Posted by on June 30, 2011 in Blog

Let Palestine Live!

Just over a year ago, a humanitarian convey of ships (“the flotilla”) headed towards Gaza to break the unlawful blockade and deliver urgently needed humanitarian assistance to the people there. Its journey was disrupted in international waters when Israel attacked it with a commando raid, leaving several Turkish activists killed, including one young American dual-citizen. Despite assiduous efforts on the part of Israel to spin the incident (confiscating all of the activists’ recording equipment and releasing selective footage of activists attacking commandos with bars and sticks), the incident caused a major uproar, and focused attention on the effects of Israel’s unconscionable blockade on Gaza.

As a result of last year’s flotilla, Israel was successfully pressured into ending its ban on basic food items (very partial compliance with its obligations toward Gaza), thus alleviating the severe humanitarian crisis that had plagued the besieged strip. The partial opening of the Rafah border by Egypt following the fall of Mubarak further eased the situation. But while nutritional necessities are now allowed in and some people are allowed to travel in and out, Israel’s blockade continues to suffocate Gaza’s economy, restricting Gazans’ ability to live prosperous lives. For this reasons, humanitarian activists are on board a new flotilla and are on their way to Gaza, determined to break the blockade.

So far, the French ship "Dignity" has already set sail towards the flotilla’s meeting point in international waters in the Mediterranean. The Greek-Swedish ship "Juliano" was discovered with its propeller broken, as was the engine of the Irish ship “Saoirse,” prompting activists to suspect Israel was behind the sabotage. Private complaints (known to be “extremely rare”) were suddenly filed against the suitability of other ships for sailing, further delaying matters despite the completion of prior inspections. The Obama Administration threatened potential “fines and incarceration” for American activists who take part in the flotilla. In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Texas Governor Rick Perry urged for legal action against those partaking in the flotilla to be pursued “aggressively,” while Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) called for a joint US-Israeli military operation to disable the flotilla. But none of this has deterred those who plan on sailing over the brilliantly-named American ship “Audacity of Hope.”

Among those on the American ship is Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker. She wrote a deeply moving piece on CNN’s website explaining her decision to join the flotilla in which she said:

And what of the children of Palestine, who were ignored in our President's latest speech on Israel and Palestine, and whose impoverished, terrorized, segregated existence was mocked by the standing ovations recently given in the U.S. Congress to the prime minister of Israel? … I see children, all children, as humanity's most precious resource, because it will be to them that the care of the planet will always be left. One child must never be set above another, even in casual conversation, not to mention in speeches that circle the globe.

The coming days will show us quite a bit about how much Israel has learned from last year’s atrocious miscalculation. Ultimately, this flotilla and the last one (and possibly the next one) take place because of the failure of world governments to act on their moral responsibility to pressure Israel into lifting its blockade on Gaza. When political leaders fail to act, ordinary people of conscience do.

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