by George and Candy Gonzalez
“This is an outrageous violation of international law against us. Our boat was not in Israeli waters, and we were on a human rights mission to the Gaza Strip,” said Cynthia McKinney, a former U.S. Congresswoman and presidential candidate, as she and 20 human rights workers and journalists from 11 countries on a boat attempting to break the blockade of Gaza were abducted and being dragged by an Israeli gunship to jail in Israel.
“President Obama just told Israel to let in humanitarian and reconstruction supplies, and that’s exactly what we tried to do. We’re asking the international community to demand our release so we can resume our journey.” Noble laureate Mairead Maguire was also aboard, and all 21 are now in Israeli jail cells.
We urge people to take immediate action to have the Israeli government release Cynthia McKinney and the others on the Free Gaza vessel, the Spirit of Humanity, when it was boarded by Israeli Occupation Forces and forcibly hauled to Israel. (The people to contact are listed below.)
If any other country did this, it would be called “piracy.”
The Spirit of Humanity was not even in Israeli waters and posed no military threat to Israel. The 21 people aboard were on a human rights mission to bring desperately needed supplies to the thousands of Palestinians living in Gaza who have lost many loved ones, their homes and possessions due to Israel’s attacks in December and January.
The boat was seized in international waters by Israeli navy gunboats blockading Gaza. Tons of medicine – as well as toys, crayons and olive trees – destined for the besieged people of Gaza were confiscated.
According to a newly released report from the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Palestinians living in Gaza are “trapped in despair.” Thousands of Gazans whose homes were destroyed during Israel’s December-January massacre are still without shelter despite pledges of almost $4.5 billion in aid, because Israel refuses to allow cement and other building material into the Gaza Strip. The report also notes that hospitals are struggling to meet the needs of their patients due to Israel’s disruption of medical supplies.
“The aid we were carrying is a symbol of hope for the people of Gaza, hope that the sea route would open for them and they would be able to transport their own materials to begin to reconstruct the schools, hospitals and thousands of homes destroyed during the onslaught of ‘Cast Lead.’ Our mission is a gesture to the people of Gaza that we stand by them and that they are not alone,” said Mairead Maguire, winner of a Noble Peace Prize for her work in Northern Ireland.
“Our boat was searched and received a security clearance by Cypriot Port Authorities before we departed, and at no time did we ever approach Israeli waters,” stated Huwaida Arraf, Free Gaza Movement chairperson and delegation co-coordinator on this voyage. “Israel’s deliberate and premeditated attack on our unarmed boat is a clear violation of international law and we demand our immediate and unconditional release.”
We stand in solidarity with the people of Gaza, desperately trying to survive and those trying to bring a token of hope to them.
We demand that the vessel and all those on board are immediately released and allowed to continue their voyage to Gaza. We admire their backbone and determination to work for justice, to take action rather than “mouth off” safely from afar.
This is neither the first nor the last of Cynthia McKinney’s attempts to break the blockade of Gaza
On Cynthia McKinney’s first trip with Free Gaza to break the blockade, their boat, sailing in international waters, was rammed and nearly sunk by Israeli gunboats during a terrifying night on Dec. 30, just as Israel was launching its attack on Gaza. The boat, loaded with three tons of medical supplies intended for Gaza, was able to reach port in Lebanon.
McKinney is also one of the main participants in another heroic campaign, along with New York City Councilmember Charles Barron and British Member of Parliament George Galloway, sending medical supplies to Gaza.
Half of Gaza’s hospitals were destroyed, exacerbating the medical emergency for many civilians wounded in the attacks. None of this horror even takes into account the many people yet to fall victim to leukemia and other illnesses resulting from the 75 tons of depleted uranium left by Israel during its illegal war. (AlJazeera.net, June 27)
Viva Palestina USA will leave July 4 from New York City, with hundreds of people taking a convoy of trucks through Egypt to the border of Gaza to deliver much-needed medical supplies to the besieged people of Gaza.
June 6 was the 42nd anniversary of the Israeli seizure of Gaza from the Palestinian people. Yet, like the U.S. attempts at re-colonizing Iraq, none of Israel’s U.S.-supplied weapons of mass destruction has been capable of destroying the Palestinian people’s will to continue fighting the illegal occupation.
It is this spirit of resistance that will continue to inspire many more Spirit of Humanity trips and Viva Palestina convoys loaded with medical supplies and various other forms of international solidarity with the people of Palestine.
Appeal from the Free Gaza Movement
Since the kidnapping of the Gaza 21, tens of thousands of people around the world have mobilized to demand their immediate and unconditional release. The Free Gaza Movement, www.freegaza.org, thanks everyone who has made a phone call, sent a fax or email, written a letter or organized a demonstration on behalf of our 21 imprisoned friends.
To maintain the pressure until they are released, readers are urged to contact the following:
Israeli Ministry of Justice: phone +972 2646 6666 or +972 2646 6340, fax +972 2646 6357
Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs: phone +972 2530 3111, fax +972 2530 3367
Mark Regev in the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office: +972 5 0620 3264 or +972 2670 5354, email email@example.com
“With respect, freeing the Gaza 21 is not enough. We are not the story,” declares the Free Gaza Movement. Since its founding in 1948 the State of Israel has regularly kidnapped and tortured Palestinians, throwing them into forgotten prisons where they can languish for years. Today, over 11,000 Palestinian political prisoners without benefit of due process, some never even charged – men, women and children – endure torture and isolation in Israeli jails, outdoor prison camps and secret sites. They come from all walks of life: doctors, journalists, parliamentarians, workers, resistance fighters, homemakers, students and others. They are our sisters and brothers, imprisoned simply for being Palestinian.
The Free Gaza Movement implores all the good people around the world who have working so hard to secure the release of the Gaza 21 to “adopt” a Palestinian prisoner. For more information, visit http://www.FreeGaza.org or contact Donna Wallach, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Former San Franciscans George and Candy Gonzalez live in Belize, where they are leaders in movements for human rights and environmental justice and many of the other worthy causes they championed in the U.S. They can be reached at email@example.com. Bay View staff contributed to this story from several sources, including Workers World, www.workers.org, and the International Liaison Committee of Workers and Peoples (ILC), firstname.lastname@example.org.