Now we set sails towards the Gaza Strip!

June 25, 2012

For nearly a month more than 100 residents of the town of Umeå in northern Sweden have been working on the 90 year old schooner Estelle in top condition before the long journey towards the Gaza Strip. This Tuesday we weigh anchor and head for our first milestone: the island Gotland in the Baltic sea and the Almedalen week there.

The commitment for Ship To Gaza in the town of Umeå and the region of Västerbotten can only be described as overwhelming. People of all ages have helped us prepare the boat. We have grinded off corrosion, painted and renovated. Even seemingly impossible problems have been solved. When the worn out mizzen boom was to be replaced we were contacted by a man offering to take down a pine tree which was then planed, stained and painted with tar before finally being mounted by yet more volunteers.

In parallel with the practical work there has been children’s theater performed on the ship, lectures held at the university, a fundraising party hosted at Scharinska, along with other cultural events in Umeå in support of Ship To Gaza. Umeå has also been visited by Hanan Abu Nasser, from the Gaza Strip, who told about the situation there and the importance of initiatives like Ship To Gaza.

The departure is scheduled for twelve o’clock noon on Tuesday. We will be able to specify the departure time further during Monday. Be there well ahead of time for a tour of the ship.
Please contact us as soon as possible if there is interest in journalists joining Estelle onboard for a shorter part, or all the way of the journey to Nynäshamn or Visby.

Umeå welcomes Ship to Gaza: Now is the time for lifting the siege on the people of Gaza!

May 31, 2012

A rich programme of events is expecting when Ship to Gazas sailing
vessel M/S Estelle arrives in Holmsund, the harbour of Umeå in the north of Sweden.
Thursday May 31 marks the second anniversary of the violent Israeli
commando-attack on the first Freedom Flotilla. Nine people were killed,
one is still in a coma, and around 50 were injured. The attack aroused world
wide resent and led to a diplomatic crisis between Israel and Turkey. Legal
consequences of this act of piracy are yet to come. The storm of critique led to
some easing of the inhumane, illegal and for all parties destructive siege.
Our thoughts are today with the killed and their relatives. We will not
forget them and will celebrate their memory with a minute’s silence:
Çetin Topçuoglu, Ibrahim Bilgen, Ali Haydar Bengi, Cevdet Kiliçlar,
Fahri Yaldiz, Necdet Yildrum, Cengiz Songür, Cengiz Akyüz, Furkan
Doan.
But our thoughts are also with the besieged people of Gaza. In a few
days the siege is running on the sixth year. More than a quarter of
a million children have been born under this absurd imprisonment,
which least of all serves its stated purpose: Security for Israel and its
citizens. On the contrary more and more people start to realise that
the siege is a prime obstacle to a development towards a just and
sustainable peace. No security, but bitterness and violence will be
created through denying people their human rights, and their basic
means of making a living.
This is why we are making a new effort to end the siege. We do this
through sailing all the way between Umeå in the north of Sweden to
Gaza, a distance of 5000 nautical miles. In the ports on our journey
there will be debates, concerts and popular events. But this is not
a pleasure trip. It is not without risk to challenge one of the most
powerful military forces of the world. Last year two of the Freedom
Flotilla boats were sabotaged in Greek and Turkish ports, and Israeli
naval forces forcefully intercepted three boats.
Through our action we are sending a clear signal to the international
community, who declares its commitment to human rights and
international law, but which is paralysed in action when it comes to
intervening against Israel’s blatant violation of these. We are also
sending a message of hope to the besieged Palestinians in Gaza: You
are not alone. The world has not forgotten. With united forces we
will end the siege.

