from Free Gaza
This movement is an international nonviolent resistance project to challenge Israel’s siege of Gaza. Israel claims that Gaza is no longer occupied, yet Israeli forces control Gaza by land, sea and air. We’ll enter Gaza from international waters at the invitation of Palestinian NGOs but without Israeli authorization, thereby recognizing Palestinian control over their own borders.
1. To open Gaza to unrestricted international access, i.e. Palestinian sovereignty
2. To demonstrate that Israel still occupies Gaza, despite its claims to the contrary
3. To show international solidarity with the people of Gaza and the rest of Palestine
4. To demonstrate the potential of nonviolent resistance methods
Up to 100 international volunteers will sail from Cyprus to Gaza in 2 to 6 seagoing vessels of 12 to 60 passengers each. The prospective date is August 15, but will depend upon funding, logistics, weather and other factors. The journey will take approximately 24 hours.
If Israel respects Palestinian sovereignty, we’ll arrive without incident. Some of us will fish at sea with Palestinian fishermen, while others will travel back and forth to test the passage for as long as permitted. If stopped, we’ll nonviolently resist. We are prepared to stay at sea if necessary, and/or resist arrest and confiscation of our vessels. We doubt that Israel will attack, but we will be equipped with medical personnel and equipment, life rafts and flotation vests. More likely, Israel will prefer sabotage. We’re prepared with alternate vessels and plans.
Aboard will be Palestinians, Israelis, Americans, Europeans, Africans and Asians. There will be rabbis, imams, Christian and Buddhist clerics, British MPs, entertainment celebrities, and internationally known journalists. Nakba and Holocaust survivors are also joining the project. All will undergo a training program and be selected according to the interests of the mission, such as the mix of persons and expertise; no one is assured of a place on board. Others will form the Cyprus support team and may board later vessels.
We are experienced human rights volunteers and organizers, including Huwaida Arraf, Greta Berlin, Sylvia Cattori, Uri Davis, Hedy Epstein, Kathy Kelly, Paul Larudee, Alison Weir, and more than 30 others from 13 countries. We have consulted with other organizations such as Greenpeace, who have experience with such projects, especially with encounters at sea.
Commercial fishing boats and cruise vessels powered by diesel and sail will be used. Volunteer vessels are also welcome. All will have standard GPS, plus radio and communications equipment for international navigation. They’ll also have refrigeration and cooking facilities for their size and passenger load. The larger vessels will carry fuel for both the voyage and an extended period at sea.
If Israel wishes to harm our mission, we expect them to try to plant arms on board. Therefore, before boarding, all participants, vessels and supplies will undergo a security check by qualified personnel from an internationally recognized NGO to verify that no dangerous items are brought aboard. Since we will not be entering Israeli territory, we will not allow Israeli authorities to perform such inspections.
Supplies and equipment
Passengers will take basic necessities and electronic devices. Journalists, technicians and crew may also bring tools and equipment. Larger vessels will have at least one satellite phone with high-speed data transfer. Provisions, including food, water and medical supplies, will be laid aboard for an extended period at sea. We will also carry relief supplies to the people of Gaza, but this isn’t a primary part of our mission.
Captains and crew
Although we prefer competent volunteers who take principled risks, we are unlikely to recruit the personnel we need by such means. We will therefore hire captains and crew, to whom we will fully disclose the risks involved, so they understand and consent to the mission. Engineers will also be required to inspect and prepare the vessels.
We have considered vessel donation, lease and purchase. However, we prefer purchase, to have complete control and avoid cancellation by others. Terms are a down payment plus installments to be made either by reselling the vessels after the mission or by using them for nonprofit revenue. Other costs will be crew, equipment, supplies, fuel, docking and agent fees. The estimated cost is $300K, half from donations and half from loans. We can succeed on a smaller scale for as little as $150K, but it entails fewer backups and greater risk.
Organizational endorsements and financial support are needed and highly appreciated. We’re also available to speak to interested groups. Tax-exempt donations may be sent to our fiscal sponsor, the Palestinian Children’s Welfare Fund at PCWF – Gaza Human Rights, 201 W. Stassney #201, Austin, TX 78745, USA. Non-exempt donations may be made to our PayPal account through our website at www.freegaza.org.