BREAKING | Once more, en route to Gaza to break the blockade | #FREEDOMWAVES


Press Release: #FREEDOMWAVES | Topic FreedomWaves | Category Flotilla


Nov 2, 2011 | Paul Murphy MEP

Stopped by sabotage of the Irish boat and then the Greek imposed extension of the blockade of Gaza in the summer, I am setting sail again with the Irish Ship to Gaza. The aim remains the same as before – to deliver humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza who are being suffocated by Israel’s blockade, and to raise the issue of the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza, which amounts to a collective punishment of the people of Gaza.

Since our last attempt, much has changed around the world and in the region, however, unfortunately the conditions of the people of Gaza have not changed a bit. The horrifying figures published by the UN and other international humanitarian and human rights organisations this year remain valid – with roughly 80% of the population relying on international aid in order to survive, 65% of people living below the poverty line, 52% of people being food insecure and an unemployment rate of nearly 40%. There remains a massive shortage of building materials, which means much-needed schools and hospitals are not built, and the drinking water continues to be contaminated and unfit for consumption. Those in need of specialist medical treatment are unable to avail of it because of the unwillingness of the Israeli state to allow in medical equipment.

There is no question that the 1.5 million people in Gaza (half of whom are under 16) are suffering daily in an open air prison. They have faced almost daily air attacks by the Israeli army, including strikes on Saturday that have claimed 12 lives already. Fishermen that are sailing the sea to make a living and farmers who are farming their land face a shoot to kill policy by the Israeli Defence Forces. This is not a policy by Israel designed to stop terrorism or provide security for the Israeli people. The Israeli government cynically used the holding of Gilad Shalit by Hamas as a pretext for the blockade, but after his exchange for over a thousand Palestinian prisoners, there are still around 7,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, and the blockade continues. Instead it is a policy designed “to keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse” (according to a leaded document in Wikileaks) or in the words of Dov Weisglass, a senior Israeli government official speaking about the blockade in 2006, “the idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet but not to make them die of hunger.” In other words, it is a horrific tool to punish the people of Gaza for having elected an Hamas government in 2006.

The ruthlessness of the Israeli state was demonstrated to all of the participants on the flotilla a few months ago. The blatant sabotage of the Irish ship and Scandinavian ship illustrated how the Israeli state would not stop at nothing to prevent the blockade from being broken. If anything, this can be taken as a mark of the success of the flotilla tactic, that peaceful activists bringing humanitarian aid could elicit such fear in the Israeli establishment.

The complicity of the world’s capitalist governments in the oppression of the Palestinians was graphically shown by the actions of the Greek government in extending the blockade into Europe by refusing to allow the Freedom Flotilla II ships to sail. The contrast between the supposed concern for citizens when it provided a pretext to intervene into Libya for imperialism and in Gaza where imperialism is complicit in the occupation and oppression is fairly stark.

It was only a few months later that a Member of the European Parliament from the government party in Greece (PASOK), Maria Eleni Koppa, produced a report in the International Trade Committee that correctly slammed the blockade of Gaza, giving the devastating details of its impact on the people. However, when I questioned her on how this squared with the actions of the Greek government, she had no answer. This is typical of the approach of those parts of the capitalist establishment that in words claim to be opposed to the oppression of the Palestinians, but in action are complicit in it. This is true of the EU as a whole (see my article on “The EU in the Middle East: the not so honest broker – http://www.paulmurphymep.eu/the-eu-in-the-middle-east-the-not-so-honest-broker)

There is no doubt that on this occasion, the friends of the Israeli elite will point to the recent Palmer-Uribe UN panel report about the first flotilla in order to discredit this attempt to break the siege. That report found that Israel had used unreasonable force, but that it had met with “organised and violent resistance from a group of passengers.” and that the blockade was legal. This incredible conclusion, which contradicts the UN Human Rights Council report from September 2010 that found that at least six of the nine activists killed had been “summarily executed”, was subsequently contradicted by a panel of five UN human rights experts reporting to the UN Human Rights Council who correctly pointed out that this “report was aimed at political reconciliation between Israel and Turkey. It is unfortunate that in the report politics should trump the law”. They restated that the blockade amounted to collective punishment and was illegal under international law.

