• August 23, 2008

Gaza Boats: The SS Free Gaza & SS Liberty are on their Way to Gaza!

Gaza Boats: The SS Free Gaza & SS Liberty are on their Way to Gaza!

Forty-six international human rights workers are now sailing to Gaza through


international waters with one overriding goal: to break the Israeli siege that


Israel has imposed on the civilian population of Gaza .  Any action designed to


harm civilians constitutes collective punishment (in the Palestinians’ case,


for voting the “wrong” way) and is both illegal under international law and


profoundly immoral.  Our mission is to expose the illegality of Israel ’s


actions, and to break through the siege in order to express our solidarity with


the suffering people of Gaza (and of the occupied Palestinian territory as a


whole) and to create a free and regular channel between Gaza and the outside


world.


 


Israel claims that since the “disengagement” in 2005 it no longer occupies


Gaza .  However, the International Committee of the Red Cross and other


international human rights organizations reject this claim since Israel still


exerts effective control over Gaza .  As an Occupying Power, Israel has a


responsibility for the well-being of the people of Gaza under the provisions of


the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention.  Israel has abused its control and


responsibilities by wrongfully obstructing vital supplies and humanitarian


assistance to the people of Gaza . 


 


As Israel ’s 41-year occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip defies


international consensus, and because Israel has grossly violated its


obligations, we do not recognize Israel ’s right to stop us outside its own


territorial waters, which we will not be approaching.  To remove any


“security” pretense that Israel may raise, we have had our boats inspected


and certified by Cypriot authorities that they carry no arms or contraband of


any kind.  We have invited Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to join us on


our voyage and, in fact, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs has itself


told us the Israeli government “assume[s] that your intentions are good.”


 


We are human rights activists, invited to visit Gaza by our Palestinian


partners, and each of us has vowed to do no violence, in either word or deed.


If Israel chooses to forcibly stop and search our ships, we will not forcibly


resist.  Such a search will be under duress and with our formal protest.  After


such a search, we fully expect the Israeli navy to stand aside, as we continue


peacefully to Gaza .  If we are arrested and brought to Israel , we will


protest and prosecute our kidnapping in the appropriate forums.  It is our


purpose to show the power that ordinary citizens of the world have when they


organize together to stand against injustice.  Let there be no doubt: the


policies of repression against the civilian population of Gaza represent gross


violations of human rights, international humanitarian law, and constitute war


crimes.  The goal of our voyage is to break the illegal siege on the people of


Gaza, and end the Israeli occupation of Palestine.