By Debbie Menon
Edward Said reminded the world shortly before his death in 2003 that it is easier for the West to demonise the Palestinian – through ‘the vicious media and government campaign against Arab society, culture, history and mentality’ – than actually attempt to humanize what they don’t fully understand. The Gaza imprisonment in the summer of 2005, paraded as an Israeli generous withdrawal, produced the Hamas and Islamic Jihad homemade missile attack and capture of an Israeli Occupation soldier. Even before the capture of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli army bombarded indiscriminately the Gaza Strip.
Putting a human face to the Palestinian people and explicitly saying Israeli policies towards Palestinians are immoral should be acceptable in Western democratic mainstream news media. “It is Not!” Why is it controversial to advocate Palestinian human rights and an independent homeland? After all, the Jews already have Israel. It is time for radical thinking of the conflict.
“Palestinians count on us internationals to help,” explained successful businesswoman Greta Berlin, whose leg is scarred by a wound from an Israeli rubber-coated steel bullet. “They ask us why the U.S. is paying the Israelis to bomb them. I told them I would come back and tell every American I could what is truly happening. I’m mad and sad, and I don’t know what else to do.”
Now, she and a small group of human rights watchers have put to sea in small boats! They started a couple of years ago to put together a “flotilla” of boats, crewed by well-known names, who would land on the shores of Gaza, demonstrating the sovereignty of Gaza in defiance of the Israeli blockade. This is the culmination of their efforts.
More than 40 of them from 16 countries, amongst them Prof. Norman Finkelstein and Prof. Jeff Halper of the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions, Anne Montgomery, a retired 81-year-old nun, Hedy Epstein, herself a Holocaust survivor and several others who wait until the launch to have their names announced, are leaving in August to break Israel’s siege of Gaza. They will sail in two boats to challenge Israel’s authority over an occupied people. Many have been working on this project for two years, and have risen close to $225,000 to buy the boats and set sail. Here is their ad that will be shown in the Middle East in the next few weeks. It’s on www.freegaza.org and YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ex0v5BDVFHk
They have set up a list serve used exclusively to keep friends and members of the press informed of the voyage of the two boats, the S.S. FREE GAZA and the S.S. LIBERTY (in honor of the 34 sailors murdered by Israel in 1967 while on board the USS Liberty) during their journey. If you are interested in following their progress, go to lists.riseup.net/www/subscribe/gazafriends. They will be posting press releases, updates and announcements there.
You can also watch the voyage in real time at www.freegaza.org after August 5 as they set sail from Cyprus. Give the ‘Free Gaza Movement’ thumbs up! And, stay tuned!
(Debbie Menon: [email protected] is an independent writer based in Dubai.)