Friday, August 8, 2008

SS Free Gaza & SS Free Liberty

Dear Friends ... This summer, I had the privilege of spending two weeks with Huwaida Arraf, a Detroit born Yankee of Palestinian heritage. She currently lives in Palestine and teaches human-rights-law at Al-Quds University. She also co-founded International Solidarity Movement - with her Brooklyn born Jewish husband - Adam Shapiro. I didn't meet Adam but Huwaida is a young Rosa Parks in the body of Cesar Chavez. She gave up her comfortable life in United States (her home) to fight for the rights of oppressed in Palestine.

Her following appeal deserves, if nothing else, our prayers for her and comrades on SS Liberty voyaging to break the illegal, immoral & shameless seige of Gaza and Gazans. Yes, the United States of America is an accomplice in the killings of innocent people in Gaza. And you & I my friend, are directly responsible for allowing our own government to send its largest aid to the killers of Gazans, the Israeli Defense Forces.

Pray & Act.

From: huwaida arraf
Date: Fri, Aug 8, 2008 at 5:08 PM
Subject: Personal note re: Free Gaza Movement

Dear friends & family,
I should have written to you earlier to inform you of a very important civilian direct-action effort to break the siege on Gaza that I am a part of. Unfortunately, writing is not my strong point.

As many of you know, the Gaza Strip, in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT) is suffering under a brutal siege imposed by the Israeli military -- a siege that has been deemed illegal by international, as well as Israeli human rights organizations and legal experts, including the former Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories, John Dugard. Click here for the UN Rapporteur’s Report.

Israel, which despite its evacuation of its approximately 9000 illegal settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005, still effectively controls Gaza and thus has obligations, as an occupying power, to the residents of Gaza under international humanitarian law. See e.g.:"Disengaged Occupiers, the Legal Status of Gaza", Gisha Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, available here. Yet, instead of complying with these obligations, Israel has imposed a total blockade on Gaza even cutting its fuel and electricity supply. Click here to learn more.

Over the past year, a reported 200 plus patients have died from a lack of access to adequate medical care, meaning Israel denied these patients the right to leave the Gaza Strip in order to receive the care that they needed. See related recent report by Physicians for Human Rights Israel, "Holding Health to Ransom". Hundreds of Palestinian students with scholarships or other arrangements to study abroad are trapped in Gaza, unable to pursue their education. Eighty percent of the Gazan population is living on food aid.

Gaza's unemployment rate, currently at 45%, is the highest in the world. The most tragic part of this humanitarian crisis is that it is man-made -- a result of deliberate policies by the State of Israel. While various parties have expressed their concern, including the United Nations, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, no body has been willing to take concrete action to break the siege or to hold Israel accountable for Palestinain lives. Not only is Israel being allowed to get away collective punishment of the 1.5 million residents of Gaza, defined as a war crime under international law, but international institutions ate getting away with silence in the face of such atrocity, or with paying mere lip service to Palestinian human rights.

Due to the shameful incompetence of of governments and international institutions tasked with defending and upholding human rights, and because this incompetence is costing lives every day, a small group of civilians from around the world have organized an effort to break the siege of Gaza by boat. Within the next few days, 40 civilians from around the world, including 3 other Palestinians from the Diaspora, an 83-year-old Holocaust survivor, and 81-year-old Catholic nun, an Israeli peace & justice activist, and over 30 other amazing people will set sail from Cyprus towards the shores of Gaza. Although we will be carrying some medical supplies, such as hearing aids (for children of Gaza going deaf as a result of Israel's military operations and sonic booms constantly carried out in and over Gaza), ours is not a humanitarian mission. Rather, our mission is a human rights one. We are horrified that such an illegal and immoral siege can be allowed to continue without more of an international outcry about it. We're saddened for the state of our world when decision-makers can sit back and watch an entire people being slowly and purposefully starved and humiliated.

Everyone participating in this mission is quite aware of the dangers involved. We have taken note of the various scenarious that can play out, from being blockaded, boarded and arrested, to being fired upon or otherwise attacked at sea. Of course, we hope that none of these happen and that we reach Gaza, where we are told that thousands will be awaiting our arrival on the beach.

In a few hours I will leave Cyprus, where I have been for the last 8 days training and working on other preparations for the voyage, and head to meet the boats in Chiana, Crete (press release below). I realize that for those of you in the United States, this email might be the first you are hearing of this effort as the story has not broken through the U.S. media censors. We have been getting very good coverage in the rest of the world though. Please stay with us as we make this voyage, as the eyes of the world are our safety and our goal if we aim to make change. You can get the latest information on the Free Gaza Movement, including watch the voyage in real time (satellite video streaming) on our website:

Yes, we can make change.

In solidarity & struggle,


SS Free Gaza and SS Liberty Arrive in Chania, Crete, Saturday, 9 August at
21:00 p.m.

For further information, contact: 6932 766496 for directions, Greta Berlin,
037 99 08 17 67

*Nicosia/Lefkosia, Cyprus, August 7.* The Free Gaza Movement announced
today that their boats, destined to break the Israelis' siege of Gaza, will
arrive in Chania, Crete, on Saturday, August 9, at 9 p.m. and that a press
conference will be held to welcome their arrival. "Internationals are
gathering across the world – in Beijing and Cyprus – with the common dream
of peace and justice for everyone."

Human rights activists Lauren Booth (sister in law of former British Prime
Minister Tony Blair), Huwaida Arraf (a Palestinian-American residing in
Ramallah, Palestine), and Jeff Halper (an Israeli Jew who was nominated for
the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for opposing demolitions of Palestinian homes)
will be available at the press conference for interviews.

"This will be the first time that our two boats will be publicly displayed
and photographers are welcome to come, take photos and post their images."
said Paul Larudee, on board the boats sailing toward Chania.
The Free Gaza Movement is endorsed by an impressive array of international
groups and personalities including South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and
Former Prime Minister of Lebanon Dr. Salim Al-Hoss. For additional

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