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December 18, 2008
The Free Gaza Movement is sending the Dignity on its fifth mission to Gaza with envoys on board from civil society organizations in Qatar. The boat also carries journalists, human rights observers, and Palestinians who want to return home and have been prevented from doing so by the Israeli occupation.
On the eve of this voyage, the Free Gaza Movement would like to correct a few the statements made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a December 11 interview with Al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper. In that interview, Abbas suggesting that our efforts are coordinated with the Israelis – that the Israelis check the passports of the passengers aboard our ship and officials from the Israeli Embassy in Larnaca, Cyprus, check our boat before we leave the port.
And as a result of this interference, President Abbas stated that ours is a “silly game” and that we are not really breaking the siege.
We do not coordinate any of our actions with the Israelis. Israel has grossly abused its authority as an occupying power by collectively punishing the people of Gaza and denying them basic human rights. As such, we neither seek Israel’s permission, nor submit to their searches, to assert the right of the Palestinian people to have access to the outside world, which includes the right to invite and welcome us to Gaza.
So, why do we get in, while other efforts are stopped by the Israeli authorities? Because we remove the “security” pretext with which Israel tries to justify its brutal actions and inhumane policies towards the Palestinian people. Amongst other things, we publicize our passenger list; we depart from Cyprus, a neutral European country; and we submit to a search by the Cypriot Port Authorities to verify that we are not carrying anything that can be considered a threat to Israel’s security. We sail from Cyprus waters, into international waters, directly into Gaza’s territorial waters, without entering Israeli waters. Israel realizes that it cannot stop us without using force against us, because we will not be turned around easily.
President Abbas’ statement that we coordinate with the Israelis was misinformed. However, Abbas was correct when he said that we are not really breaking the siege on Gaza. Our boats cannot break the siege alone. Our hope is that we have started something that others can build on. We have shown that the concerted efforts of ordinary civilians working together in the name of justice can confront and successfully challenge Israel’s brutal policies and hope we have inspired other people to break their silence over Israel’s war crimes in the Gaza Strip and throughout the occupied Palestinian territory. From the continued and accelerated Judaization of Jerusalem and the rabid violence of the settler movement, to the vicious racism of Israeli politicians, Israel is committing massive violations against the people Gaza and Palestine as a whole. The world must stand up to this.
The Free Gaza Movement will continue to send boats to Gaza to challenge Israel’s imprisonment of 1.5 million Palestinians, and we will continue to work for freedom and justice for all of the Palestinian people. We do not need Israel’s permission and we will never ask for it. We do need President Abbas, the Arab world, and the entire international community to join us.