Ship to Gaza-Sweden
http://www.shiptogaza.se
Spokespersons:
Dror Feiler: +46 702855777
Mattias Gardell: +46 703036666
Ann Ighe: +46 709740739
Victoria Strand + 46 727356564
Media co-ordinator:
Mikael Löfgren: +46 707983643
media@shiptogaza.se

Nu ska blockaden hävas! – Umeå arrangerar minnesstund, konserter och kraftsamling inför sommarens Ship to Gaza

May 30, 2012

När Ship to Gazas segelskuta M/S Estelle anlöper Holmsund väntar ett digert program, organiserat av den fantastiska lokalföreningen i Umeå. Ship to Gaza stöds av respekterade medborgare i staden som journalisten Sverker Olofsson, förre landshövdingen Georg Andersson, V-ledaren Jonas Sjöstedt, prästen Lisa Tegby, musikern Dennis Lyxzén, chefredaktören Lena Sandlin med flera. Annika Norlin (Säkert, Hello Saferide) uppträder på en solidaritetsgala.
Torsdagen den 31 maj är det exakt två år sedan som israeliska kommandosoldater långt ute på internationellt vatten överföll den första fredliga och obeväpnade Frihetsflottan. Nio människor dödades, en ligger alltjämt i koma, ett 50-tal skadades. Överfallet väckte internationell avsky och ledde till en diplomatisk kris mellan Israel och Turkiet. De rättsliga konsekvenserna av piratdådet har vi ännu bara sett början på. Kritikstormen resulterade i vissa lättnader av den omänskliga, olagliga och för alla inblandade fördärvliga blockaden.
På årsdagen går våra tankar till de dödade och deras anhöriga. Vi glömmer dem aldrig och hyllar deras minne med en tyst minut: Çetin Topçuoglu, Ibrahim Bilgen, Ali Haydar Bengi, Cevdet Kiliçlar, Fahri Yaldiz, Necdet Yildrum, Cengiz Songür, Cengiz Akyüz, Furkan Doan.
Våra tankar går också till Gazas instängda och belägrade befolkning. Om några dagar går blockaden in på sitt sjätte år. Fler än en kvarts miljon barn har fötts i denna absurda fångenskap som minst av allt uppfyller det syfte blockaden sägs tjäna: säkerhet för staten Israel och dess medborgare. Tvärtom inser allt fler att blockadpolitiken är det största hindret för utvecklingen mot en rättvis och varaktig fred. Ingen säkerhet skapas genom att förneka människor och folk deras mänskliga och medborgerliga rättigheter. Så skapas bara bitterhet, konflikt och våld.
Därför genomför Ship to Gaza denna sommar 2012 ett nytt försök att häva den fördärvliga och meningslösa blockaden. Vi gör det genom att segla hela vägen från Umeå till Gaza, en sträcka på 5000 sjömil. I hamnar på vägen kommer det, precis som i Umeå, anordnas debatter, konserter och kanske en och annan välkomstpicknick. Men resan är ingen utflykt för vårt höga nöjes skull. Det är inte riskfritt att utmana en av världens starkaste militärmakter. Förra sommaren saboterades två av Frihetsflottans båtar när de låg i grekisk och turkisk hamn.
Vi vill genom vår aktion skicka en tydlig signal till det internationella samfund som säger sig värna mänskliga rättigheter och folkrätt men blir som förlamat när det i handling ska inskrida mot Israels flagranta överträdelser mot dessa principer. Vi vill också skicka ett hoppets budskap till Gazas instängda befolkning: Ni står inte ensamma. Omvärlden har inte glömt er. Tillsammans med alla goda krafter i Palestina, Israel och resten av världen ska blockaden hävas en gång för alla.

Välkommen till följande arrangemang i Umeå de närmaste dagarna

1) Minnesstund med blicken framåt! Mattias Gardell och Dror Feiler, talespersoner för Ship to Gaza, berättar på årsdagen om attacken på Frihetsflottan 2010, minns människorna som dödades och presenterar Ship to Gazas planer för 2012. Tid: 31 maj kl 16.00. Plats: Hörsal A, Samhällsvetarhuset. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/311084768968779/

2) Dror Feiler: Musik, Politik och Aktivism. Tonsättaren, musikern, konstnären och politiske aktivisten Dror Feiler gästar Ögonblicksteatern. Dror varvar egenkomponerad musik med berättelser från sina resor med Ship to Gaza. Tid: 1 juni kl 19.00. Plats: Ögonblicksteatern. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/417026471665390/



3) Ship to Gazas välkomstpicknick. Ta med en filt och lite mat så firar vi att skeppet Estelle har anlänt! Tid: 2 juni kl 14.00. Plats: Oljekajen i Obbola
(Buss 123 från Vasaplan kl. 13.10, stig av vid hållplats “Obbola centralhållplats” och följ markeringarna).

