Monday, 30 May 2011

European Gaza blockade busters blast Ban Ki-Moon for letter to states to 'discourage' flotilla 2

From the European Campaign to End the Siege of Gaza

While the UN’s call for Israel to end the blockade of Gaza and avoid the use of violence is welcome, its simultaneous attempts to stop a flotilla of ships planning to set sail to break the siege has no basis in international law and violates the right of the Palestinian people to control their own ports, charges the European Campaign to End the Siege of Gaza (ECESG).

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has sent a letter to all governments bordering the Mediterranean Sea, asking them to “use their influence to discourage” transit of any ships attempting to reach Gaza. In a written statement, he said he was concerned that future flotillas “have the potential to escalate into violent conflict,” as occurred a year ago when the Israeli military attacked the six-ship Free Gaza Flotilla, killing nine of the passengers on the lead boat, the Mavi Marmara. A new, larger flotilla is expected to sail to Gaza from multiple ports in late June, bearing hundreds of parliamentarians, journalists and other solidarity activists as well as aid such as construction materials — vital supplies that have not been allowed by Israel to enter the Strip legally for more than five years.

“Ban Ki-moon says assistance to Gaza should use ‘established channels,’ But Israel controls the only crossings through which good are allowed, and has used its power to reduce the 1.6 million people there to an immoral 38 percent poverty rate,” said Mazen Kohail, a member of the ECESG, “The UN itself just issued a report finding that 70 percent of the population in Gaza, more than a million people, are now dependent on food aid because of the economic impact of the blockade. That’s long enough to show that the ‘established channels’ don’t work or are being manipulated.

Kohail added that the ultimate mission of the flotilla is not to provide humanitarian aid only, but to bring international attention to the need and right of Palestinians in Gaza to open borders that allow them to trade and to travel in and out of their territory without threat. “Palestinians in Gaza have a right to their own sea, something Israel has denied to them in some form since 1967, and almost completely since 2006,” said a statement from the Free Gaza Movement.

Kohail declared that despite Ban Ki-moon’s letter, and the statement by Catherine Ashton, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, that she does not consider a flotilla to be the “right response” to the humanitarian situation in Gaza, plans to set sail will continue.

“If the ‘Arab Spring’ showed us one thing, it’s that governments won’t act on their own to protect civil rights,” added Kohail. “Only civil society — the people — can affect change, by taking matters into their own hands. The flotilla will continue to sail until the blockade is lifted and the Palestinians of Gaza are free.

Nine flotillas have attempted sail to Gaza since August 2008 to break Israel’s illegal stranglehold, three of which have been co-sponsored by the ECESG. Five of those flotillas were successful in entering Gaza; however, they were violently intercepted on the past four voyages — including last year’s, which was organized by the Freedom Flotilla Coalition — an international organization that brought all of the sponsors under one umbrella.

Kohail noted that the Freedom Flotilla 2 — using the slogan “Stay Human” in honor of Vittorio Arrigoni, an Italian peace activist killed in Gaza earlier this year — will include the largest number of ships yet (still being finalized, but more than 10), which this time will depart from ports throughout the Mediterranean. The three new ships just announced will leave from Marseille, France; Genoa, Italy; and a port yet to be named in Germany. European countries to be represented in the flotilla are France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, Greece, Spain, the UK and Ireland. Elsewhere, ships are being sent by delegations from the United States, Canada, Latin America, Africa and Asia.

Israel has controlled the Palestinian people for 63 years, since more than 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes or fled out of fear following the creation of Israel in 1948. That control intensified in 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip. Although Israel withdrew its settlers from Gaza in 2005, it has continued to control the inhabitants’ lives; since 2007, it has prevented most human traffic in and out of the densely populated Strip, while restricting imports and banning virtually all exports.

The European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza (ECESG)

Australians reaffirm their commitment to sail with peaceful non-violent Freedom Flotilla 2

From Antony Loewenstein's blog
On the eve of first anniversary of the deadly Israeli attack on the 2010 international Flotilla to break the siege of Gaza, Australian participants reiterated their determination to join the second Flotilla, which will set sail for Gaza at the end of June.

