FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Sailing to Gaza

by OSAMA QASHOO

This morning I am sorry to find myself back on dry land in Cyprus, separated from my fellow sailors who are now completing the final leg of their trip to Gaza. They are carrying humanitarian and medical aid to a people now suffering both an international boycott and the illegal Israeli occupation. On board the refurbished fishing boats, SS Free Gaza and SS Liberty, are more than 50 activists from 17 nations – Jews, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, farmers, fishermen, officials, language teachers, piano technicians and one 85-year-old Holocaust survivor – all united in their determination to break the Israeli siege.

After months of preparation, the Free Gaza Movement’s perilous relief mission is under way. But I am not with them, despite the fact that I am the only Palestinian-born organiser involved. Last week, my immediate family, who still live in the West Bank, were attacked and terrorised, and I also received numerous anonymous death threats. My family were warned that I must leave the project, and that I must not contact the media. This psychological terrorism now forces me to make a public protest. Though I am no longer on board, I will not leave this mission, even as potential confrontation with the Israeli military looms closer.

The UN has called the situation in Gaza a humanitarian disaster, but the inhumanity goes on. More than 200 civilians have died due to the refusal to let people leave Gaza to seek medical care. The United States, the country that assumes stewardship of the world and whose influence could change the situation, stands by. Worse still, it endorses absurd Israeli claims, such as the recent labelling of innocent Fulbright scholars as “potential security threats” to bar them from taking up their scholarships abroad.

Internationally, the thin veneer of diplomacy has shattered again. On June 19 Israel agreed to halt military invasion and the indiscriminate shelling of Gaza, in return for an end to the launching of homemade rockets towards Israel. Israel has not met its obligations. Gaza’s borders, gates that imprison 1.5 million civilians, remain locked, and scant supplies get through. Even medical supplies are being blocked.

I grew up in Palestine and have lived in fear since childhood. The horror of witnessing elders of my family being bullied and humiliated, the daily terror of losing my parents. Watching my family elders being humiliated, the child’s voice inside me would cry out silently: “How can I stop this?”

While I was on board the Liberty, I listened to the threatening messages hijacking the ship’s emergency channel, illegal for use unless in distress. These voices reawakened a deep, familiar feeling in me: that no matter how civil, kind, non-violent I am, I will always be watched, or far worse, hunted.

Now I realise that the biggest friend of psychological terror is silence. The Free Gaza Movement aims to challenge the physical stranglehold on Gaza, but more importantly, this mission seeks to break the silence for millions of voiceless civilians whose daily stories of persecution go so cruelly ignored by the international community.

When our boats arrived in Cyprus on August 20 to collect the rest of our 40-plus group, news reached us that Israel’s deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, Tzipi Livni, had finally responded to our invitation. The Free Gaza Movement had invited her to join the Cypriot authorities, who were coming aboard to search our boats in order to address their security concerns. Citing the Oslo accords, a document from the legal department of the foreign ministry asserted Israel’s right to use force against our boats. It claimed that security forces were permitted to detain the vessels upon entry to Gaza’s territorial waters, and that the peaceful, unarmed activists on board could be forcibly arrested, detained and “interrogated” in Israel. Why does a peaceful relief mission bring fury, fear and threat from the Israeli government?

Is this the way Israel observes its responsibilities under the Oslo accords? Under the accords and the Gaza-Jericho agreement, the only authority Israel reserved for itself was for “security” purposes. Our boats are no threat. Our David and Goliath mission is a focused, direct action to challenge the inertia of the international community which allows the “humanitarian disaster” suffered by the people of Gaza to continue. The activists carry no arms or threat of violence. If the Israeli government orders the destruction of this mission, it will surely be an act unequalled since the blowing up of the USS Liberty more than 30 years ago, a secret mission of sabotage to draw the Americans into the war against Egypt.

The prospect casts a shadow on our mission. But Liberty and Free Gaza will bring their peaceful cargo to the people of Gaza. Many families will now be gathered on the Gaza beaches, waiting and praying for the boats’ safe arrival. For those families, simply to be afloat in these crystal blue seas, enjoying the freedom of international waters, would be a truly wonderful thing indeed.

