarian Implosion,” Joint Report, Executive Summary, March 2008; “Impact of Fuel Shortages on Gaza Sanitation,” OCHA, 29 April 2008.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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