Rescue the Spirit of Humanity

CYPRUS-MIDEAST-CONFLICT-GAZA-AID-BOAT

The humanitarian situation in Gaza has grown beyond intolerable.  If you have any doubts, just read this devastatingly important article by Sara Roy, senior research scholar at Harvard’s  Center for Middle Eastern Studies:

Today, 96 percent of Gaza’s population of 1.4 million is dependent on humanitarian aid for basic needs. According to the World Food Programme, the Gaza Strip requires a minimum of 400 trucks of food every day just to meet the basic nutritional needs of the population. Yet, despite a 22 March decision by the Israeli cabinet to lift all restrictions on foodstuffs entering Gaza, only 653 trucks of food and other supplies were allowed entry during the week of May 10, at best meeting 23 percent of required need.

Israel now allows only 30 to 40 commercial items to enter Gaza compared to 4,000 approved products prior to June 2006. According to the Israeli journalist, Amira Hass, Gazans still are denied many commodities (a policy in effect long before the December assault): Building materials (including wood for windows and doors), electrical appliances (such as refrigerators and washing machines), spare parts for cars and machines, fabrics, threads, needles, candles, matches, mattresses, sheets, blankets, cutlery, crockery, cups, glasses, musical instruments, books, tea, coffee, sausages, semolina, chocolate, sesame seeds, nuts, milk products in large packages, most baking products, light bulbs, crayons, clothing, and shoes.

What possible benefit can be derived from an increasingly impoverished, unhealthy, densely crowded, and furious Gaza alongside Israel? Gaza’s terrible injustice not only threatens Israeli and regional security, but it undermines America’s credibility, alienating our claim to democratic practice and the rule of law.

And now the news has just come in that Israel has seized the “Spirit of Humanity,” a boat carrying a cargo of humanitarian aid in international waters, and  is  forcibly towing it to an Israeli port.  The boat contained 21 human rights workers from 11 countries, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire and former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. It was bringing medicine, toys, and other much needed humanitarian relief.

If you’re looking for a way to channel your upset over this dire situation into effective contribution to Gaza relief, I particularly recommmend American Near East Refugee Aid.  Their projects in Gaza include:

- Delivery of  life-saving pharmaceuticals and medical supplies to hospitals and clinics;

- Distribution of  fortified milk and high-energy biscuits to 25,200 children in 186 preschools.

– Water projects that bring water networks to families in need and pumping systems to keep raw sewage off the streets.

- A psychosocial program that helps thousands of children and parents struggling to survive the effects of war.

- Cash-for-work programs that employ workers to clear agricultural land of plastic waste and provide 200 families a means of self-reliance.


3 Comments on “Rescue the Spirit of Humanity”

  1. Irish Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire speaks to Democracy Now from her jail cell in Israel. She was taken into custody along with twenty others, including former US Congress member Cynthia McKinney, when the Israeli military boarded their ship in international waters as it tried to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza.

    http://www.democracynow.org/2009/7/2/nobel_peace_laureate_mairead_maguire_speaks

  2. Michael Levin says:

    Subject: [GazaFriends] 14 of us in the 7 by 7 meter cell Date: 7/3/09

    Interview from a kidnapped passenger, Adie Mormech
    Prison Cell, Givon Jail, Ramle, Israel

    Adie Mormech, one of over 21 human rights workers and crew taken prisoner on Tuesday 30th June when their boat was forcibly boarded by the Israeli navy, has spoken by mobile phone from his prison cell at Givon jail, Ramle, near Tel Aviv.

    Amongst the other prisoners from the Free Gaza Movement boat, Spirit of Humanity, are Nobel Peace prize winner, Mairead Maguire, and former US Congresswoman, Cythnia McKinney. A message from McKinney on 2nd July condemned Israel for its “illegal” action in “dismantl[ing] our navigation equipment” and confiscating both the ship and its cargo of medical aid, childrens’ toys and olive trees.

