FREE GAZA BOATS ARRIVE IN GAZA
GAZA (23 August 2008) - Two small boats, the SS Free Gaza and the SS Liberty, successfully landed in Gaza early this evening, breaking the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.
The boats were crewed by a determined group of international human rights workers from the Free Gaza Movement. They had spent two years organizing the effort, raising money by giving small presentations at churches, mosques, synagogues, and in the homes of family, friends, and supporters.
They left Cyprus on Thursday morning, sailing over 350 kilometers through choppy seas. They made the journey despite threats that the Israeli government would use force to stop them. They continued sailing although they lost almost all communications and navigation systems due to outside jamming by some unknown party. They arrived in Gaza to the cheers and joyful tears of hundreds of Palestinians who came out to the beaches to welcome them.
Two small boats, 42 determined human rights workers, one simple message: “The world has not forgotten the people of this land. Today, we are all from Gaza.”
Tonight, the cheering will be heard as far away as Tel Aviv and Washington D.C.
Quotes from a few participants:
“We recognize that we’re two, humble boats, but what we’ve accomplished is to show that average people from around the world can mobilize to create change. We do not have to stay silent in the face of injustice. Reaching Gaza today, there is such a sense of hope, and hope is what mobilizes people everywhere.”
—Huwaida Arraf. (Huwaida is Palestinian-American, and also a citizen of Israel. She’s a human rights activist and co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement. In 2007 she received her Juris Doctor from American University in Washington D.C. Currently she teaches Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at Al Quds University in Jerusalem. Huwaida sailed to Gaza aboard the SS Liberty.)
“We’re the first ones in 41 years to enter Gaza freely - but we won’t be the last. We welcome the world to join us and see what we’re seeing.”
—Paul Larudee, Ph.D. (Paul is a cofounder of the Free Gaza Movement and a San Francisco Bay Area activist on the issue of justice in Palestine. He sailed to Gaza aboard the SS Liberty.)
“What we’ve done shows that people can do what governments should have done. If people stand up against injustice, we can truly be the conscience of the world.”
—Jeff Halper, Ph.D. (Jeff is an Israeli professor of anthropology and coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), a non-violent Israeli peace and human rights organization that resists the Israeli occupation on the ground. In 2006, the American Friends Service Committee nominated Jeff to receive the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize with Palestinian intellectual and activist Ghassan Andoni. Jeff sailed to Gaza aboard the SS Free Gaza.)