4) Ship to Gaza-kväll på Scharinska. Dror Feiler, A Lanky Swede, Patrik Backlund, Annika Norlin, Frida Selander och Two White Horses spelar under kvällen! Tid: 2 juni kl. 21-02 (spelningen börjar kl 22). 100 kr /20 år. Plats: Scharinska. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/311084768968779/

Ship to Gaza-Sverige
http://www.shiptogaza.se
Talespersoner:
Dror Feiler: +46 702855777
Mattias Gardell: +46 703036666
Ann Ighe: +46 709740739
Victoria Strand + 46 727356564
Mediekoordinator:
Mikael Löfgren: +46 707983643
media@shiptogaza.se

Blockade supporters, Ship to Gaza and “Ship to Syria”

April 24, 2012

I’m thrilled that the friends of the occupation, the friends of the separation wall and the friends of the blockade (take notice that I do not call them friends of Israel)—i.e. those who directly or indirectly support Israel’s systematic violations of international law—have all found a new “fresh” voice. It is going to be fascinating to watch Paula Neuding attempt to follow the same script as the friends of the occupation, friends of the separation wall and the friends of the blockade are following. Suddenly, everyone who defends/supports/understands Israel’s criminal policies is writing about “Ship to Syria”. It’s almost enough to make you laugh. If one were to think in terms of conspiracies, one would believe that someone had given the green light for a so-called “Ship to Syria” campaign.
Jackie Jackubowski in Expressen, Paula Neuding in SvD, Lisa Abramowicz on Newsmill,Benjamin Greber on Newsmill and Lars Anders Johansson in Barometern all write in what appears to be a well-orchestrated campaign quite reminiscent of past pro-Eastern Bloc campaigns. Ship to Gaza can only take note that these writers (propagandists of support for Israel’s criminal policies would be more accurately put) are acknowledging that Ship to Gaza has set a standard of sorts for international solidarity actions that enjoy extensive popular support. Of course, the articles make claims about us that we will respond to at another time and place. But, mostly, these articles are doing Ship to Gaza a favor. In fact, they rightly ask why our methods are not being implemented in other crisis situations in which our politicians have failed us.
Ship to Gaza strongly encourages these writers to put their words into action, just like we have done in the case of Gaza. If they are serious about wanting to support those who are standing up to Assad, they ought to organize demonstrations and solidarity actions. I promise that if they show up in city squares we will put money into their collection boxes.
Solidarity with the distressed people of Gaza does not stand in contrast with solidarity with other people in need; on the contrary, they fit hand in glove. The day these writers express their support for “Ship to Syria” as well as for Ship to Gaza we will take their words about human rights seriously. The day they show us that they truly support the people of Syria (and other oppressed people) we will know that their words amount to more than just rhetoric in a well- (or perhaps poorly-?) orchestrated campaign.

Blockadvännerna, Ship to Gaza och Ship to Syria

April 23, 2012

Det är kul att ockupationsvännerna, murvännerna och blockadvännerna (ni märker väl att jag inte kallar de för Israelvänner) dvs. de som stödjer direkt eller indirekt Israels folkrättsvidriga politik har fått en ny ”fräsch” röst att tillgå. Det bli intressant att se hur Paula Neuding kan följa manuset som ockupationsvännerna, murvännerna och blockadvännerna verka följa. Plötsligt skriver alla som försvarar/stödjer/förstår Israels folkrättsvidriga politik om ”Ship to Syria”. Det är nästan skrattretande. Skulle man vara benägen att tänka konspirativt så skulle man tro på att någon har gett ett klartecken för en så kallad ”Ship to Syria” kampanj.

