[News] On the Road to Gaza: The Freedom Flotilla Will Sail Again

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Dec 26 11:20:42 EST 2019


  On the Road to Gaza: The Freedom Flotilla Will Sail Again

December 25, 2019
The international Freedom Flotilla Coalition (FFC) states the next 
Freedom Flotilla will sail again in spring 2020 to challenge the Israeli 
siege. (Photo: via Twitter)

*By Ramzy Baroud <http://www.palestinechronicle.com/writers/ramzy-baroud>*

What is Gaza to us but an Israeli missile, a rudimentary rocket, a 
demolished home, an injured child being whisked away by his peers under 
a hail of bullets? On a daily basis, Gaza is conveyed to us as a bloody 
image or a dramatic video, none of which can truly capture the everyday 
reality of the Strip – its formidable steadfastness, the everyday acts 
of resistance, and the type of suffering that can never be really 
understood through a customary glance at a social media post.

At long last, the chief prosecutor of the International Court of Justice 
(ICC), Fatou Bensouda, has declared her ‘satisfaction’ that “war crimes 
have been – or are being –  committed in the West Bank, including East 
Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip”. As soon as the ICC statement 
<https://www.theguardian.com/law/2019/dec/20/icc-to-investigate-alleged-israeli-and-palestinian-war-crimes> was 
made on December 20, pro-Palestinian groups felt a rare moment of 
relief. Finally, Israel will stand accused, potentially paying for its 
recurring bloodbath in the isolated and besieged Gaza Strip, its 
military occupation and apartheid in the West Bank, and much more.

However, it could take years for the ICC to initiate its legal 
proceedings and render its verdict. Moreover, there are no political 
guarantees that an ICC decision indicting Israel would ever be 
respected, let alone implemented.

Meanwhile, the siege on Gaza persists, only to be interrupted by a 
massive war, like the one of 2014 
or a less destructive one, similar to the latest Israeli onslaught 
<https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/12/world/middleeast/israel-gaza-islamic-jihad.html> in 
November. And with every war, more dismal statistics are produced, more 
lives shattered, and more painful stories are told and retold.

For years, civil society groups across the world labored to destabilize 
this horrific status quo. They organized, held vigils, wrote letters to 
their political representatives and so on. To no avail. Frustrated by 
government inaction, a small group of activists sailed 
<https://legalcasesagainstisraelattacksoncivilianboatstogaza.wordpress.com/2017/06/03/31-boats-challenge-israeli-naval-blockade-of-gaza/> to 
Gaza in a small boat in August 2008, succeeding in doing what the United 
Nations has failed to do: they broke, however fleetingly, the Israeli 
siege on the impoverished Strip.

This symbolic action of the Free Gaza movement had a tremendous impact. 
It sent a clear message to Palestinians in occupied Palestine, that 
their fate is not only determined by the Israeli government and military 
machine; that there are other actors who are capable of challenging the 
dreadful silence of the international community; that not all Westerners 
are as complicit as their governments in the prolonged suffering of the 
Palestinian people.

Since then, many more solidarity missions have attempted to follow suit, 
coming across the sea atop flotillas or in large caravans through the 
Sinai desert. Some have successfully reached Gaza, delivering medical 
aid and other supplies. The majority, however, were sent back or had 
their boats hijacked in international waters by the Israeli navy.

The outcome of all of this has been the writing of a new chapter of 
solidarity with the Palestinian people that went beyond the occasional 
demonstration and the typical signing of a petition.

The second Palestinian Intifada, the uprising of 2002, had already 
redefined the role of the “activist” in Palestine. The formation of the 
International Solidarity Movement (ISM) allowed thousands of 
international activists from around the world to participate in “direct 
action” in Palestine – thus fulfilling, however symbolically, a role 
that is typically played by a United Nations protective force.

ISM activists, however, employed non-violent means of registering civil 
society’s rejection of the Israeli occupation. Expectedly, Israel did 
not honor the fact that many of these activists came from countries 
deemed “friendly” by Tel Aviv’s standards. The killing of US and British 
nationals Rachel Corrie 
<https://electronicintifada.net/content/four-eyewitnesses-describe-murder-rachel-corrie/4460> and 
Tom Hurndall <https://ifamericansknew.org/cur_sit/tomhurndall.html> in 
Gaza in 2003 and 2004 respectively, was just the precursor of Israeli 
violence that was to follow.

In May 2010, the Israeli navy attacked 
<https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/may/31/israeli-attacks-gaza-flotilla-activists> the 
Freedom Flotilla consisting of the Turkish-owned ship ‘MV Mavi Marmara’ 
and others, killing ten unarmed humanitarian workers and wounding at 
least 50 more. As was the case with the murder of Rachel and Tom, there 
was no real accountability for the Israeli attack on the solidarity boats.

It must be understood that Israeli violence is not random nor is just a 
reflection of Israel’s notoriety and disregard of international and 
humanitarian law. With every violent episode, Israel hopes to dissuade 
outside actors from getting involved in “Israeli affairs”. Yet, time and 
again, the solidarity movement returns with a defiant message, insisting 
that no country, not even Israel, has the right to commit war crimes 
with impunity.

Following a recent meeting 
<https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20191202-new-freedom-flotilla-will-sail-for-gaza-in-summer-2020/> in 
the Dutch city of Rotterdam, the International Coalition of the Freedom 
Flotilla, which consists of many international groups, has decided to, 
once more, sail to Gaza. The solidarity mission is scheduled for the 
summer of 2020, and, like most of the 35 previous attempts, the Flotilla 
is likely to be intercepted by the Israeli navy. Yet, another attempt 
will likely follow, and many more, until the Gaza siege is completely 
lifted. It has become clear that the purpose of these humanitarian 
missions is not to deliver a few medical supplies to the nearly two 
million besieged Gazans, but to challenge the Israeli narrative that has 
turned the occupation and isolation of Palestinians to a status quo 
ante, to an “Israeli affair”.

According to the United Nations Office in Occupied Palestine, the 
poverty rate 
<https://www.ochaopt.org/content/53-cent-palestinians-gaza-live-poverty-despite-humanitarian-assistance> in 
Gaza seems to be increasing at an alarming speed of 2% per year. By the 
end of 2017, 53% of Gaza’s population lived in poverty, two-thirds of 
them living in “deep poverty”. This terrible number includes over 
400,000 children.

An image, a video, a chart or a social media post can never convey the 
pain of 400,000 children, who experience real hunger every single day of 
their lives so that the Israeli government may achieve its military and 
political designs in Gaza. Indeed, Gaza is not just an Israeli missile, 
a demolished home, and an injured child. It is an entire nation that is 
suffering and resisting, in near-complete isolation from the rest of the 

True solidarity should aim at forcing Israel to end the protracted 
occupation and siege on the Palestinian people, sailing the high seas, 
if necessary. Thankfully, the good activists of the Freedom Flotilla are 
doing just that.

/– Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine 
Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “//These Chains 
Will Be Broken/ 
Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” 
(Clarity Press, Atlanta). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research 
Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), Istanbul Zaim 
University (IZU). His website is //www.ramzybaroud.net/ 

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