Why Ship to Gaza is Sailing Again

Press release Created 11/5 2015 at 23:58

Yesterday the trawler Marianne of Gothenburg departed from its home port heading for the Eastern Mediterranean and Gaza. Ship to Gaza Sweden and Norway will join forces with other ships from the international Freedom Flotilla  to once again attempt to peacefully break the inhumane, illegal blockade of the besieged Palestinian population on that narrow coastal strip between Israel and Egypt.

There is one obvious objection: don't we need boats for other purposes in the Mediterranean?

People are being forced to run for their lives from war and persecution in the Middle East and North Africa. Cynical traffickers are cashing in on highly hazardous transportations in unseaworthy vessels. In another part of the region-though -Gaza- people cannot even flee from their bombed-out homes. The Israeli/Egyptian siege is virtually complete.

Consequently, the catastrophe on the Mediterranean and the catastrophic blockade of Gaza are related. Both are caused by misanthropic policies, despotic regimes, crumbling states. Both are caused by an ‘international community’ that prefers to look the other way rather than take its responsibility. In this situation, humanitarian organisations like Ship to Gaza and Doctors Without Borders are forced to act by sending boats to Tripoli and Gaza City to advance human dignity.

Another objection is as predictable as the spam in our in-boxes: Isn't the blockade of Gaza caused by the fact that the area is governed by Hamas, which Israel and Egypt need to defend themselves from? That is the message being trumpeted out by the Israeli right-wing government and its media megaphones. Most recently, in an editorial in Dagens Nyheter (4 May) the editor repeated a rhetorical depiction that has become mantra in the paper's Middle East reporting: turning the primary issue into a secondary one, and vice versa. To put it plainly: the main problem is not the Israeli/Egyptian blockade; rather it is the Hamas government. The blockade and the Israeli occupation are re-framed as a secondary issue. Accordingly, it then follows that the Israeli wars are not waged on the 1.7 million Palestinians, but rather on Hamas.

The fallacy of this worldview becomes painfully clear when hearing testimony that the Israeli organisation Breaking the Silence has collected and which was widely reported last week. In it, Israeli soldiers report that they were given express orders to not distinguish between military and civilian targets when the attack on Gaza was initiated on 17 July last year. In Israeli war terminology "Hamas" means anything Palestinian, any living thing in Gaza.

It is no coincidence that Ship to Gaza is sailing a fishing boat to Gaza this time. The blockade, entering its ninth year, deprives the besieged population of freedom of movement, trade, health care, food security and education. Palestinian fishermen, who are forbidden by the Israeli occupation authorities to sail beyond six nautical miles of the coast are subjected to daily harassment, shelling and confiscation of their boats.

As in Ship to Gaza's action with Estelle in 2012, Marianne will stop at many ports during its voyage, holding events to build public support for the lifting of the blockade. After Gothenburg, it will stop in Malmo/Copenhagen and then continue down the European coast. Marianne will join other ships of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition in the Eastern Mediterranean and then sail together towards Gaza City. In order to enable a just peace and for the Palestinian state that Sweden and many other countries have recognised to have a chance to function, Ship to Gaza demands:

  • an immediate lifting of the siege;
  • the opening of a functional port in Gaza City;
  • and the establishment of safe transportation routes between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.