När t.ex. Jackie Jackubowski i Expressen, Paula Neuding i SvD, Lisa Abramowicz i Newsmill, Benjamin Greber i Newsmill Och Lars Anders Johansson i Barometern skriver som i väl orkestrerad kampanj som påminner oss om forna öststatskampanjer kan vi i ”Ship to Gaza” konstatera att skribenterna (propagandister för Israelsfolkrättsvidriga politik skulle vara rättare att säga) bekräftar bara att ”Ship to Gaza” har skapat en sorts standard för internationella solidarietetsaktioner med stort folkligt stöd. Artiklarna innehåller förstås påståenden om oss som vi kommer att bemöta på tid och plats som passar oss, Men jag kan konstatera att artiklarna närmast gör ”Ship to Gaza” en tjänst. Man frågar faktiskt varför vår metod inte används i fler sammanhang där det råder en nödsituation och där politikerna sviker.

Vi i ”Ship to Gaza” uppmana dessa skribenter att (precis som vi gjort i fallet Gaza) skrida till handling. Om de menar allvar med att de vill stödja de som gör uppror mot Assad bör de organisera demonstrationer och solidaritetsrörelser. Jag lovar att om de ställer sig i olika stadscentra med insamlingsbössor så kommer vi att lägga pengar i dem.

Solidaritet med Gazas nödställda folk står inte i motsättning till solidaritet med ett annat, tvärtom de stödjer varandra. Den dag dessa skribenter uttalar sitt stöd för såväl ”Ship to Syria” som ”Ship to Gaza” kommer vi att ta deras ord om mänskliga rättigheter på allvar, att de verkligen stöder Syriens folk (och andra förtryckta folk) och att det inte bara är en tom retorisk gest i en (väl?) orkestrerad kampanj.

Ship to Gaza is buying Estelle

April 3, 2012

At a press conference the 4th of April 11.00 in Läntinen Rantakatu 67, Turku, Finland, Ship to Gaza Sweden’s spokesperson Dror Feiler, will announce the purchase of the Finnish sailing ship Estelle. The ship has been in the possession and care of Eestaas Ltd since 1985, and been used for fair trade and sea travels between Northern Europe and Africa. These are traditions that will be maintained and cherished by Ship to Gaza, a non-violent initiative and act of solidarity with one purpose: To end the inhumane and illegal siege on Gaza and its 1.6 million Palestinian inhabitants.

Estelle will be an important tool in our coming effort to end the siege. In 2010, a large, Israeli naval force, killing nine passengers and injuring some 50 people, attacked a peaceful flotilla. In 2011, a Greek government under hard pressure resigned to the Israeli blockade and detained a second Freedom Flotilla of boats in Greek ports. This was forceful and in violation of international law as well as EU laws. No government was heard to protest against this full-fledged breach with the EU principle of Freedom of movement, for people and for goods.

Freedom of movement is something the people of Gaza can only dream of. The near five year long blockade is devastating in its efficiency in keeping people and goods from moving in and out of Gaza. Enclosed in this small enclave, the people are regularly the object for attacks from Israeli military. In the aftermaths of the Flotilla in 2010, an Israeli government under pressure declared some relaxation in the blockade. This has proven to be a trick, an illusion. Illegal, collective punishment keeps on hitting people every day, week and month. Imports are, with generous calculations, approaching 40 % of the pre-blockade levels. Exports are all but eradicated and large shares of the population are dependent on international aid. The crisis is acute when it comes to power, fuel, water resources and sanitation. Maybe worst of all, is the isolation from family, friends, universities and other parts of society in the occupied territories.
Since the introduction of the blockade, 350 000 children has been born in Gaza. They know no other reality than the world’s largest open-air prison.

In March 2012 The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed concern regarding “the dramatic and disproportionate impact of the Israeli Defence Forces’ blockade and military operations on Palestinians’ right to housing and basic services in the Gaza Strip”. The international community have many times condemned the blockade, and deemed it illegal. But this is not turned in to action, and mere lip service is paid to common principles and values: Human Rights. This passiveness forms a backdrop to our engagement for Ship to Gaza. We pose a simple question to ourselves and to others: Are Palestinians human beings? If the answer is yes, then the Palestinians have to be acknowledged with the same inalienable rights as others. If the answer is no? Then one has out-defined one self, rather than those one seeks to de-humanise.

The siege is not only inhumane and illegal. It is also counter-productive. When will the Arab spring, be allowed to cross the border into Gaza?

