FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Next Boat to Gaza

Photo by Donostia/San Sebastian 201 | CC BY 2.0


From aboard the “Al-Awda” at the port in Amsterdam.

Aboard the international solidarity boat Al-Awda, part of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition (FFC), we are a more motley crew than the passengers aboard the Minnow in the old US TV series McHale’s Navy: Among those who have joined us on one or more legs of the trip to Gaza are citizens of Spain, Israel, Norway, Malaysia, Canada (Indigenous), Denmark and the United States. Despite our diverse ages and backgrounds we have something important in common: Minds that comprehend the crimes and human rights violations being committed daily against the people of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories; Hearts that feel deeply the pain of those whose basic freedoms have been denied for 70 years; and Consciences that want to find a nonviolent way to reach out to these people, right the wrongs of the Gaza blockade and achieve a measure of justice.

The legitimate political representatives of our governments have failed us in having the political and moral courage to secure peace and justice for a people facing 70 years of sustained, brutal political and economic subjugation by a foreign power, Israel. Thus, we act. The international Freedom Flotilla Coalition (FFC) sails again. This time the FFC will not attempt to deliver medical supplies or foodstuffs to the suffering people of Gaza – past experience with previous FFC missions indicates that such materials will likely never end up in Gaza, or will arrive in spoiled or damaged condition. Instead, the “Al-Awda” will deliver itself – a refurbished Norwegian fishing boat – as a solidarity offering to the fisherman of Gaza, who are shot at and harassed on a daily basis, prevented from feeding their families, and whose fishing boats are regularly seized and destroyed by Israel.

There is so much misery in Gaza that could easily be alleviated, since nearly all of it is either deliberately manufactured by Israel (such as the bombing of sewage plants, the electricity grid, Gaza harbor, the undrinkable water) or is an immediate by-product of Israeli policy (widespread post-traumatic stress disorder and associated mental illnesses, a spike in the rates of cancer, once extremely rare among Palestinians). The economic blockade, the restrictions on foodstuffs and construction materials, the travel bans, and the sealed borders are all aided and abetted by the Egyptian leader al-Sisi, a close ally of Netanyahu. Under al-Sisi the Rafah border to Egypt – the only non-Israeli outlet available to the Palestinians of Gaza seeking medical aid or travel abroad – is almost always closed. These blatant violations of human rights and the Geneva Convention have occurred with the complicit wink of the US and Europe, whose weapons manufacturers profit handsomely from their arms sales to Israel.

The relegation of Palestinians to a less-than-human status by Israel (with the complicity of the US and its European allies as well as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and smaller Gulf states who have a thinly veiled alliance with Tel Aviv) — in particular the inhabitants of Gaza, who are perpetually locked into an open-air prison and subject to the Israeli blockade, was noted by MIT professor Noam Chomsky after a visit to Gaza to attend an academic conference. In comments broadcast by Democracy Now on Nov. 14, 2012, Chomsky remarked:

“It’s kind of amazing and inspiring to see people managing somehow to survive as essentially caged animals subject to constant, random, sadistic punishment only to humiliate them; no pretext. They [the Palestinians] would like to have dignified lives, but the standard Israeli position is that they shouldn’t raise their heads.”

During our ports of call in Germany, visitors to the Al-Awda told us that many German politicians as well as ordinary Germans are reluctant to speak out against human rights abuses against Palestinians because they say that if they do, they will be branded as anti-Semitic and possibly have their lives and careers ruined by this smear. Listening to these German citizens express their solidarity with the FFC mission in passionate, yet hushed tones, one cannot but think back to the suppression of free speech by the Communist-era East German government that was fiercely enforced by the secret police known as the Stasi, and deplore that the practice of self-censorship has become widespread in what is supposed to be a free and democratic united Germany. It also underscores the powerful political pressure that Israel brings to bear on many European countries.

Shortly before we departed from Wilhelmshaven, Germany, we were visited by Georg, a human rights advocate and photographer affiliated with the “Bundesverband Arbeiterfotographie,” who made the 50-mile road trip from Bremen to take photos, express support and offer a generous personal donation to the Freedom Flotilla mission before rushing back to Bremen to collect his 9-year-old son from school. He said: “I came over as soon as I heard about you.”

We were also blessed to meet Timo, a German trade union leader and youth organizer, who volunteered his time and talents to take care of some technical problems aboard the Al-Awda. Timo, who also hails from Bremen, spent an entire day driving around to half a dozen specialty maritime and hardware supply stores in Wilhelmshaven to help us obtain the proper parts; he then worked tirelessly until all was “shipshape” aboard the “Al-Awda.” When we offered to compensate him for his time and trouble, he refused, saying: “Let this be my small contribution toward peace.”

Meanwhile, the Palestinian-German community in Wilhelmshaven showered us with gifts of home-made Palestinian delicacies and serenaded us with singing, dancing and playing of the oud, a classical Palestinian stringed instrument. They thanked us for making this journey, saying they only wish they could join us and return to their original homes and villages. Their love and affection for our mission is overwhelming.

Tonight in Amsterdam we will be feted by local peace and social justice activists who will host a dinner featuring traditional Palestinian food. After a very rough night at sea two nights ago en route to Amsterdam – during which the Al-Awda tossed and pitched amid enormous swells – we are grateful to be here in calm waters, enjoy freshwater showers, real bathrooms, and the warm hospitality of the local human rights community.

We have been met by peaceful, nonviolent groups of grassroots community supporters at every port of call thus far. We pray that we can approach Gaza harbor unimpeded, so that our supporters there can receive us as well.

 

More articles by:
September 19, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
When Bernie Sold Out His Hero, Anti-Authoritarians Paid
Lawrence Davidson
Political Fragmentation on the Homefront
George Ochenski
How’s That “Chinese Hoax” Treating You, Mr. President?
Cesar Chelala
The Afghan Morass
Chris Wright
Three Cheers for the Decline of the Middle Class
Howard Lisnoff
The Beat Goes On Against Protest in Saudi Arabia
Nomi Prins 
The Donald in Wonderland: Down the Financial Rabbit Hole With Trump
Jack Rasmus
On the 10th Anniversary of Lehman Brothers 2008: Can ‘IT’ Happen Again?
Richard Schuberth
Make Them Suffer Too
Geoff Beckman
Kavanaugh in Extremis
Jonathan Engel
Rather Than Mining in Irreplaceable Wilderness, Why Can’t We Mine Landfills?
Binoy Kampmark
Needled Strawberries: Food Terrorism Down Under
Michael McCaffrey
A Curious Case of Mysterious Attacks, Microwave Weapons and Media Manipulation
Elliot Sperber
Eating the Constitution
September 18, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Britain: the Anti-Semitism Debate
Tamara Pearson
Why Mexico’s Next President is No Friend of Migrants
Richard Moser
Both the Commune and Revolution
Nick Pemberton
Serena 15, Tennis Love
Binoy Kampmark
Inconvenient Realities: Climate Change and the South Pacific
Martin Billheimer
La Grand’Route: Waiting for the Bus
John Kendall Hawkins
Seymour Hersh: a Life of Adversarial Democracy at Work
Faisal Khan
Is Israel a Democracy?
John Feffer
The GOP Wants Trumpism…Without Trump
Kim Ives
The Roots of Haiti’s Movement for PetroCaribe Transparency
Dave Lindorff
We Already Have a Fake Billionaire President; Why Would We want a Real One Running in 2020?
Gerry Brown
Is China Springing Debt Traps or Throwing a Lifeline to Countries in Distress?
Pete Tucker
The Washington Post Really Wants to Stop Ben Jealous
Dean Baker
Getting It Wrong Again: Consumer Spending and the Great Recession
September 17, 2018
Melvin Goodman
What is to be Done?
Rob Urie
American Fascism
Patrick Cockburn
The Adults in the White House Trying to Save the US From Trump Are Just as Dangerous as He Is
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The Long Fall of Bob Woodward: From Nixon’s Nemesis to Cheney’s Savior
Mairead Maguire
Demonization of Russia in a New Cold War Era
Dean Baker
The Bank Bailout of 2008 was Unnecessary
Wim Laven
Hurricane Trump, Season 2
Yves Engler
Smearing Dimitri Lascaris
Ron Jacobs
From ROTC to Revolution and Beyond
Clark T. Scott
The Cannibals of Horsepower
Binoy Kampmark
A Traditional Right: Jimmie Åkesson and the Sweden Democrats
Laura Flanders
History Markers
Weekend Edition
September 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Carl Boggs
Obama’s Imperial Presidency
Joshua Frank
From CO2 to Methane, Trump’s Hurricane of Destruction
Jeffrey St. Clair
Maria’s Missing Dead
Andrew Levine
A Bulwark Against the Idiocy of Conservatives Like Brett Kavanaugh
T.J. Coles
Neil deGrasse Tyson: A Celebrity Salesman for the Military-Industrial-Complex
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail