Early this morning, in international waters some 100 miles from Gaza’s coastline, Israeli commandoes forcibly boarded a peaceful convoy of aid ships that was headed to Gaza city.
Exact numbers are not yet known, but so far at least 16, possibly 20 volunteers aboard the main ship, the [i]Mavi Marmara[/i], are confirmed to have been murdered by Israeli forces, who were using live fire against the people on board. Dozens more have been wounded and all passengers have been abducted to an unknown location in Israel.
The 800 volunteers trying to deliver 10,000 tonnes of vital aid to Gaza are from 40 countries and include parliamentarians, journalists, women, children and the elderly. Forty members of the flotilla are British.
The flotilla’s cargo of essential supplies denied to Palestinians under the illegal blockade includes 2,100 tonnes of cement, 600 tonnes of iron bars and 150 tonnes of iron, all needed for reconstruction of houses and infrastructure that were destroyed by the brutal Israeli massacre of Dec 08-Jan 09, which left more than 1,417 Palestinians dead and 5,000 wounded, many of whom were maimed for life.
Also on board are 18 large and 80 small electricity generators, 50 large and 40 small prefab houses, 16 complete children’s playground kits, sports equipment including footballs and basketballs, $1m worth of medical equipment including a complete dental kit, construction and hardware supplies. The ships are carrying stationery supplies including crayons, pens and 20 tonnes of paper for schools,as well as textiles and food, including chocolate for Gaza’s children, currently banned by Israel.
The youngest passenger on the [i]Mavi Marmara[/i] is a one-year-old baby; the eldest is a Palestinian leader in his 80s, who vividly remembers the 1948 [i]Nakba[/i] (‘catastrophe’), when Israel massacred thousands of innocent Palestinian civilians and drove hundreds of thousands into exile. Sixty-two years later, despite a plethora of UN resolutions condemning Israel and demanding the right of return for these Palestinian refugees, they and their descendants still live in refugee camps.
The volunteers and peace activists of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla are unarmed. Their power lies not in weapons but in their determination to act where governments have refused. Standing in solidarity with their Palestinian brothers and sisters against Israel’s brutal, illegal occupation of Palestine and against the collective punishment of 1.7 million people (more than half of whom are children) living under siege, they have raised money in their communities to bring life-saving supplies to the besieged people of Gaza.
The volunteers on the flotilla represent the vast mass of humanity. They are upholding international law, which Israel, the US and Britain flout with impunity in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan (to name but three). And they are part of a growing international movement to show Israel that the world will not stand by and allow the siege to succeed and the Palestinians to be starved into submission.
It is significant that the Freedom Flotilla is supported by the Director of Operations for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA), John Ging, who says that Gaza deserves the same urgent international assistance that Haiti did.
Before the flotilla sailed, he said, “We believe that Israel will not intercept these vessels because the sea is open, and human rights organisations have been successful in similar previous operations proving that breaking the siege of Gaza is possible.” Although his optimism proved misplaced, such open encouragement by an influential figure within the UN itself makes it clear just how isolated Israel has become.
George Galloway, reacting to news of the assault this morning, described it as “one of the most dastardly attacks on humanitarian aid workers in recent times” going on to state that “amidst the wreckage of the Freedom Flotilla is what remains of Israel’s reputation as a member of the international community”.
Caoimhe Butterly, an activist with the Free Gaza movement on board the [i]Rachel Corrie[/i], stated in a video call for action: “It’s essential that it’s understood that this flotilla is legitimate, that we are attempting to uphold international law, that we have the conscience of the world on our side and that what we are doing is … the sort of actions that our governments should be and are not.
“In the direct silence and complicity of our governments, the people lead and the leaders follow …
“Through supporting this flotilla, you are supporting the daily resistance, endurance and steadfastness of the Palestinian people and their refusal to be broken. We’ve got to up the ante. We’ve got to understand that the urgency of the situation in Gaza demands our action, demands mobilisations, and we have to be willing to take some of the risks and sacrifices that our Palestinian brothers, sisters and comrades are forced to endure on a daily basis.
“It is an honour to be part of this struggle. It is an honour to join a people who continue to resist in conditions that would break most people. So please mobilise … and show your solidarity with the Palestinian people in struggle. It’s time to act.”
The CPGB-ML sends its heartfelt condolences to the families of those brave volunteers who have died and our sympathies those who have been wounded and their families. We share the anxiety of all those who have friends and family on board the ships whose current state and whereabouts is unknown.
We join all freedom and justice-loving peoples of the world in demanding the immediate release of the hundreds of unarmed volunteers taken prisoner by the Israeli pirates.
Let the sacrifice of our comrades not be in vain. They pledged to keep coming back until the sea was open and the siege on Gaza finally broken. Let us take up their pledge. Let there be no peace for any Israeli official – or for their funders and backers in Washington and London – while the volunteers remain prisoner or while the siege remains in place on Gaza.
And let us take heart from the fact that by this latest act of barbarism, Israel has knocked yet another nail into its own coffin and taken another giant stride down the road of self-destruction.
We send a red salute to all those activists who are playing their role in this struggle against imperialist domination of the Middle East. In the immortal words of Joe Hill: “Don’t mourn – organise!”
[b]Long live the martyrs of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla!
Hound the warmongers!
Long live Palestine![/b]