Nonviolent action against the blockade of Gaza

Press review – week from June 22 to 26, 2009


Newspapers are now diverted from Gaza after the end of Operation Cast Lead, yet time has not stopped and the month of June saw the second anniversary of the arrival of Hamas to power in the Gaza strip, as highlights La Libre Belgique. Recalling its accession to power on 15 June 2007, the Belgian newspaper says that since then « Gaza is subject to a strict blockade by Israel, which does not let enter the food supposed to meet the humanitarian needs of some 1.5 million Palestinians living there, one of the highest densities in the world. »La Libre Belgique analyses the taking of control of Gaza by Hamas as a « consecration of the division among Palestinians. » If Fatah and Hamas launched in February a dialogue of reconciliation to achieve a government of national unity, they did not reach any compromise until now.

Despite the media silence on the Gaza Strip since the end of the last Israeli Operation, the situation remains alarming and people still suffer from the consequences of the blockade and of last winter’s military operation, says Palestine Info. The site focuses on the impact that the recent events had on children. Having lost for many of them, their house, parents, classmates and their school, children in Gaza are unable to study like before. Traumatised and a lacking of resources (school supplies, buildings, electricity), children often became very nervous or too shocked to continue a “normal” scholar life. The Minister of Education Raid Salhiya, noting the psychological damage the war had on children in Gaza, has decided to launch a week of psychological support, relates Palestine Info.

Meanwhile, many NGOs remain aware of the plight of the Gazans. On Thursday June 24th, the NGO Free Gaza sent a fax to the Israeli ministries of defense and foreign affairs to warn that « on Thursday 25 June 2009, the boats “free Gaza” and “Spirit of Humanity” will sail from Larnaca port to the port of Gaza City, under the flag of Greece. » In this fax, Free Gaza has announced the carriage of necessary medical in sealed boxes and pencils, coloring books and toys for children as well as 300 bags of cement. Explaining the sending of these faxes, Free Gaza declared that « this letter is aiming at clearly notifying (to you) (our) road. Any attack on the boats “Spirit of Humanity” and/or “Free Gaza” will therefore be premeditated and any injury to persons on board will be seen as the result of an attack against voluntary non-armed civilians « . Indeed, the NGO was referring to Tuesday December 30th, when a ship of the Israeli navy attacked without warning the boat “Dignity” on which stood the activists of the NGO.

Ma’an news agency dealing with this initiative, quotes Greta Berlin, organizer of « Free Gaza » who explains that the NGO would « not bow to threats and intimidation of Israel. » After the warning of Cyprus, from where the boats intend to leave for Gaza and which support Free Gaza but fears an Israeli attack, the organization has been contacted by the United States. Indeed, the United States has warned the NGO that Israel had declared that Gaza was regarded as “a conflict area and that “any Free Gaza boat trying to sail to the Gaza Strip would not be allowed to reach its destination. » The United States advised Free Gaza to take seriously the Israeli intentions. However, Ma’an news agency revealed that former U.S. Congressman Cynthia McKinney responded to the American warning by stating that « the White House believes that the cement and medicines should be reaching Gaza » and that « instead of quoting the Israeli policy, the United States should send a message to Israel to reiterate the position of the White House which wants the blockade of Gaza to be reduced and medicines and construction materials to be allowed. »

On Friday June 26th, the boats of Free Gaza NGO had not left the Cypriot harbor, according to the Palestinian Telegraph. Indeed, the Cypriot authorities have not given permission for the vessels to leave yet, believing their trip to Gaza is too dangerous. The organization responded by thanking Cyprus for its hospitality and welcoming the support and understanding of their intervention. If the organization has admitted the danger of its draft to navigate to Gaza, Free Gaza said that « the risk that (we) are taking with these trips is tiny compared to the risks imposed every day on people of Gaza. » Concerning the reaction of the White House which asked to free Gaza to take seriously the Israeli warning, the NGO wondered: « Can we take B. Obama seriously? Will he keep its word and allow us to help Gaza or will he back down?  »

In the Jerusalem Post, Mairead Corrigan Maguire, Nobel Peace Prize in 1976 for her work with Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland said that « (We) promised to Gazans to come back and not to forget them. »