25 June 2009
The Free Gaza Movement will depart from Larnaca Port for the Gaza Strip at 10am today, Thursday 25 June. We are sending two ships, the Free Gaza and the Spirit of Humanity, with 3 tons of medical supplies, 15 tons of cement, suitcases full of toys, crayons and coloring books for children, as well as human rights workers and journalists from 14 countries, including Nobel laureate Mairead Maguire and former U.S. Congresswoman and presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney. This will be our first attempt to challenge Israel’s naval blockade on Gaza by sea since the Israeli Navy brutally rammed our boat, DIGNITY, in December, and nearly sank the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY with all on board in January.
We shall hold a press conference at Larnaca Port between 9-10 am, prior to departure.
The Free Gaza Movement will sail 240 miles from Cyprus to Gaza, its eighth mission to break Israel’s draconian siege on 1.5 million Palestinians. Two of the organizers, Huwaida Arraf and Greta Berlin, as well as the Honorable Cynthia McKinney, former U.S. Congresswoman from Georgia, held a press conference this week in Doha, Qatar, calling on the world to recognize the Palestinians’ human and civil rights, rights that have been denied for 61 years. (See link below for YouTube/Al Jazeera press conference coverage.)
“People in Gaza are being made to live in subhuman conditions. Children are dying, and governments are silent. It is important to continue sending boats to Gaza to challenge the criminal blockade enforced by the Israeli military,” said Ms. Arraf. The group emphasized that what they are taking is only a token of what the people of Gaza need. They are hoping to buy a cargo boat, to bring in larger amounts of building supplies via the sea route they aim to open. They ask for the financial support of people around the world to purchase this ship.
Speaking to Al Jazeera and eight other news organizations, Ms Arraf emphasized, “International donors pledged over $4bn to rebuild Gaza, yet none of them are doing a thing about the fact that Israel allows no building supplies into the territory. So 36 of us from 16 countries are leaving on Thursday to tell the world to do something.”
When asked what guarantees the group has received from the Israeli government, both Berlin and Arraf frowned. “We do not seek permission from or coordinate with the Israeli authorities. Israel has grossly abused its authority as an occupying power, daily violating the human rights of Palestinians, and imposing collective punishment on them. It is past time for the international community to stop abetting Israel’s illegal closure policy.” stated Ms. Arraf. The group intends to go at least three times over the summer, June 25th, July 14th and August 16th, near the anniversary of the first successful voyage.
The Free Gaza Movement, a human rights group, sent two boats to Gaza in August 2008. These were the first international boats to land in the port in 41 years. Since August, four more voyages have been successful, taking Parliamentarians, human rights workers, and other dignitaries to witness the effects of Israel’s draconian policies on the civilians of Gaza. On December 30, their boat, the DIGNITY, was rammed three times while 90 nautical miles out, in international waters, on its way to deliver emergency medical supplies to the people of Gaza, while under the infamous attack by Israel.
Contact the Free Gaza Movement at www.freegaza.org
PASSENGER LIST (individual details available at the website)
Kathy Sheetz (US)
Alex Hamilton (UK)
John Klusmire (US)
Ishmahil Blagrove (Jamaica, UK)
Peter Eyre (UK)
Ahmed Masood (Palestine)
Iason Athanasiadis (Greece)
Davide Pecorelli (Italy)
Adam Shapiro (US)
Cynthia McKinney (US)
Derek and Jenny Graham (Ireland)
Lubna Marsawa (Palestine, Israel)
Mairead Maguire (Ireland)
Denis Healey (UK, Cyprus)
Fathi Jaouadi (Tunisia, UK)
Theresa McDermott (Scotland)
Huwaida Arraf (Palestine, Israel, US)
Adam Qvist (Denmark)
Mary Hughes Thompson (Canada)
David Schermerhorn (US)
Waltraud Schauer (Austria)
Doha Press Conference on June 22nd: www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWI-5KOBo3o