Why does someone like fellow activist Clint le Bruyns* risk his life by sailing to Gaza? Did Israel not kill nine unarmed activists in a similar attempt?
When reading the news of Israel’s horrific attack on the 2009 Gaza Freedom Flotilla I was sitting at a desk in Berlin where I studied at the time. Then I had no idea that I would become involved in the plight of the Palestinians and that six years later the very person who introduced me to the matter would be on his way to Gaza in another Flotilla.
Dr Clint le Bruyns – theologian, scholar, Kairos colleague and human rights activist – is one of the more than 50 crew and passengers on his way to be part of yet another attempt to break the siege on Gaza and to provide much needed humanitarian aid. With him are a former Tunisian president, athletes, academics, parliamentarians, diplomats, journalists and a Catholic nun who want to reach the port of Gaza and call on the international community to open it:
According to the official website of Freedom Flotilla III their purpose is not to act against Israel, but against occupation:
Our actions would not be needed, if governments worldwide and international bodies like the EU and the UN would take steps to ensure accountability of Israeli governments for war crimes and collective punishment against the 1.8 million Palestinian population in Gaza Strip. We welcome voices from Israel who publicly state that the State of Israel is not threatened by the action against the blockade.
The international community should stop turning a blind eye on the blockade and occupation and take steps urgently towards the direction of ensuring the opening of the port in Gaza, the only port of Palestine to the rest of the world.
The Israeli-Arab Knesset member Basel Ghattas from the Arab Joint List, before boarding a converted fishing trawler the Marianne of Gothenburg, which is leading the convoy, said: “It is my right and moral obligation to tell the world, ‘Behold, look, in Gaza there is a closure and two million people are on the brink of explosion'”:
Israel’s right-wing is now moving to penalize MK Ghattas for his participation in a legitimate political action of people from all around the world.
The activists are not alone. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of activists from all over the world, sail with them in spirit.
The Gaza Freedom Flotilla is a public cry for peace and a plea for justice. It is a demonstration of all that is good in humanity. It celebrates unity across religious traditions, cultures, gender and race.
A year ago I sat nailed before my TV screen as Israel bombarded Gaza:
According to the UN Human Rights Council report, there were 6000 airstrikes on the Palestinian Gaza Strip including “targeted attacks on [Palestinian] residential and other buildings.” These Israeli attacks resulted in 142 Palestinians families having “three or more members killed in the same incident”. The report says that “in many of the cases examined…there is little or no information as to how [Palestinian] residential buildings, which are prima facie civilian objects immune from attack, came to be regarded as legitimate military objectives [by Israel].
Justice Mary McGowan Davisto, chair of the UN investigation commission said that Israel’s killing of thousands of Gaza civilians and their destruction to the lives of many more in the summer of 2014 were ”unprecedented and will impact generations to come.”
The Israel of today is more right-wing than on 30 May 2009 when the nine activists on the Mavi Marmara were killed, and even more right-wing than in the summer of 2014. The newly elected Netanyahu regime and its allies cling neurotically to an unjust system of discrimination and neglect. They tighten the desperation of their grip by instilling fear amongst Jewish Israeli civilians; by claiming that God gives them the right to dispossess and extinguish Palestinians; and by feeding the greed of power-hungry political and business players as fast as they can.
Meanwhile Israel has the highest poverty rate among countries in the developed world (see the findings of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development or OECD). In other words the Israeli government, with the financial and political help of the USA, spends billions of dollars on illegal, unjust warfare and occupation instead of building a just, sustainable society. Israel denies its own Arab citizens, the Palestinians in diaspora and those trapped in Gaza, the West Bank and in East Jerusalem decent lives and basic human rights. Who benefits? The politicians who for ever want more power and the business elites who militarize the world for profit. It is a shame. Then there are of course those who are led by the nose, or who are too self-absorbed or too scared to confront the injustices, and those who believe in a God who favours some lives more than others. This too is a disgrace.
Humanity can do better! Clint and the other activists on the Freedom Flotilla represent the moral voice of the global civil society. They can do with our support. They have had very good non-violent training, but of course we know what Israel is capable of. Let us take hands with these activists who want the siege of Gaza to end in a just, non-violent manner. We can do it with our energy – wherever we are.
* Dr. Clint Le Bruyns (second from the left) is Director and Senior Lecturer: Theology and Development Programme at the Pietermaritzburg campus of the University of Kwazulu Natal in South Africa. Ismail Moola of the Palestine Solidarity Alliance (SA) and others are providing logistical support for all activists on board the flotilla. (This photograph was taken at the Cape Town airport when comrades welcomed me home after Israel denied me entry without giving a reason.)
Some interesting findings from the newly released UN Gaza Report –
…all rejected together with the rest of the report by Israel and its funder, the Obama Administration:
- Paragraph 321 shockingly describes how Israel used Palestinians as human shields in the war of 2014.
- Israeli supporters claimed that one of the reasons for the Israeli attacks was to destroy tunnels that were allegedly being used to conduct “terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians”. The report found that the Palestinian tunnels “were only used to conduct attacks directed at IDF positions in Israel in the vicinity of the Green Line, which are legitimate military targets.”
- According to the UN investigators Israel refused to respond to any requests for information and barred the UN investigators from traveling to the occupied Palestinian West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Israel. Did Israel hide something?
- In Israel six civilians and more than 60 soldiers died in fighting due to violations on the part of Palestinian resistance groups. Yet the scale and impact of Israeli violence dwarfs anything allegedly done by Palestinians.