Gaza Boats: Threats and Intimidation

Gaza Boats: Threats and Intimidation

by Ramzi Kysia

Across the world, there are laws against threatening other people. Verbal
threats give rise to great personal and emotional insecurity, and they can be
the midwives to terrible violence. Many of us on board the SS Liberty and SS
Free Gaza have been threatened in these past few days. It’s appalling enough
to receive phone calls, warning us that our boats will be blown up or asking us
if we know how to swim, but when the callers go after our families, then that
crosses the line from adolescent intimidation to psychological terrorism. This
past Thursday, Lauren Booth received one such call.

“On the 14th of August 2008, an anonymous man called my home in France as my
daughters played hide and seek in the garden. This stranger spoke to my
husband, warning him that ‘your wife is in great danger. These ships will be
blown up.’ My husband asked how it was this person had obtained our private
home number. No response was forthcoming, but the illicit threats carried
on.”

Other members of our nonviolent project have had their families in Occupied
Palestine threatened with violence as well. From these threats, a pernicious
pattern of intimidation is beginning to emerge. The question, of course, is
just who benefits the most by trying to terrorize and stop us from breaking
Israel’s terrible siege on 1.4 million Palestinians in Gaza?

In April, 2008, The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel released a
report stating, “The illegal exploitation of family members, who, in most
instances, are not suspects themselves, has on many occasions caused severe
psychological suffering to interrogees and to their innocent relatives. In more
extreme cases, this method takes the form of psychological torture of a
detainee rendering him a victim of a cruel psychological manipulation via the
illegal exploitation of a close relative.”

Today in the Israeli newspaper, Haartez, Amos Harel writes: “Defense
officials favor forcefully blocking two boats, which a group of U.S.-based
activists plan to sail to Gaza ... A position paper by the Foreign Ministry’s
legal department says Israel has the right to use force against the
demonstrators as part of the Oslo Accords ... the Foreign Ministry’s paper
means that security forces could detain the vessels upon entry to Gaza’s
territorial waters, arrest the passengers and haul the ship to Israel, where
the detainees could be interrogated.”

The Oslo accords expired in 1999, but even when they were in place they never
advocated or allowed Israel to use deadly force against nonviolent human rights
workers. However, Israel has decided to interpret the now-defunct accords as
giving them permission to act violently against us.

Given this situation, we, the members of the Free Gaza Movement, would like to
make two things very clear to the government of Israel:

1) We are nonviolent human rights activists and we have vowed to take no
violent action, in either word or deed, against any other human beings -
including against Israeli government and military officials who, apparently,
wish us harm.

2) The threats and intimidation that we have received these past few days,
though disturbing, do not even come close to the suffering imposed on 1.4
million Palestinians through the illegal and immoral Israeli blockade of the
Gaza Strip. Given the enormity of this crisis, we will not be deterred.

We will sail to Gaza, and this siege will be lifted. 
Members of the Free Gaza and Liberty, setting sail this week.

Ramzi Kysia is an Arab-American writer and activist, and a member of the Free
Gaza Movement. You can receive regular updates on their efforts to break the
siege of Gaza by signing up for their newsletter. If you’d like more
information, or if you’d like to donate to their efforts, please visit their
website at FreeGaza.org.


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