35. Stay human

An update and wrap-up from the Tahrir, the Canadian boat to Gaza.

It’s followed by an insightful article, in which Adam Shapiro argues that, contrary to official propaganda that the Gaza flotillas have failed, in fact they have had a powerful, enduring impact.  Shapiro is an organiser with the Free Gaza Movement.  Currently in Greece, he’s working to overturn travel restrictions on the Freedom Flotilla.

First, a message from the Tahrir, July 8, Agios Nilolaos, Crete:

“The Canadian Boat to Gaza, the Tahrir, is still trying to gain permission from Greek authorities to sail. We continue to demand that the Greek authorities allow us to leave. We have broken no laws and our boat is seaworthy. This is not the end but rather another chapter in our ongoing effort to end the brutal blockade of Gaza and will be followed by others.

Many of our delegates, and those representing other countries involved in Freedom Flotilla II, have had to return* to their busy lives in Canada and elsewhere, but they do so with a strengthened resolve to work tirelessly towards an end to Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza and for a free Palestine.  [* MR: Bob Lovelace returned home earlier this week.]

While we know there is still much work to be done, the support and encouragement we are receiving indicates we are succeeding towards our goal to end the blockade of Gaza and we are determined to move ahead.  For weeks, we, a group of volunteers from all walks of life, have had and continue to have the attention of Israel, the world’s fourth largest military, as they conspire with other countries to do everything in their power to stop us.  Despite these blatant attempts to block our legal actions, we have fully exposed the complicity of governments around the world with the illegal and human rights abusive actions of Israel.  We intend to hold Greece accountable for clear violations of international law.

In terms of our organizing in Canada, we have successfully engaged people and communities from coast to coast to coast.  As our government actively ignores the will of the people, the people’s voice grows stronger, more cohesive and more clear.  We will not stop organizing until every single person in Gaza is able to exercise their full human right to self-determination along with all people of Palestine.

We have also been reaching diverse Canadian citizens through media and social networking.  Many people who had not been aware of the situation in Gaza and Palestine are taking notice and have joined our struggle.  This is evidenced by the hundreds of groups and individuals who have endorsed our project, and the many more who have given generously to financially support it.  The popular movement is growing and will not be stopped.

In this struggle, we continue to take inspiration from the steadfast Palestinian people and from the efforts of solidarity movements around the world, as well as from the uprisings which continue throughout the Middle East and North Africa, including the mass protest in Egypt’s Tahrir Square taking place today.  We are building, growing, and evolving our strategies to help bring about change and to contribute to bringing Tahrir (liberation) to the long suffering people of Palestine.

Together, we will reach Gaza.  Together, we will end the blockade.  Stay human.”

[MR: Despite the sometimes over-ripe rhetoric, these are substantial, dedicated peace and human rights activists.  They mean what they say.

In case you’re wondering, “Stay human” was the guiding motto of Vittorio Arrigoni, an Italian reporter, writer, pacifist and activist who worked with the International Solidarity Movement and the people of Gaza from 2008 until his death in April 2011.  He was murdered, allegedly by members of a fundamentalist group opposed to Hamas.  Vittorio Arrigoni’s motto, Stay human, made an apt theme for the current Freedom Flotilla.]

…..

Gaza flotillas have made a difference

By Adam Shapiro, Gulf News, July 6, 2011

As ships continue preparing to depart for Gaza from Greece and as the Greek government continues to serve as the Israeli ‘call centre’ for outsourcing the blockade of 1.6 million Palestinians in Gaza, the myth continues to perpetuate that ‘established channels’ should be used to reach Gaza.

Governments remain comfortable and unchallenged in maintaining a position that the situation in Gaza is untenable, that the blockade must end and that the blockade is illegal on the one hand and that by pursuing these established channels these same governments serve only to reinforce and legitimise the blockade.

It seems only the Palestinian people in Gaza must seek their freedom through established humanitarian channels that rely on the whim of their oppressor and the occasional glance of attention from the international community.  Being born in Gaza is being born into a life sentence of living in a virtual cage, without fundamental human rights.

The flotilla effort, initiated by the Free Gaza Movement in 2008 when it sailed small fishing ships to Gaza and successfully reached the port of Gaza, is not about humanitarian aid.  It is about Palestinian freedom and their rights to access the world as any other people.

And despite the chorus of “the flotilla is not necessary”, reality on the ground shows that it non-violent direct action that has been the only effective power to make change in the lives of Palestinians.

The pressure applied by the flotilla effort has led to three main changes — in terms of the policy of the siege applied by Israel to Gaza; in terms of the media coverage and public attention to the crime scene that is Gaza; and in terms of compelling governments and institutions to take a position on the blockade….

Read the whole article here.

About Michael Riordon

Canadian writer and documentary-maker Michael Riordon writes/ directs/produces books and articles, audio, video and film documentaries, plays for radio and stage. A primary goal of his work is to recover voices and stories of people who have been silenced or marginalized, written out of the official version: First Nations (aboriginal) youth, Mozambican farmers, inmates in Canadian prisons, traditional healers in Fiji, queer folk across Canada, Guatemalan labour activists. Michael also leads courses, workshops and seminars for community organizations, trade unions, schools, colleges and universities.
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