(GAZA PORT, GAZA – 11 December 2008) – The Free Gaza Ship “Dignity,” departed from Gaza International Port at 22:10 hours, Thursday 11 December. Aboard the ship were eleven Palestinian students who had been denied exit by Israel to attend their universities abroad. Over 700 students are currently trapped in Gaza, unable to obtain permission from Israel to continue their education.
Accompanying the students are two British academics, Jonathan Rosenhead and Mike Cushman, of the London School of Economics and the British Committee for Universities for Palestine (BRICUP), an organization of UK-based academics responding to Palestine’s Call for an Academic Boycott of Israel.
According to Rosenhead and Cushman, “As academics we are particularly pleased to be traveling on the Dignity on this mission to enable at least some of the hundreds of students trapped in Gaza by the Israeli siege to get out and take up their places at universities round the world. This siege is an affront to any idea of academic freedom or human rights. How can anyone justify preventing young people from fulfilling their potential and learning how to serve their community more fully?”
In an act of nonviolent defiance to the ongoing Israeli Occupation of Palestine, the Free Gaza Movement has been running civil resistance ships to Gaza for several months. This voyage is the fourth such trip, helping to reunite families, and delivering medical supplies, mail, and international humanitarian and human rights workers to besieged Gaza.
Free Gaza spokesperson Ewa Jasiewicz stated that, “Though we carried in a ton of medical supplies and high-protein baby formula on our ship, our mission in Gaza was not to provide charity, but to give our solidarity to the people of Palestine, break the silence of the world over this continuing calamity, and physically break through the blockade of Gaza in an act of direct resistance against the siege. In the end, the oppression and humiliation of Occupation assaults the humanity of both occupier and occupied and cannot and must not be tolerated any longer.”
For over two years, Israel has imposed an increasingly severe blockade on Gaza, dramatically increasing poverty and malnutrition rates among the 1.5 million human people who live in this tiny, coastal region.
Osama Qashoo, another Free Gaza spokesperson, explained their success by saying that, “the sea passage to Gaza is open. Our fourth mission was a quick response to Israel denying earlier attempts by Libya, Qatar and by Palestinians from 1948 to also break through the siege. We hope that other nations, civil society organizations, and activists around the world will learn from our experience, be strategic in their planning, and not let Israeli threats and aggression stop them from coming to Gaza. Freedom of movement and of education, and to live in peace is everyone’s right.”