“Nam, Nehnu Nastatyeh!” is Arabic for “Yes, We Can!”
By Ramzi Kysia
GAZA CITY, FREE PALESTINE (29 October 2008) - This morning I walked to the
Indian Ocean and made salt in defiance of the British Occupation of India.
This morning I marched in Selma, I stood down tanks in Tiananmen Square,
and I helped tear down the Berlin Wall. This morning I became a Freedom
The Freedom Riders of the 21st Century are sailing small boats into the
Gaza Strip in open defiance of the Israeli Occupation and blockade. This
morning I arrived in Gaza aboard the SS Dignity, part of a Free Gaza
Movement delegation of twenty seven doctors, lawyers, teachers, and human
rights activists from across the world, including Mairead Maguire - the
1976 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
When I close my eyes, I still hear the crash of ocean waves, I still feel
the warm sun on my face, and I still taste salt from the sea spray. When I
close my eyes, I can still see the Israeli warship that tried to
intimidate us when we reached the twenty-mile line outside Gaza, and I can
still see a thousand cheering people crowding around our ship when we
refused to be intimidated and finally reached port in Gaza City. Today,
the proudest boast in the free world is truly, “Nam, Nehnu Nastatyeh!” -
“Yes, We Can!”
Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, an independent member of the Palestinian
Legislative Council, sailed aboard the Dignity, along with six other
Palestinians from the West Bank, from 1948/inside the Green Line, and from
countries in Europe. What should have been a ninety-minute drive from
Ramallah to Gaza City became a three day odyssey as he travelled from the
West Bank to Jordan, then flew to Cyprus, before finally coming aboard the
Dignity for the fifteen hour sea voyage to Gaza.
“We’re challenging Israel in a manner that is unprecedented, ” said Dr.
Barghouti. “Israel has prevented me from visiting Gaza for more than two
years now. I am so pleased that we managed to defy Israel’s injustice so
that I can see all the people I love and work with in Gaza. Israel’s
measures are meant to divide us, but it is our defiance and resistance
which unite us. “
This is a resistance which can and should light the fire of all our
imaginations, and bring hope not just to Palestinians, but to peoples
suffering the terrible tides of oppression and injustice the world around.
After watching the Dignity’s arrival, Fida Qishta, the local coordinator
for the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) in the Gaza Strip, said
“If Gaza is free then it’s our right to invite whomsoever we wish to visit
us. It’s our land and it’s our sea. Now more groups must come, not only by
sea but also the crossings at Erez and Rafah must be opened as well. This
second breaking of the siege means a lot, actually. It’s the second time
in two months that people have come to Gaza without Israel’s permission,
and that tells us that Gaza will be free.”
For over forty years, Israel has occupied the Gaza Strip. Despite the
so-called “Disengagement ” in 2005, when they shut down their illegal
settlements here, Israel maintains absolute control over Gaza’s borders
and airspace, severely limiting the free movement of goods, services, and
travel. Israel is still an occupying power.
For over two years, Israel has maintained a brutal blockade of Gaza. Less
than twenty percent of the supplies needed (as compared to 2005) are
allowed in. This has forced ninety-five percent of local industries to
shut down, resulting in massively increased unemployment and poverty
rates. Childhood malnutrition has skyrocketed, and eighty percent of
families are now dependent on international food aid just to be able to
eat. An hour after we arrived, I watched a teenage boy digging through the
garbage, looking for something he could use.
Israel’s siege isn’t simply illegal - it’s intolerable.
Renowned human rights activist Caoimhe Butterly also sailed aboard the
Dignity, and will remain in Gaza for several weeks as Project Coordinator
for the Free Gaza Movement. But, said Butterly, “My feelings are
bittersweet. Although we’re overjoyed at reaching Gaza a second time, that
joy is tempered by the fact that the conscience of the world has been
reduced to a small boat and 27 seasick activists. This mission is a
reminder of not only the efficacy of non-violent direct action, but also
of the deafening silence of the international community.”
Our first voyage in August, the first voyage of any international ship to
Gaza in over forty years, showed that it was possible to freely travel.
This second voyage shows that it is repeatable, and this sets a precedent:
The Siege of Gaza can be overcome through non-violent resistance and
Today, the Free Gaza Movement has a simple message for the rest of the
world: What are you waiting for?
Ramzi Kysia is an Arab-American writer and activist, and one of the
organizers of the Free Gaza Movement. To find out more about Free Gaza and
what you can do to help support their work, please visit