One year since the Mavi Marmara massacreIn Blog
One year ago today, six ships carrying nearly 700 human rights defenders, met at sea to commence the last leg of our voyage to Gaza to break Israel’s brutal stranglehold on 1.5 million Palestinians. A few hours later the Israeli military launched a full-scale assault on our civilian convoy, killing nine of our colleagues and injuring over 50 others. Ugur Suleyman 46 years old is still in a coma from the gunshots from Israeli commandos.
Despite widespread condemnation and an UN-commissioned investigation that found Israel’s acts unlawful, possibly amounting to war crimes, Israel has yet to be held accountable. Families of the victims killed on the Mavi Marmara await justice and millions of Palestinians continue to demand their human rights respected.
In the wake of continued government inaction to stop Israel’s human rights abuses, we, members of global civil society representing dozens of national coalitions and international organizations will launch next month Freedom Flotilla II – Stay Human.
While we wholeheartedly welcome the decision of the Egyptian government to regularly operate the Rafah Crossing between Egypt and the occupied Gaza Strip, Israel’s unlawful blockade remains in effect. Israel still prevents Palestinians from using their sea and controls and severely restricts all goods entering and exiting Gaza. As such, we must continue to challenge this blockade. We call on all states, the United Nations, and international organizations to support our action and demand that Israel refrain from attacking our vessels. We reject calls for supplies to Gaza to be delivered through established Israeli-controlled channels, as this is tantamount to accepting a brutal and unlawful regime. Would we have called on the Tunisian and Egyptian people to address their grievances through the established channels of Mubarak and Ben Ali?
In feeble attempts to downplay the international nature of this mission, and the thousands around the world that are part of organizing it, Israel has tried to portray this as a Turkish flotilla, even sponsored by the Turkish government. Our coalition is heartened by the principled position that the Turkish government has taken, defending the rights of its citizens and standing up for the rule of law. We are also proud to work with IHH and the tens of thousands of Turkish citizens supporting our nonviolent action. But the Freedom Flotilla initiative is an international, non-governmental, effort. IHH represents one of 22 national networks that comprise our Coalition. We represent citizens from all over the world who refuse to stay silent as Israel continues to abuse the Palestinian people, and we refuse to let Israel’s violence deter us.
As we gather in Istanbul today to remember our nine murdered colleagues (eight Turkish and one American citizen), we renew our call to our governments to do their utmost to ensure that Israel does not repeat its attack on us. We welcome the martyrs’ families joining our flotilla to carry on the mission of their loved ones; we are strengthened by their spirit and that of people across this region rising up against violence and tyranny to demand freedom and human rights, and that of people around the world supporting them. We call on our governments to do the same.
Canadians to Baird: “Israel’s Gaza Blockade Is Illegal. We Will Sail to Gaza”
The Canadian Boat to Gaza (CBG) is dismissing Foreign Affairs Minister Baird’s misinformation about the upcoming flotilla, and is promising to sail with the Freedom Flotilla II next month. John Baird, newly appointed Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister, has taken to discouraging Canadians from participating in the upcoming flotilla, which aims to break the siege of Gaza.
CBG views Minister Baird’s statement as an attempt to abdicate the Canadian Government’s obligation to ensure the safety of the Canadians who will be on board the flotilla, including the Canadian boat Tahrir and to justify, in advance, any crimes Israel may commit against peaceful unarmed civilians from Canada and all over the world, as it did a year ago tomorrow.
“We are sailing to change the unjust and illegal situation Israel imposes on Gaza and to challenge the Canadian government’s support for those policies,” says Wendy Goldsmith, CBG steering committee member.
“Baird has characterized the Freedom Flotillas as “provocative”. How is aid provocative? How is standing up for international law and social justice provocative? How is it provocative to work for the freedom of the 1.5 million Palestinians in the open air prison of Gaza?” asks Ehab Lotayef, a CBG spokesperson.
“What’s provocative is the government of Israel’s impunity and systemic violations of international law,” says Lotayef. “What’s provocative is the Harper government acting as an apologist for all of Israel’s actions, even when they are illegal and immoral, like the siege of Gaza. CBG and the flotilla are nonviolent direct responses to Israeli provocation.”
In his statement Mr. Baird mentions Israel’s right to prevent the smuggling of weapons. “What is he trying to imply?” asks Goldsmith. “If Mr. Baird has any doubts about our mission or what we will carry, we invite him or any Canadian body to inspect the Canadian Boat to Gaza.” She added.
“We would like to remind Mr. Baird that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), one of the official channels to send aid to Gaza, has itself said: “all States have an obligation to allow and facilitate rapid and unimpeded passage of all relief consignments, equipment and personnel [into Gaza],” not just those passing through channels approved by the government of Israel.”  said Lotayef.
CBG is a civilian to civilian initiative funded by citizens and civil society organizations and did not benefit from any government funding or taxpayers funds as some misinformed media reports mentioned lately.
Ship to Gaza Sweden on Ban-Ki Moons statement
A letter has recently been sent to some of the Mediterranean governments from the UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon, due to his concern about the new flotillas upcoming voyage towards Gaza. The view held by the Secretary-General is that aid and goods should be transported through what he refers to as “legitimate border crossings and existing channels”.
This is completely in accordance with the view held by Ship to Gaza and Freedom Flotilla.
What channel could be more existing than the open sea, what kinds of border crossing could be more legitimate than crossing through the international waters?
Further, the Secretary-General urges some of the Mediterranean governments to dissuade its citizens from participation in fleets which could end up in violent confrontations.
Once again, there is nothing Ship to Gaza can do other than concur to his view. However, what could be peace-promoting to a greater extent than non-violent actions in solidarity from peoples to peoples, human to human?
Ship to Gaza also agree to the fundamentals of a third remark, in the analysis made by the Secretary-General, namely, the one where he points out that flotillas can’t solve the essential economic problems in Gaza. “What is required” – argues Ban-Ki Moon, now pointing towards the Israeli government – is meaningful and far-reaching measures to end the encirclement of Gaza.
We could not have expressed our ambitions with Ship to Gaza and Freedom Flotilla better by ourselves!