“We welcome Egyptian moves to partially lift the siege by opening the Raffah crossing,” said former Greens MLC Sylvia Hale, “but in itself this will not substantially alleviate the suffering of the people of Gaza.

“Despite the easing of the siege, men under 40 are not permitted to cross, making it impossible for them to find jobs outside Gaza. The refusal to permit raw materials to enter Gaza or exports to leave it, means widespread unemployment will continue.

“Gaza will not be free so long as the Israeli siege destroys the territory’s economy,” said Ms Hale.

“The Australian delegation is determined to join the second international Flotilla to break the siege,” said Vivienne Porzsolt of Jews Against the Occupation.

“The world witnessed the brutality of the Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara 12 months ago, when nine activists were killed and many others injured and illegally detained,” Ms Porzsolt said.

“Such aggression must not go unchallenged. By participating in the Flotilla, we are opposing Israel’s acts of piracy in international waters and its illegal blockade of Gaza..

“We are committed to peace and non-violence and will offer no provocation or resistance to any action by the Israeli forces. Should any of us be injured, it will be the responsibility of the Israeli Government,” said Ms Porzsolt.

Canadian Boat to Gaza rejects government pressure and press witch hunt, on course to break blockade

Something of a witch hunt has commenced in Canada aimed at Canadian Boat to Gaza, but activists are not deterred. Today (30 May) marks the anniversary of the attack on the Mavi Marmara and the killing of nine activists by Israel
AFP OTTAWA — A group representing 200 Canadian organizations vowed on Monday to send a boat to the Gaza Strip as part of the second "Freedom Flotilla" despite Ottawa's warnings against "provocative" aid deliveries.

"The Canadian Boat to Gaza (CBG) is dismissing Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird's misinformation about the upcoming flotilla, and is promising to sail with the Freedom Flotilla II next month," the group said in a statement.

"CBG views Minister Baird's statement as an attempt to abdicate the Canadian government?s obligation to ensure the safety of the Canadians who will be on board the flotilla, including the Canadian boat Tahrir and to justify, in advance, any crimes Israel may commit against peaceful unarmed civilians from Canada and all over the world, as it did a year ago tomorrow," it added.

CBG claims to have the support of thousands of Canadians and some 200 local non-profit organizations. more

Canadian Boat to Gaza Statement: - We demand safe passage for Freedom Flotilla 2

Israelis invade Hebron overnight supported by 200 army vehicles, Palestinians excluded from own streets

The Israelis arrived at 1am and didn't leave until 5am, with occupation forces setting up checkpoints and roadblocks to hinder movement of Palestinian residents in their own city. There was no previous coordination with the Palestinian Authority. Around 50 settlers barricaded themselves into Joseph's Tomb, clashing with their own soldiers.
NABLUS (Ma’an) -- Israeli soldiers escorted 1,600 Israelis into the northern West Bank city of Nablus overnight Sunday to visit Joseph's Tomb.

An additional 200 Israeli settlers entered Palestinian neighborhoods without coordinating with Israeli authorities, an Israeli military spokesman said. more

30 British aid workers sign up for Freedom Flotilla 2 to break sea blockade of Gaza

PA - More than 30 British aid workers will join a flotilla heading towards Gaza in June, it has been announced.

Just over a year after a similar aid flotilla was raided by Israeli forces, leaving nine people dead on a Turkish boat, aid workers from around Europe will attempt to get through Israel's sea blockade.

Activists plan to congregate on Tuesday in London to remember the aid workers killed and to raise the profile of the new mission.

One of the event organisers, Ismail Patel, chairman of Friends of Al Aqsa, was on board the Mavi Marmara ship on which all nine aid workers died.

He said: "It is important that we do not forget the nine martyrs who were killed by Israeli commandos while trying to take aid to Gaza which has been under Israeli siege for six years. more