May 27, 2010

The Freedom Flotilla

Filed under: Civil Disobedience — Tags: , — Russ @ 7:31 am
As I write the Freedom Flotilla, a vanguard of conscience, has embarked from multiple ports in Turkey and Greece, with one ship coming from as far away as Ireland. Its destination – the besieged and throttled Gaza Strip. They expect to arrive sometime this weekend.
Click here for a map.
The eight vessels – four cargo boats and four passenger craft, the largest a Turkish ferry carrying 600 human rights activists  – carry humanitarian cargo. They also carry witnesses to the action, and the conscience of the world’s people. The passion is so oversubscribed that even Noam Chomsky, recently refused entry to the West Bank to deliver a lecture at a Palestinian university, may be unable to find a berth.

In the port of Agios Nikolaos, here on the Greek island of Crete, one of the lead organisers of the flotilla is the Free Gaza Movement’s Renee Jaouadi – a 34-year-old schoolteacher, formerly from Newcastle, NSW. Under the banner of the Freedom Flotilla, the protest is a $US3 million-plus ($3.6 million) operation. Apart from 10,000 tonnes of building, medical, educational and other supplies, on board are dozens of parliamentarians from around the world and professionals planning to offer their services in Gaza.

Celebrity names include the Swedish crime writer Henning Mankell and Denis Halliday, a former United Nations humanitarian co-ordinator who in 1998 resigned, protesting that economic sanctions on Iraq amounted to genocide.

On Saturday evening, attempts were under way to find a berth on the over-subscribed manifest for the activist American philosopher Noam Chomsky, who Israeli authorities last week barred from entering the West Bank where he had been invited to speak at a Palestinian university.

The people of Gaza were already a dispossessed alien group on their own land when in late 2008 Israel launched war upon them. This war was really more a campaign of systematic economic destruction, as the Israeli military destroyed homes, factories, and crops. Since then they’ve continued the war by other means, the garotte of a blockade.
According to the WHO the consequences have been severe:

“In Gaza, Israel’s blockade is debilitating the healthcare system, limiting medical supplies and the training of medical personnel and preventing serious medical cases from travelling outside the Strip for specialized treatment.”
“Israel’s 2008-2009 military operation damaged 15 of the Strip’s 27 hospitals and damaged or destroyed 43 of its 110 primary health care facilities, none of which have been repaired or rebuilt because of the construction materials ban.”
“Some 15-20 percent of essential medicines are commonly out of stock and there are shortages of essential spare parts for many items of medical equipment . . . ”
In Late 2008, nearly 1 in 5 Palestinians lived in “extreme poverty.” Over half lived below the poverty line.
“In the second half of 2008, one third of West Bank households and 71 percent of Gaza households received food assistance, with food accounting for roughly half total household expenditures – making families highly vulnerable to food price fluctuations.”
“In May 2008, 56 percent of Gazans and 25 percent of West Bank residents were deemed food insecure by the UN.”
“Chronic malnutrition has risen in Gaza over the past few years to reach 10.2 percent.” [This is especially true among children in Gaza).
The entire fishing and agricultural sectors in the Palestinian population are very badly off.

This strangulation has reduced the civilian existence of Gazans to whatever can be smuggled in through tunnels. As per the Israeli intention, this has filled the Gazans’ lives with uncertainty and fear, as they tremble for the very necessities of life.
Such collective punishment is a crime against humanity, but by now the Israeli kleptocracy, a more perfected crystallization of the globalist kleptocracy, has moved defiantly beyond concern for the mere laws and morals of the human race.
Half the population of Gaza are children, and they are suffering the most. Incredibly, the Israelis won’t even allow through the building materials for the one hundred schools the Gazans need to build. It’s as if the Israelis <i>want</i> this entire generation to grow up enraged and ignorant, and therefore perfect jihad material.
So far Israel has responded to the Flotilla with a combination of playing innocent, disparagement, and threats. The one part of the message which has been clear is that they intend to stop the boats. They reiterated this yesterday, while claiming they’d deliver any legitimate humanitarian cargo themselves. This dovetails with their broader claim that they’re already letting sufficient civilian goods through the blockade. Bizarrely, they even cited the smugglers as alleged proof that this flotilla’s cargo isn’t necessary.
But all of this is a lie. The Israelis do let in just enough food and seeds and medical supplies to try to claim they’re not starving and sickening out the people of Gaza, when in fact it’s only a trickle just barely sufficient to sustain life, but completely insufficient to help the Gazans rebuild their shattered society. Meanwhile necessary rebuilding materiel like cement are forbidden completely, and will not be among whatever anodyne portion of the Freedom Flotilla’s cargo is “delivered” after the IDF has intercepted it.
The purpose of the blockade is to let just enough through so that the people don’t literally die, but otherwise to be sufficiently severe that they can never rebuild. The entire campaign, starting with the original blockade (since 2007), escalating into the military assault, and now terminal with this apparently permanent intensified blockade, is meant to collectively punish the Gazan people for exercising democracy by electing Hamas to run their government. Whatever we think of Hamas (which is both a violent resistance organization as well as a significant provider of civilian services), it truly represents the will of the people.
We should always be aware of how willing are The Powers That Be to punish democracy wherever it functions to their disapproval.
So the Israeli navy promises to halt the vessels, as it has in several earlier incidents (in one case violently ramming a peaceful cargo boat). Meanwhile, in shades of old times, a private Israeli “volunteer” fleet is organizing to “assist” the navy. We’re familiar with such paramilitary volunteers from the bad old days of fascism. It’s a textbook fascist organizational tactic.
So what will happen at the confrontation point? Presumably the IDF hopes to physically block and then board the vessels without any violence beyond that. They say they’re bringing foreign journalists along to prove their reasonable intentions. (But who are these “journalists”? If they’re from the MSM of Bailout America, nobody should trust their good intentions or professional ethics.) In that case they ought to exclude private troublemakers from anywhere near the vicinity. We can take that as one metric.
As for the Freedom Flotilla, it’s determined to assertively and non-violently steam through and dock and unload at Gaza ports. This is exactly the kind of non-violent assertion that has often worked. It was a favorite tactic of Gandhi. They should try to keep moving, if possible circumventing Israeli warships which try to physically interpose. It’s true that if the Israelis are determined to stop them, they will stop them.
But if there’s any lack of will at all among the interceptors, any ambivalence or divided resolve, this can generate enough lassitude in the counteraction to let the action slip through. That’s how active non-violence works, and how it can triumph.
And if they do get through, what a moral victory against the segregating walls being built to enclose, stifle, and strangle our economies and our politics! It’s the foray of conscience.
Now if we could only figure out ways to physically challenge Wall Street and the US government like this…
Edit Sunday 5/30 6:25 EDT:
The Flotilla has recently departed from Cyprus and is expected to reach Gaza on Monday morning.  


  1. Some stuff you may want to know about how Israel treats Gaza:

    [Edit 5/31. I removed the fascist propaganda. I think we now have some fresher evidence about how Israel treats humanity.]

    Comment by Erika — May 29, 2010 @ 3:54 pm

  2. Yes, they do indeed want to “break the illegal siege”. (I fixed that lie. Collective punishment is of course a crime against humanity according to international law.)

    And I’ll always support any non-violent activist who challenges the Israeli kleptocracy, ground zero for the technology and tactics of the surveillance state and the mercenary state.

    BTW, how about the morality and courage of your “heroes” who were so terrified to let Noam Chomsky enter the West Bank.


    Comment by Russ — May 29, 2010 @ 4:20 pm

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