The Palmer-Uribe report was designed to be a whitewash. The panel was biased in favour of the Israeli regime from the start, with one of the four members chosen by Turkey, one chosen by Israel and the other two chosen from a list provided by Israel. In particular, the appointment of former President Uribe from Colombia as vice-President of the panel was galling, given his disgraceful record of abuse of human rights in Colombia and his alliance with Israel. In addition, the panel interviewed no witnesses and did not gather any independent evidence. So the declaration that the Israeli army was met with ‘organised and violent resistance’ has no more credibility than an Israeli press release. The footage that did get out from the Mavi Marmara stands in contrast to this claim and stands as a testament of the brutality of the IDF forces when they boarded that ship full of peaceful activists.

This ship to Gaza is another response to the call from people within Gaza to try to break the siege they suffer under. At the end of September, a new call (http://www.odsg.org/co/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2400:in-new-window-print-all-expand-all-collapse-all-a-call-from-gaza-to-the-people-of-conscience-worldwi&catid=39:Statements&Itemid=62 ) was launched by numerous civil society organisations in Gaza, including the key trade unions, calling for the flotilla to sail again. They called on the:

“nations and citizens of the world to continue and/or reinitiate their plans to sail to Gaza to challenge and break the Israeli blockade. The civil society initiatives of the Freedom Flotillas are about taking a stance of justice and solidarity with besieged Palestinians when your governments will not. We call on the Flotilla movement to continue to sail until the blockade of Gaza is entirely lifted and Palestinians of Gaza are granted the basic human rights and freedom of movement citizens around the world enjoy.”

In sailing to Gaza, we are attempting to assist the people of Gaza and the Palestinian people generally in their struggle against oppression. There are reasons to be positive about the potential to build a major struggle that can defeat this oppression. Mass mobilisation from below have been seen across the region, which is what contains the potential to end the oppression and deliver a just solution. The lesson from the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia is the power of the mass of people and their ability to bring about fundamental change through their collective action, rather than the actions of any of the international capitalist powers. It is the Palestinian people, together with the Arab masses generally and appealing to the Israeli workers and young people who are capable of struggling to end the occupation, the siege, the settlements and the national oppression of Palestinians and to bring about a real solution to the problems in the Middle East,

Within Israel, the development of a major social movement and tent cities brought out almost half a million to demonstrate against inequality and rising prices within Israel itself. Unfortunately, the leadership of that movement did not condemn or even address the occupation, with some elements even supporting the air strikes on Gaza. It did not reach out to the oppressed Palestinians to build a joint and stronger movement. Nonetheless, the existence of such a movement does illustrate the class nature of Israeli society and demonstrations the potential to break Israeli workers and youth from the right-wing political establishment. However, the launching of missiles last weekend which resulted in the death of one civilian in Ashkelon is to be condemned and played into the hands of the Israeli establishment by forcing the cancellation of a protest as part of this movement and will be used as a further barrier to the linking of the movement with Palestinians. It may provide a pretext for the Israeli regime to renege on an agreement to release a further 550 prisoners.

Within the occupied territories, the pressure from below, inspired by the example of the revolutions in the region, is increasing. The potential exists to develop a third, mass-struggle based, intifada democratically controlled by the Palestinian workers and poor that could end the occupation, halt the expansion of settlements and work to remove the checkpoints and barriers..

The ongoing oppression with no genuine “road map to peace” on the basis of the current system underlines the fact that there the national and social aspirations of the Palestinian masses cannot be met on the basis of capitalism. It is only on the basis of a mass struggle aimed at breaking with capitalism that a just solution can be found – an independent and socialist Palestine alongside a truly democratic and socialist Israel with the rights of all nationalities guaranteed including the right of refugees to return, as part of a socialist confederation of the Middle East.

Read the interview I did with socialistworld.net about my reasons for going on the Freedom Flotilla II here http://www.socialistworld.net/doc/5155.

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