December 9, 2008 - Dignity to Gaza: “We’re Back!” - Fourth Successful Voyage Breaks Through Siege of Gaza
(GAZA, 9 December 2008) - The Free Gaza Movement ship “Dignity” successfully broke through the Israeli blockade for the fourth time since August, arriving in Gaza Port at 2:45pm, Tuesday 9 December. The ship carried one ton of medical supplies and high-protein baby formula, in addition to a delegation of international academics, humanitarian and human rights workers. Three earlier missions made landfall in Gaza in August, October, and November through the power of non-violent direct action and civil resistance. The Free Gaza ships are the first international ships to reach the Gaza Strip in over 41 years.
Ewa Jasiewicz, a Free Gaza organizer, journalist, and solidarity worker, pointed out that, “Tomorrow is International Human Rights Day, and it’s high time the world turned its rhetoric on human rights into reality. We mounted this mission to give our solidarity to the people of Palestine and to highlight the strangulating conditions Israel causes in besieged Gaza. The inhumane effects of this siege threaten to stunt an entire generation - both in terms of physical and mental growth due to malnutrition, terrorization by bomb attacks, incursions and the use of sonic booms - but also in terms of the generation of students which have won places at academic institutions around the world but cannot fulfill them, and those undermined on the ground in Gaza by a lack of food, medicine, electricity, materials, and the peace and space to make use of them in.”
For over two years, Israel has imposed an increasingly severe blockade on Gaza, dramatically increasing poverty and malnutrition rates among the 1.5 million human people who live in this tiny, costal region. The World Bank recently warned that the entire banking system in Gaza may soon collapse resulting in “serious humanitarian implications.” Already, over eighty percent of Gazan families are dependent on international food aid in order to feed their children.
Lubna Masarwa, another Free Gaza organizer and the current delegation’s leader, pointed out that, “The Palestinians of Gaza don’t need charity. What they need is effective political action that changes their lives and ends the Occupation. We can’t bring electricity to Gaza on our boats. We can’t import freedom of movement or safety. But we can get into Gaza and we are intent to keep coming. We will come again and again and again until the world breaks its silence and we shatter this siege once and for all.”
December 8, 2008 - British Academics to Break the Siege of Gaza: Boat Leaves Cyprus to Implement ‘Right to Study’ of Palestinian Students
Two Jewish academics from the UK, Emeritus Professor Jonathan Rosenhead and Research Fellow Mike Cushman, both from the Department of Management at the London School of Economics, have joined the latest ‘Free Gaza’ boat in an attempt to enable Palestinian university students to pursue their studies abroad.
The ‘Dignity’ sailed from Larnaca, Cyprus at 23.40 local time, Monday December 8, in an effort to break Israel’s 19-month blockade of Gaza and bring out 16 students who have places to study abroad. There are currently some 1700 students in Gaza who have been granted places at universities abroad - often with prestigious scholarships such as the Fulbright or Ford Foundation awards - but whom the Israeli authorities have prevented from leaving Gaza.
Higher education opportunities are extremely limited in Gaza. Many vital disciplines, including speech therapy, dentistry and physical therapy are not taught in Gaza, and there is no opportunity for doctoral study either in Gaza or in the West Bank. Study abroad is the only alternative for Palestinian students, yet this alternative is being denied them by the Israeli authorities.
Rosenhead and Cushman are members of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP), which advocates boycotting Israeli academic institutions as long as they are complicit in Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian and other Arab territory. BRICUP recently held a packed meeting at SOAS where Israeli academic Prof. Ilan Pappe described the Israeli siege of Gaza as “slow genocide”.
Now they have joined those taking direct action to enable Palestinian students to continue their academic and professional training. Prof. Rosenhead said: “Our government has failed to uphold international law and defend the human rights of the Palestinians, including the right to study and the right to teach. On the 60th anniversary of the International Declaration of Human Rights, we are proud to join the ‘Dignity’ on its fourth blockade-breaking trip to Gaza. We hope that by the end of this week we will have liberated these Palestinian students, in accordance with international law, and enabled them to take up the places awarded them by universities around the world in recognition of their academic merit.”
Mr. Cushman said: “As academics we are particularly pleased to be travelling on the Dignity on this mission to enable at least some of the hundreds of students trapped in Gaza by the Israeli siege to get out and take up their places at universities round the world. This siege is an affront to any idea of academic freedom or human rights. We, working for a British university, have the freedom to teach and study. This must be a universal right, not at the discretion of an occupying power. How can anyone justify preventing young people from fulfilling their potential and learning how to serve their community more fully?”
This third trip by the ‘Dignity’ is expected to take 14 hours, arriving in Gaza on Tuesday 9th December at 13.30 local time (11.30 GMT).