Ship to Gaza will in 2012, in a joint-effort with partners realise a whole new project, all over Europe. We will this time sail from the Nordic waters to Gaza, via harbours in the Baltic, the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. In every harbour we will organise events: In music, discussions and our voyage we will spread the word about the situation for Gaza and its people. We will bring much wanted cargo. Many will have the opportunity to participate in this peaceful journey for solidarity, on one of the many laps we will make on the way from the North to Gaza. S/V Estelle will be our ship and we will perpetuate her proud tradition to sail for fair trade and human rights.

Ship to Gaza-Sweden

http://www.shiptogaza.se

Spokespersons:
Dror Feiler: +46 702855777
Mattias Gardell: +46 703036666
Ann Ighe: +46 709740739
Victoria Strand + 46 727356564

Media co-ordinator:
Mikael Löfgren: +46 707983643
media@shiptogaza.se

För more information on Estelle’s past:
http://www.estelle.fi/en/estelle
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SV_Estelle

FREEDOM FLOTILLA II PRESS STATEMENT Palmer/Uribe Report Whitewashes Israeli Crimes

September 4, 2011

FREEDOM FLOTILLA II
PRESS STATEMENT

Sunday, 4 September 2011
For immediate release

Palmer/Uribe Report Whitewashes Israeli Crimes

Sadly the Palmer/Uribe Report on the 31 May 2010 Flotilla Incident, leaked to the New York Times on 1 September, is an expected whitewash of Israeli crimes. While it blames Israeli forces for using excessive force when they raided our Gaza-bound civilian ships, it erroneously justifies Israel’s blockade of Gaza, casts doubts on the intentions of the flotilla organizers, and does not seek accountability for perpetrators of human rights abuses.

The Palmer/Uribe Panel was flawed from its inception. The appointment of ex-Colombian President Alvaro Uribe as the Panel’s vice-chair casts serious doubt on the integrity and impartiality of the Panel. Uribe’s intimate association with the military and paramilitary practice of murdering civilians in Colombia and notorious disdain for human rights defenders makes his appointment to a Panel dealing with human rights issues problematic. Furthermore, Uribe’s government is on record as advocating closer military cooperation with Israel. [1]

In addition to the problems in the composition of the Panel, its goal was not to arrive at the truth of what happened or to seek justice for victims, but rather to reach political compromise in order to repair relations between Israel and Turkey. The mandate of the Panel was limited to reviewing the reports of the national investigations by Turkey and Israel, and it did not interview witnesses or otherwise conduct an in-depth objective investigation. This is a political attempt to overshadow the only independent and impartial investigation and report on the flotilla raid, which was commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council (A/HRC/15/21) and conducted by three internationally renowned human rights experts. The findings and recommendations of this report, released on 23 September 2010 have yet to be acted on by the United Nations.

One of the most outrageous findings of this Panel is that Israel had a right to impose the naval blockade on Gaza as a “legitimate security measure.” This finding completely ignores the fact that the naval blockade is part of an overall closure regime that numerous human rights bodies, including various UN agencies, have declared illegal. Furthermore, it ignores incontrovertible evidence that the naval blockade and overall closure are not about security, but rather about putting pressure on the people of Gaza. Israeli leaders are on record noting that the purpose of the blockade is economic warfare – to keep the Gaza economy on the brink of collapse in order to pressure the civilians to rise up against the Hamas government. [2]

Using civilians as a means of pressuring a government violates international humanitarian law, which prohibits intentionally harming civilians, and constitutes collective punishment, forbidden under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

The Palmer/Uribe Report mistakenly identifies IHH as the “leading group involved in the planning of the flotilla,” accuses us (the Freedom Flotilla organizers) of acting recklessly, and casts doubt on the humanitarian nature of our action (pages 46-48). Six non-governmental, international civil society organizations, all having equal say and responsibility, planned Freedom Flotilla I. Our action was a legitimate form of nonviolent direct action. We reject the Panel’s finding that Israeli soldiers faced “organized violence.” What the heavily armed commandos faced while they tried to forcefully take over the Mavi Marmara on the high seas was legitimate acts of non-armed self-defense by a handful of passengers, acting against unwarranted aggression.