    McKinney went on to say that “State Department and White House officials have not effected our release or taken a strong public stance to condemn the illegal actions of the Israeli Navy of enforcing a blockade of humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians of Gaza, a blockade that has been condemned by President Obama.”

    The Free Gaza campaign succeeded in entering Gaza by sea on several occasions in 2008, carrying humanitarian aid, medical personnel, journalists and human rights workers. However, later attempts have been met with aggression by the Israeli navy, with one boat, the Dignity, having to seek refuge and repairs in Lebanon after being rammed three times by an Israeli warship.

    In a brief interview with Andy Bowman of Manchester’s Mule newspaper (http//www.themule.info), Mr Mormech gave the following account:

    How are you being treated?

    It’s bad, but the conditions are OK for me, I’ve not been beaten up, they’re a bit nasty sometimes and when they boarded the boat we had our faces slammed against the floor. It was bad for the older women like Mairead.

    The four other UK nationals are in the cell with me. There’s 14 of us in the 7 by 7 meter cell which includes the toilet and shower, so very crowded. It’s very hot and there’s only a tiny window. We get awakened at 6 in the morning for an inspection and have to stand to attention, and then they repeat that at 9 am, and we are only allowed out of the cells for a few hours each day. They keep giving us forms to sign but they are in Hebrew so we don’t. Although I’m able to cope here, other people are less comfortable than me in the situation. If we’re here for a long time – like some of the other people in here have been – then it will be tough.

    Have you had access to a lawyer yet?

    We have, and at the moment we’re discussing what to do about our deportation. They’ve taken our personal items – laptops, cameras, phones and many other valuables, and we want to find out where these are. They obviously want to deport us as quickly as possible, but some of us are thinking about fighting the deportation. Firstly on the basis that if we get deported we won’t be allowed into the occupied West Bank or Israel for another 10 years, but also, because we didn’t intend to come here to Israel – we intended to go to Gaza, and went directly from international waters into Palestinian waters. There is nothing legal about what Israel has done to us grabbing us like this. We’re considering fighting the deportation on the grounds that we shouldn’t accept and legitimize this barbaric military blockade of Gaza.

    If you challenge the deportation could you remain in prison for a while longer?

    Yes we could – there’s some people that need to get home, but some will challenge. And for those it will be a few more weeks in prison at least, we expect.

    And you?

    I’m veering towards challenging it on the basis that it’s a scar on my name to accept that I shouldn’t have been here, but in fact I have every right to go to Gaza just as everyone else does. That’s the whole point of these voyages and that’s the principle we want to stick to.

    Have they told you what has happened to the cargo of the boat?

    No, we don’t know what they’re doing with it. We’ve been told a lot of lies so far about where we’re going and what’s happening to us, so we just don’t know. They’re already prepared to deprive the people of Gaza of a lot of aid anyway.

    What is your message to people back in the UK?

    This is not about us here in the cells, it’s about the denial of human rights to the people of Palestine, and in particular the inhumane blockade of Gaza. People must not forget about what is happening to Gaza. At the moment they are even being denied food and medical supplies. After the carnage of the 1500 people killed in January, we won’t forget and we’ll keep on going and keep fighting for the human rights of the people of Palestine.

    Greta Berlin
    Free Gaza Movement
    357 []
    http://www.freegaza.org
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/29205195@N02/

  3. Benjamin Barnett says:

    Brant, thanks for this post, and your offerings as always. A question lingering for me about the Sara Roy article, (and in general the discourse re: Gaza in these circles), is her lack of mention of Hamas’ violent tactics, both externally and internally as well. She exposes realities re: Israeli gov’t and military action that we need to hear, yet re: Palestinian accountability only mentions the complicity of the PA. There seems to be a missing piece. This as opposed to Amnesty’s recent report that did name Hamas’ action as defying int’l law. I stand with you re: solidarity with the people of Gaza and protesting Israeli action there, but am wondering how to hold this element alongside it.
    shalom
    Benjamin


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