New Peace Flotilla to Gaza: A Voyage of Audacious Hope

New Peace Flotilla to Gaza: A Voyage of Audacious Hope

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ATHENS, Greece—Later this week, I will be on board a ship named The Audacity of Hope, bound for Gaza along with 50 other Americans. Part of an international flotilla of about 10 vessels from a variety of countries, my fellow passengers and I will be unarmed. Our only cargo is thousands of letters to the people of Gaza from individuals across the United States. While our goal is to challenge Israel’s blockade of Gaza—and our government’s support for this illegal action—we fully expect the Obama administration to work to uphold our right to safe passage on the seas during our nonviolent peace mission.

My motivation to take part in this voyage grows out of my background. I come from southern Arizona, in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. My mother was born in Ciudad Obregon, Sonora (Mexico); my Tata (or grandfather) was half Yaqui Indian. I am also Jewish. These identities—all of which I embrace—and the histories of atrocities, pain, and struggle that inform them have led me to identify with the dispossessed and the downtrodden.

That I am Jewish is especially relevant in that I am entitled (by a nation-state that is not mine but claims to represent me) to travel to Israel, become a citizen, and enjoy all manner of associated rights and privileges. Meanwhile, the people who are actually from the lands that Israel illegally occupies—Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem—are not citizens of any country. At best, their human rights are highly limited. They are effectively incarcerated, their future one of despair and destitution as long as Israel’s occupation continues.

As a U.S. citizen, I simply cannot sit idle while we as Americans participate in Israel’s siege, occupation, and repression of Palestinians, crimes which are most pronounced in Gaza. Israel, which receives billions of dollars in U.S. aid annually, regularly deploys American weapons and military technology against mostly Palestinian civilians. Israel’s brutal 2008-9 assault on Gaza, which Amnesty International characterized as “22 days of death and destruction,” is just the bloodiest example.

Israeli soldiers frequently fire on Palestinians in Gaza, including children, simply for scavenging for construction materials among the war’s ruins. In 2010, reports Save the Children, Israel shot 26 such children near its boundary, including 16 who were beyond the Israeli-imposed 300-meter no-go zone that extends into the Gaza Strip.

More broadly, Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip creates great hardships for the civilian population. The territory suffers from of one of the world’s highest rates of unemployment—a staggering 45 percent—according to the United Nations agency charged with assisting Palestinian refugees (who make up the vast majority of Gaza’s residents). Also recently, the Gaza-based Al Mazan Center for Human Rights reported that many essential medical supplies and medicines in the territory have simply run out.

Such conditions led Amnesty International and 15 other leading humanitarian and human rights groups about one year after Israel’s assault to declare that the world had “betrayed” Gaza’s civilian population by not taking effective measures to end the blockade. Meanwhile, in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Human Rights Watch describes a situation resembling Apartheid South Africa in its Dec. 2010 report “Separate and Unequal.”

As I write this, I am in Athens, preparing to board The Audacity of Hope. Around my neck I proudly wear a Star of David amulet, one given to me just before I left Arizona by a dear friend and fellow Jewish human rights activist. I wear it—according to the profound feelings we both share—to symbolize the root meanings of Judaism that are not emphasized enough: welcoming the stranger as though you were a stranger; helping free the slave as though you were once enslaved.

Through nonviolent actions undertaken all over the world, led crucially by Palestinians on the ground, the Israeli occupation will one day end. Those of us—limited only by the will to act—who face the unavoidable choice to tolerate or to resist these crimes will determine how long the suffering continues, and a lasting and just peace in Israel/Palestine remains out of reach.

Tucson-based Gabriel Schivone works with the organization Jewish Voice for Peace at the University of Arizona, where he studies literature.

 

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Anonymous

Posted Jun 29 2011

UNFREEDOM, SUFFERING and COLLECTIVE PUNISHMENT
Submitted by colindale on Wed, 2011-06-29 07:39.
The blockade of Gaza is illegal according to the United Nations. If anyone is still unsure, please read the Geneva Conventions on Human Rights to appreciate the difference between a legal blockade against an enemy with whom you are at war in order to secure your borders and population, and the collective punishment of a civilian population of 1.6 million unarmed people as an act of deliberate oppression by a heavily armed expansionist regime who will kill at will.

On December 27, 2008, the IDF killed 1400 in Gaza in three bloody weeks. The majority were civilian non-combatants including 326 children under the age of 16 and 112 of their mothers, as substantiated by the UN fact finding mission, the report of which has been accepted. It was the worst kind of collective punishment - innocent children and women, plus the destruction of schools, hospitals and power installations, by the use of banned white phosphorus, missiles, cluster bombs, rockets, tank shells and machine guns.