Although our ships carried 10,000 tons of much needed cargo for the people of Gaza, we have repeatedly stated that our goal is to break the illegal blockade of Gaza, not simply to deliver aid. The humanitarian crisis that exists in Gaza is a result of a deliberate, illegal and immoral policy. To challenge that policy in order to bring an end to the cause of people’s suffering is humanitarian.

While the Report correctly faults Israel for using excessive force on unarmed civilians, it does not call for accountability. The Report notes that Israel has not accounted for the forensic evidence showing that most of the nine volunteers killed were shot multiple times, including in the back, or at close range, or for the consistent accounts of abuse suffered by other volunteers at the hands of Israeli forces. The Report’s recommendation that Israel simply express regret over the incident is insulting to the victims and their families, and seriously undermines international human rights and humanitarian law.

Finally the report fails to address the issue of the remaining four ships of Freedom Flotilla I still held by Israel as well as its refusal to return to the passengers over $1 million in money and equipment including cameras and videos which are of evidential value.

We welcome Turkey’s decision to downgrade relations with Israel, expelling the Israeli ambassador, and cancelling military ties, as well as its statement that it will take legal action against those Israelis responsible for the attack on the flotilla. Such sanctions are needed in order to put an end to the impunity with which Israel has been violating Palestinian human rights and disregarding international law.

European poll reveals changing perceptions of conflict in Palestine

March 25, 2011

Al Jazeera Centre for Studies in conjunction with the Middle East Monitor (MEMO) and the European Muslim Research Centre (EMRC) at Exeter University carried out a joint study in January 2011 to gauge British and European perceptions on the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict. No major study of this kind has been undertaken on a European level since October 2003, when a survey conducted by the European Commission revealed that approximately 60% of Europeans saw Israel as the greatest threat to world peace.

This report presents the findings of a research study conducted by the polling institution ICM Government & Social Research Unit on behalf of Al Jazeera, MEMO and the EMRC. ICM interviewed 7,045 adults across six major European countries: Britain, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy.

See Middle East Monitor:

Key findings

A few of the most salient points drawn out from our study include the following. Of the adults surveyed:

* 50% believe that being critical of Israel does NOT make a person anti-Semitic;
* 70% believe that the pro-Israel lobby influences the media;
* 67% believe that the pro-Israel lobby influences the political agenda;
* 58% believe that European Law should not be changed to make it easier for those accused of war crimes to visit Europe;
* 65% believe that Israel does not treat all religious groups equally;
* 45% believe that Hamas should be INCLUDED in Israel-Palestine peace talks;
* 41% believe that Israel’s oppression of Palestinians is one of the biggest obstacles to peace in the Middle East;
* 40% believe that Israeli settlements are the biggest obstacles to peace in the Middle East;
* 51% thought of the Gaza Strip when they heard the words “Israel-Palestine conflict”;
* 34% believe that Israel is not a democracy but 65% believe that (democracy or not) there is oppression and domination by one religious group in Israel over another;
* 13% consider Israel to be the bigger threat to world peace compared with only 7% who said the same of the Palestinians;
* 53% were aware that Israel’s economic blockade of the Gaza Strip is illegal;
* 64% stated that the Israeli armed response to the boats carrying supplies to the Gaza Strip in May 2010 was illegal;
* 60% were aware that the Israeli ground incursion into the Gaza Strip during the winter of 2008-2009 was illegal;
* 48% think that Israel exploits the history of the suffering of the Jewish people in Europe to generate public support;
* 39% believe that the Israel-Palestine conflict fuels “Islamophobia” in Europe; and
* 54% believe that Jerusalem should be a neutral international city.

FREEDOM FLOTILLA 2

February 7, 2011

THE FREEDOM FLOTILLA 2 WILL SAIL TO GAZA DURING THE LAST TWO WEEKS OF MAY 2011

The city of Madrid (Spain) hosted on 4th, 5th and 6th February 2011 the meeting of delegates from different organizations that comprise the International Coalition of the Freedom Flotilla II. The meeting, organized by the host delegation Rumbo a Gaza, was attended by delegates from Algeria, Canada, Scotland, Spain, France, Greece, Holland, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey. Also, in the course of the meeting, updates were received about the work of organizations in Germany, Australia, Belgium and Denmark.

