More than 40 Palestinian civil society organisations released a statement on June 12 calling for international support for the Freedom Flotilla 2, which aims to break the siege of Gaza.
The first freedom flotilla bringing humanitarian aid to Gaza was violently attacked in May, 2010. Israeli commandoes killed nine Turkish volunteers aboard the Mavi Marmara, the flotilla’s lead ship.
Israeli troops boarded the ship at night and used live ammunition against unarmed activists. The attack occurred in international waters in violation of international law.
An even larger flotilla bringing aid, involving about 1500 activists from more than 50 countries, is set to sail to Gaza in late June. Israel has threatened to use snipers against the flotilla. The US and Israel are pressuring governments around the Mediterranean to stop the ships' departure plans.
The statement from Palestinian groups calling for international support is published below. It is reprinted from www.palsolidarity.org -- where a full list of signatures can be found.
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We, the Palestinians of the besieged Gaza Strip, on this day, five years after closures began on Gaza, are saying enough inaction, enough discussion, enough waiting — the full siege on the Gaza Strip must end.
Shortly after the democratic election in 2006, supervised by people and bodies from the international community, nations formerly supporting aid and cultural organisations in Gaza withdrew their support.
In mid-2007, our borders, controlled by Israel and Egypt, fully closed, locking Palestinians within and preventing imports and exports from crossing our borders.
From December 27, 2008, to January 18, 2009, Israel waged an all-out slaughter on Gaza, killing more than 1500 Palestinians, most were innocent civilians and among them over 430 children. They destroyed thousands of homes, businesses, factories and buildings, including universities, schools, hospitals and medical care facilities; and damaged vast tracts of our water and sanitation system.
Two-and-a-half years after the cessation of Israel’s attacks, almost no homes and few buildings have been rebuilt. Our sanitation and sewerage system situation is more dire than ever.
Raw waste continues to be pumped into our sea for want of proper treatment facilities, polluting our water and the fish along the coast.
Then fishermen, banned from entering the 20 nautical miles of sea accorded to Palestinians under the Oslo Accords, are forced to harvest these poisoned fish.
Our farmers continue to be shot at, maimed and killed by Israeli soldiers along our border, prevented from working, growing and harvesting their land, denying us a rich supply of produce and vitamins.
Nutrient deficiencies and malnutrition continue to rise, affecting our children's growth and their ability to study.
Our economy is shut down by lack of functioning factories and electricity. Our students hold little to no prospects of travel for study abroad, even when placements and scholarships have been secured, due to the Israeli control of the Erez crossing and the Egyptian-controlled Rafah crossing being closed more often than opened.
Our sick suffer for want of necessary medications and medical supplies and equipment.
Since 2005, more than 170 Palestinian organisations have called for boycott, divestment and sanctions to pressure Israel to comply with international law. Since 2005, Palestinians have weekly met in villages in the occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem to protest Israel’s occupation policies.
Creative civilian efforts, such as the Free Gaza boats that broke the siege five times, the Gaza Freedom March, the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, and the many land convoys, must never stop their siege-breaking, highlighting the inhumanity of keeping 1.5 million Gazans in an open-air prison.
On December 2, 22 international organizations — including Amnesty, Oxfam, Save the Children, Christian Aid and Medical Aid for Palestinians — produced the report “Dashed Hopes: Continuation of the Gaza Blockade”. It called for international action to force Israel to unconditionally lift the blockade. Human Rights Watch published a comprehensive report “Separate and Unequal” that denounced Israeli policies as “apartheid”, echoing similar sentiments by South African anti-apartheid activists.
The recently announced opening of the Rafah crossing has yet to be fully enacted. Even when open, it will mean little with respect to the imports and exports of goods to and from Gaza and will not improve the plight of fishermen and farmers or Gaza's high unemployment and poverty rates.
We request that the citizens of the world oppose this deadly, medieval blockade. The failure of the United Nations and its numerous organizations to condemn such crimes proves their complicity.
Only civil society is able to mobilise to demand the application of international law and put an end to Israel’s impunity.
The intervention of civil society was effective in the late 1980s against the apartheid regime of South Africa. Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have not only described Israel's oppressive and violent control of Palestinians as apartheid, they have also joined this call for the world's civil society to intervene again.
We call on civil society organisations worldwide to intensify the anti-Israel sanctions campaign to compel Israel to end its aggression.
We call on the nations and citizens of the world participating in the Freedom Flotilla 2 to continue their plans to sail to Gaza where they will be welcomed by Palestinians.
The civil society initiatives of the freedom flotillas are about taking a stance of justice and solidarity with besieged Palestinians when your governments will not.
We call on the flotilla movement to grow and continue to sail until the siege of Gaza is entirely lifted and until the Palestinians of Gaza are granted the basic human rights and freedom of movement citizens around the world enjoy.
Former Australian Greens MP Sylvia Hale, a participant in the Freedom Flotilla 2, speaks at a Sydney Green Left forum on June 15 about the flotilla. Footage by Kate Ausburn.
Part 2 of Sylvia Hale's talk.