All this horrendous killing by a heavily armed militia against a mainly unarmed civilian population - unless you count the stone-throwing youths intent on demonstrating against their oppressors who humiliate them daily at every crossing point and deny them essential supplies including medicines. An army who used civilians as human shields and to cover this war crime alleged the opposite. The UN report obtained the evidence which the Israeli government then tried, unsuccessfully, to discredit. These are facts, not propaganda. All of the above is public domain information available at the click of a mouse.

It is also public domain information that a Palestinian splinter group has for years fired home-made missiles at the nearest point in Israel, Sderot, in order to vent their anger at the illegal settlements and their treatment at the hands of the Israeli state. The vast majority of such missiles land harmlessly, but some cause injuries and in one or two instances, death. That has to be put into context of an extremist, expansionist state giving financial inducements to tens of thousands of its citizens to leave their homes in Israel and to settle on Palestinian land in Jerusalem and the West Bank. The killings in Gaza were a war crime and to date no one has yet been apprehended and brought before the ICC.

Anonymous

Posted Jun 29 2011

UNFREEDOM, SUFFERING and COLLECTIVE PUNISHMENT

The blockade of Gaza is illegal according to the United Nations. If anyone is still unsure, please read the Geneva Conventions on Human Rights to appreciate the difference between a legal blockade against an enemy with whom you are at war in order to secure your borders and population, and the collective punishment of a civilian population of 1.6 million unarmed people as an act of deliberate oppression by a heavily armed expansionist regime who will kill at will.

On December 27, 2008, the IDF killed 1400 in Gaza in three bloody weeks. The majority were civilian non-combatants including 326 children under the age of 16 and 112 of their mothers, as substantiated by the UN fact finding mission, the report of which has been accepted. It was the worst kind of collective punishment - innocent children and women, plus the destruction of schools, hospitals and power installations, by the use of banned white phosphorus, missiles, cluster bombs, rockets, tank shells and machine guns.

All this horrendous killing by a heavily armed militia against a mainly unarmed civilian population - unless you count the stone-throwing youths intent on demonstrating against their oppressors who humiliate them daily at every crossing point and deny them essential supplies including medicines. An army who used civilians as human shields and to cover this war crime alleged the opposite. The UN report obtained the evidence which the Israeli government then tried, unsuccessfully, to discredit. These are facts, not propaganda. All of the above is public domain information available at the click of a mouse.

It is also public domain information that a Palestinian splinter group has for years fired home-made missiles at the nearest point in Israel, Sderot, in order to vent their anger at the illegal settlements and their treatment at the hands of the Israeli state. The vast majority of such missiles land harmlessly, but some cause injuries and in one or two instances, death. That has to be put into context of an extremist, expansionist state giving financial inducements to tens of thousands of its citizens to leave their homes in Israel and to settle on Palestinian land in Jerusalem and the West Bank. The killings in Gaza were a war crime and to date no one has yet been apprehended and brought before the ICC.

Anonymous

Posted Jun 29 2011

the united nations is an organ of the tyranical states of the arab world who roundly denounce israel and then turn on their own people with deadly force. In the last six weeks the Syrian government has slaughtered more of its own people than Israel ever has, even after decades of war.

Arab states have used Israel as a scapegoat to deflect attention from their own oppressive reigns, yet some in the West persist in their demonization of israel; the only democratic country in the region. And why?

Thinly veiled anti-semitism. Anti-zionism: a new and insidious form of anti-semitism that says; you Jews of the diaspora can relax, you will be spared, but the Jews of Israel have got to go.

I respect the fact that this is a touchy subject, but there are two sides to this argument. The case for Israel is solid. The argument for a Palestinian homeland is sound. One should resist the urge to turn fundamental like the gentleman who commented below. He's got no peripheral vision, he stares straight ahead and reports the facts of his choosing.

Look, we all want peace. But sending boats loaded with a mix of misguided activists and religious fundamentalists to poke at an already volatile situation.... this is not contributing to the solution.

Anonymous

Posted Jun 29 2011

test comment

Anonymous

Posted Jun 29 2011

Gabriel,

Your a tool.

Anonymous

Posted Jun 29 2011

Please don't forget Gilad Shalit, he has not seen his family, been waiting for letters and a visit from the International Red Cross the last five years.

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