The organizations gathered in Madrid reiterated our strongest condemnation and rejection of systematic aggression that the State of Israel has inflicted on the Palestinian people for over 60 years and its continued violations of international law. We also denounce the passivity, if not outright complicity of our governments to actions that constitute a crime against humanity.

The Gaza Strip has become a symbol of the systematic and planned aggression against the entire Palestinian people. For almost five years, over a million and half people have been subjected to a criminal and illegal blockade, a medieval siege in which the State of Israel has become the master of life and death for Gazans. This collective punishment combined with devastating military attacks launched by Israel’s army on the defenseless population of the Gaza Strip: 500 killed in Operation Summer Rains 2006, more than 1,400 killed in Operation Cast Lead December 2008 and January 2009, more than 80 killed in 2010 during various other assaults.

Gaza is a territory intentionally reduced to misery. 80% of its inhabitants depend on humanitarian aid for food, 70% of households live on less than one euro per day for each of its members, over 40% of the population is unemployed. The State of Israel has kidnapped people physically as well as kidnapping their rights, their dreams and hopes as they have been doing for more than 60 years.

Because of the silence and inaction of our governments to these crimes against humanity, the international civil society campaign has grown since 2008 when the siege was broken for the first time by two small boats and last year the first Freedom Flotilla was launched. A well known fact, the Israeli army attacked this Flotilla in international waters, in what constituted a flagrant violation of international shipping laws, murdering nine activists, injuring 50 others, kidnapping everyone on board, and hijacking the boats.

More determined than ever to break and end the blockade, the Coalition announced today that during the second half of May 2011 Freedom Flotilla II will sail. To this end there will be at least twice as many boats carrying many more volunteers and more aid. The expedition will sail in order to force Israel to respect international law and to mobilize civil societies’ support and solidarity with the Palestinian population of Gaza as well as bring attention to the wider issue of the host of human rights abuses carried out by the Israeli state against the entire population of Palestine.

We are closely following the big change that is being brought in Tunisia, Egypt and the wider Arab world by the emergence of civil societies’ demand for true democracy, social justice, freedom and respect of human rights. The long Palestinian struggle against occupation and violence deserves the support of the international community. Freedom Flotilla II integrate its action into that large movement focusing on breaking and ending the siege in Gaza. Palestinian people and historically, Mediterranean Sea people, have the same rights on their territory, territorial waters and air space. Therefore our expedition, Freedom Flotilla II, has become more important and necessary than ever.

We will sail to Gaza until Palestine is free!

International Coalition of the Freedom Flotilla II
Madrid, 7th February 2011

The Welcoming Ceremony For the Mavi Marmara

December 28, 2010

The Mavi Marmara “finally returned home after 219 days since the incident on may 31. Tens of thousands of people attended a welcome ceremony for the ship,” according to a press release from the Turkish IHH [Insani Yardim Vakfi – Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief – Dec 26, 2010].
The Mavi Marmara was accompanied by 80 small boats and people were waving flags of Palestine and Turkey to welcome the ship. Turkish citizens as well as hundreds of activists from 50 different countries participated in the event. Photo’s of the 9 “activists” who died during the Israeli raid were displayed at the ship. People were shouting slogans condemning Israel and showing banners protesting against the blockade of Gaza.
Among others the IHH President Bülent Yildirim spoke at the welcoming ceremony and the family members of the 9 dead “activists” attended the ceremony as well as the Swedish-Israeli “leftist activist” Dror Elimelech Feiler [1], Free Gaza legal advisor Audrey Bomse, Muhammad Sawalha (from the International Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza), Mazen Kahel (from the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza) and Ship to Gaza Greece representative Demetris Pleionis. [IHH website, Dec 26, 2010]

Photo Gallery

[1] Dror Feiler’s father met with PLO representatives in Rumania in 1978 while this was still illegal at the time. Dror Elimelech was also one of the first “refuseniks” to serve in the disputed territories. He is chairman of the Swedish organization Jews for Israeli-Palestinian Peace (JIPF) and the European organization European Jews for a Just Peace (EJJP). He was aboard the Swedish Greek boat “Sofia” involved in the Gaza flotilla clash.


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