OSAMA QASHOO is a documentary film-maker and broadcaster.

 

Your Ad Here
 

 

 

More articles by:
January 18, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
The Destabilizer: Trump’s Escalating Threats Against Iran
John W. Whitehead
Silence Is Betrayal: Get Up, Stand Up, Speak Up for Your Rights
Andrew Day
Of “Shitholes” and Liberals
Dave Lindorff
Rep. Gabbard Speaks Truth to Power About the Real Reason Korea Has Nukes
Barbara G. Ellis
The Workplace War: Hatpins Might Be in Style Again for Women
Binoy Kampmark
Corporate Sickness in May’s Britain
Ralph Nader
Twitter Rock Star Obama’s Silence Must Delight Trump
John G. Russell
#Loose Lips (Should) Sink … Presidencies … But Even If They Could, What Comes Next?
David Macaray
The “Mongrelization” of the White Race
Ramzy Baroud
In Words and Deeds: The Genesis of Israeli Violence
January 17, 2018
Seiji Yamada
Prevention is the Only Solution: a Hiroshima Native’s View of Nuclear Weapons
Chris Welzenbach
Force of Evil: Abraham Polonsky and Anti-Capitalist Noir
Thomas Klikauer
The Business of Bullshit
Howard Lisnoff
The Atomized and Siloed U.S. Left
Martha Rosenberg
How Big Pharma Infiltrated the Boston Museum of Science
George Wuerthner
The Collaboration Trap
David Swanson
Removing Trump Will Require New Activists
Michael McKinley
Australia and the Wars of the Alliance: United States Strategy
Binoy Kampmark
Macron in China
Cesar Chelala
The Distractor-in-Chief
Ted Rall
Why Trump is Right About Newspaper Libel Laws
Mary Serumaga
Corruption in Uganda: Minister Sam Kutesa and Company May Yet Survive Their Latest Scandal
January 16, 2018
Mark Schuller
What is a “Shithole Country” and Why is Trump So Obsessed With Haiti?
Paul Street
Notes From a “Shithole” Superpower
Louisa Willcox
Keeper of the Flame for Wilderness: Stewart “Brandy” Brandborg
Mike Whitney
Trump’s Sinister Plan to Kill the Iranian “Nukes” Deal
Franklin Lamb
Kafkaesque Impediments to Challenging Iran’s Theocracy
Norman Solomon
Why Senator Cardin is a Fitting Opponent for Chelsea Manning
Fred Gardner
GI Coffeehouses Recalled: a Compliment From General Westmoreland
Brian Terrell
Solidarity from Central Cellblock to Guantanamo
Don Fitz
Bondage Scandal: Looking Beneath the Surface
Rob Seimetz
#Resist Co-opting “Shithole”
Ted Rall
Trump Isn’t Unique
January 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Democrats and the End(s) of Politics
Paul Tritschler
Killing Floor: the Business of Animal Slaughter
Mike Garrity
In Targeting the Lynx, the Trump Administration Defies Facts, Law, and Science Once Again
Thomas Hon Wing Polin
Hong Kong Politics: a Never-Ending Farce
Uri Avnery
Bibi’s Son (Or Three Men in a Car)
Dave Lindorff
Yesterday’s ‘Shithole Countries’ Can Become Classy Places Donald, and Vice Versa
Jeff Mackler
Lesser Evil Politics in Alabama
Jonah Raskin
Typewriters Still Smoking? An Interview with Underground Press Maven John McMillan
Jose-Antonio Orosco
Trump’s Comments Recall a Racist Past in Immigration Policy
David Macaray
Everything Seems to Be Going South
Kathy Kelly
41 Hearts Beating in Guantanamo
Weekend Edition
January 12, 2018
Friday - Sunday
George Burchett
Wormwood and a Shocking Secret of War: How Errol Morris Vindicated My Father, Wilfred Burchett
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail