AN URGENT APPEAL FOR SUPPORT FOR THE FREEDOM FLOTILLA TO GAZA
International support is urgently needed now for the courageous participants in the Freedom Flotilla Coalition challenging the Israeli blockade of Gaza and bringing much-needed medical supplies to its besieged inhabitants.
On July 29, in international waters 49 nautical miles from the port of Gaza, 12 Israeli military vessels with hundreds of armed soldiers approached Al Awda (“The Return”), a 60-foot, Norwegian-flagged former fishing boat and now flagship of the current four-boat flotilla. According to a coalition release, “armed, masked soldiers” then boarded Al Awda, without permission, and seized the ship and its 22 international passengers and crew.
“Some participants were repeatedly tasered, including in the head,” according to a report posted on the coalition’s website (https://freedomflotilla.org). “Others were punched or had their head beaten against a wall by IOF [Israeli Occupation Forces] soldiers. Zip-cuffs were used in a manner which cut off circulation.”
Flotilla members were then taken to Israel’s Givon Prison, roughly 30 miles northwest of Jerusalem. Two Israeli citizens were reportedly released, but the other 20 participants spent several nights in detention, with two beginning a hunger strike. Of particular concern is the fate of two Al Jazeera journalists, whose professional equipment, documents, personal property and money were taken by Israeli forces.
As this statement is being written, a second boat, a sailboat called Freedom, is approaching Gaza, with expectations that it and its participants will soon also be seized.
The public is being urged to take the following actions in support of the flotilla participants:
1. Contact the U.S. State Department and demand it call for the immediate release of all flotilla participants, their boats and medical supplies and that Israel allow the flotilla to proceed safely to Gaza. (https://register.state.gov/contactus/contactusform)
2. Contact your local elected representatives and ask them to make the same demands of the Israeli government.
3. Use the educational materials provided by the Freedom Flotilla Coalition to educate your community about the Israeli blockade of Gaza and the immense human suffering it is causing. (https://jfp.freedomflotilla.org)
4. Make a donation to the Freedom Flotilla Coalition. (jfp.freedomflotilla.org/donate)
5. Follow the flotilla at: Facebook (FreedomFlotillaCoalition); Twitter (@GazaFFlotilla); Instagram (@gazafreedomflotilla).
6. Encourage others to spread the word using hashtags #ShiptoGaza - #FreedomFlotilla - #CountdownToGaza.
Background to the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza
Gaza is a narrow strip of land along the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea. Just 141 square miles, it is home to 2 million Palestinians, half of whom are children and minors, and is ranked as one of the most densely populated areas on Earth. In 2006, after Hamas was elected to leadership positions in the territory, Israel imposed a sea blockade on Gaza along with, in cooperation with Egypt, a land blockade.
Without Israeli permission, no one can enter or leave the territory or import or export anything. Access to clean drinking water, electricity, medicine, building materials and more are all controlled by Israel, which periodically cuts them off in collective punishment for what it views as illegal actions by Hamas. Further, in recent years Israel has carried out three wars against Gaza, in which casualties have been overwhelmingly Palestinian. As a result, Gaza now suffers what the World Bank has described as a “collapse in humanitarian conditions.”
In response, defiant Gazans have mounted repeated mass protests, the most recent of which started in March of this year and continues today, with to date more than 130 unarmed protesters shot to death by Israeli snipers. Thousands more have been wounded.
In this dire context, the Freedom Flotillas have been one of the most visible and courageous acts of solidarity with the Palestinian people, with several flotillas attempting to reach Gaza in recent years. In 2010, an Israeli raid on a Turkish flotilla resulted in 10 activists being killed.
Before leaving for Gaza, the current flotilla spent two months visiting some 15 European ports, holding rallies and educational events about the Israeli blockade, the critical humanitarian situation in Gaza and the continued resistance of the Palestinian people to Israeli occupation.
This Solidarity Statement was issued Aug. 2, 2018, by the United National Antiwar Coalition. unacpeace.org