LARNACA Oct. 29 - The Free Gaza Movement is delighted to announce that their third boat, the Dignity, carrying 27 crew and passengers, arrived in Gaza at 8:10 Gaza time, in spite of Israeli threats to stop them. In the pouring rain, the boat pulled into port amid cheers from the people of Gaza and tears from the passengers. David Schermerhorn, a crew member called an hour before the boat entered Gazan waters to say, "There is a rainbow stretching across the Mediterranean from where we are right now."
Yesterday, the Israeli Navy said they would stop our vessel once it reached Israel's territorial waters. Apparently to save face, they said they would harm our boat, arrest us and tow us IF we entered Israeli waters. The problem for Israel is that the Dignity had no intention of getting anywhere near those waters.
One of the organizers, Huwaida Arraf, cheered, "Once again we've been able to defy an unjust and illegal policy while the rest of the world is too intimidated to do anything. Our small boat is a huge cry to the international community to follow in our footsteps and open a lifeline to the people of Gaza."
For the second time, the Free Gaza Movement has demonstrated that the might of the Israeli Navy is no match for a small boat of human rights activists determined to call to the attention of the world the occupation of the people of Gaza.
Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, member of the Palestinian Legislative Council added, "Despite the injustice against the Palestinian people, we believe in justice and will keep on trying to break Israel's siege. The occupation has divided the Palestinians, but our non-violent resistance has united us."
Osama Qashoo, one of the organizers of the Free Gaza Movement, is overjoyed for the second time in three months, "We are all capable of leading a non-violent and effective movement to end Israeli Apartheid and expose the injustice that has been meted out to the Palestinians. We in the Free Gaza Movement have provided the new dictionary, it's up to the Palestinians and Israelis and Internationals to add the words."
Greta Berlin, Free Gaza Movement,
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The Free Gaza Movement calls upon the international community to join the Movement's efforts to help end the human suffering created by Israeli's strangulation of Gaza.
On August 23, 2008, 44 ordinary people from 17 countries sailed from Cyprus to Gaza on two small wooden boats, the SS Free Gaza and the SS Liberty. The Free Gaza Movement did what our governments would not do – take action to defend the health, lives, and dignity of 1.5 million Palestinians under siege in the Gaza Strip. We proved that Israel cannot sustain its illegal blockade in the face of widely reported humanitarian efforts by non-violent activists acting in accordance with international law. Today we call for a much broader effort; specifically, we are calling on other members of the international community – governments, non-governmental organizations, and others dedicated to protecting human rights – to join us by providing their own ships, humanitarian goods, and human capital to throw open wide the sea link to Gaza.
Despite its high profile pullout of illegal settlements and military presence from Gaza in August and September 2005, Israel maintains "effective control" over the Gaza Strip and therefore remains an occupying force with certain obligations (1). Among Israel's most fundamental obligations as an occupying power is to provide for the health, safety, and welfare of the Palestinian civilian population. An occupying force has a duty to ensure the food and medical supplies of the population, as well as maintain hospitals and other medical services, "to the fullest extent of the means available to it" (Fourth Geneva Convention, arts. 55, 56). This includes protecting civilian hospitals, medical personnel, and the wounded and sick. In addition, a fundamental principle of International Humanitarian Law, as well as of the domestic laws of civilized nations, is that collective punishment against a civilian population is forbidden (Fourth Geneva Convention, art. 33).
Israel has grossly abused its authority as an occupying power, not only neglecting to provide for the welfare of the Palestinian civilian population, but instituting policies designed to collectively punish the Palestinians of Gaza, policies which have created a humanitarian crisis. From fuel and electricity cuts that hinder the proper functioning of hospitals to the deliberate obstruction of humanitarian aid delivery through Israeli-controlled borders, Israel's policies towards the Gaza Strip have turned Gaza into a man-made humanitarian disaster.
When a massive earthquake rocked China and cyclones ravaged Myanmar, the world responded. Governments and civilians alike rallied to help, as they did when other recent natural calamities occurred. Yet world governments have watched a man-made humanitarian catastrophe unfold before our eyes in Gaza and have remained silent. Karen Koning Abu Zayd, head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), has asserted that "Gaza is on the threshold of becoming the first territory to be intentionally reduced to a state of abject destitution, with the knowledge, acquiescence and – some would say – encouragement of the international community."
It's time to end this silent complicity. On September 22, 2008, the Free Gaza Movement will once again set sail for Gaza. However, the humanitarian needs in Gaza are overwhelming, and the continuous operation of our two small boats cannot even begin to meet those needs. Gazans need medical supplies and basic life support systems, and hundreds if not thousands need to leave Gaza for medical care that Israel continues to block. We have proven that the sea link to Gaza can be viable and should be available to the Palestinian people. We urge governments, non-governmental organizations, and any others who are in a position to alleviate the shameful suffering caused by Israel to provide ships, materiel, health care professionals, lawyers, and all other forms of humanitarian aid immediately, and to join us in asserting that the Palestinian people have a right to access the outside world. The world cannot stay silent as the Palestinian people are deliberately starved and humiliated; Palestinians have a right to life with dignity.
For More Information, Please Contact:
--Brussels: Paul Larudee, Ph.D,+35 799 079 736 / firstname.lastname@example.org
--Jerusalem: Huwaida Arraf, Attorney at Law, +972 599 130 426 / email@example.com
--USA: Thomas H. Nelson, Attorney at Law, +1 503 709 6397 / firstname.lastname@example.org
References 1. Article 42 of the Hague Regulations of 1907 stipulates, a "territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army," and that the occupation extends "to the territory where such authority has been established and can be exercised." [Laws and Customs of War on Land (Hague IV); October 18, 1907, MILITARY AUTHORITY OVER THE TERRITORY OF THE HOSTILE STATE, Article 42.] Similarly, in the Hostage Case the Nuremburg Tribunal held that, "the test for application of the legal regime of occupation is not whether the occupying power fails to exercise effective control over the territory, but whether it has the ability to exercise such power." [U.S.A v. Wilhelm List, Nuremberg Tribunal, 1948.] Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, like those in the West Bank, continue to be subject to Israeli control. For example, Israel controls Gaza's air space, territorial waters, and all land border crossings. Palestinians in Gaza require Israel's consent to travel to and from Gaza through the land crossings, to take their goods to Palestinian and foreign markets, to acquire food and medicine, and to access water and electricity. Without Israel's permission, the Palestinian Authority (PA) cannot perform such basic functions of government as providing social, health, security, and utility services, developing the Palestinian economy, and allocating resources.