Convoy to end Gaza siege
Activist in convoy of ships with aid for Gaza explains why it is important to break Israeli siege.
Last Modified: 27 May 2010 11:49 GMT
About 700 pro-Gaza activists are undertaking the hazardous journey on the flotilla [Reuters]

The Gaza Freedom Flotilla has been months in the planning and now consists of nine boats which will set sail for Gaza and converge just off its shores.

Being part of the 700-strong civilian 'crew' was an easy decision to make. Individuals such as myself have been forced to take bold steps to challenge Israel. In order to bring about justice, we are forced to face this danger. Even as we make our plans, the Israeli navy, headed by none other than Ehud Barak, the defence minister, plans to block our efforts – at all costs.

The startling truth is that Israel has no authority over Gaza’s waters, and so its defence force should perhaps go back to monitoring Israel’s real border, although they may be hard pushed to figure out just where they lie.

Crippling siege

The siege on Gaza will enter its fourth year in June, although it has failed to materialise on newspaper headlines for much of this time. Many are aware of the facts, which include consistent obstruction by Israel in permitting adequate resources to enter Gaza such as fuel, gas, baby supplies, school materials, medicines and even basic foods.

The consequences of these obstacles have been catastrophic, and the images of this catastrophe are for the most part kept away from the world.

With Israel controlling all borders, the only lifelines available to Gazans has been a maze of underground tunnels along the border with Egypt. This forced black-market has claimed lives and is being continually challenged by Israeli bombings and Egyptian reinforcement of the border with an underground steel wall.

For the needs of Gaza’s 1.5 million people to be met, there needs to be 1,300 containers of merchandise and foods passing across the Karni Crossing every day. The supplies that do manage to pass fail to meet even 20 pert cent of the populations’ needs. The result has been 80 per cent poverty, dependency on aid for even their daily meals and hundreds of deaths from lack of medical equipment and supplies.

Governments around the world have taken a number of different positions where the Gaza siege is concerned. Many are indifferent, few challenge Israel and some are complicit, such as Egypt and the USA. The result has been an abysmal failure to confront the legality of such a blockade and a lack of accountability for the hundreds of Palestinians who have died as a result of it.

As planned by Israeli politicians, Gazans have been put on a grotesquely expressed lean ‘diet’ that is threatening the health of entire generations.This is the background to the Freedom Flotilla and all initiatives like it.

Challenging Israel

Since the siege on Gaza began, many around the world vowed to challenge and break it. This came in the form of convoys of hundreds of vehicles amassing on the Gaza/Egypt border; boats sailing into the Gaza seas; and millions of dollars in aid being sent for the people on the ground.

However, Israel has remained determined to ensure that Gazans are subject to nothing but misery in their daily lives in repayment for electing a Hamas government and so called retaliation to rockets.

Never mind the fact that the blockade has been accompanied by near constant attacks from the Israeli army and navy, which totally eclipse any home made rockets from Gaza. The death toll speaks for itself, with four civilian deaths on the Israeli side and over 2,000 on the Gaza side since June 2007.

This is not a just conflict between Israel and Gaza, it is an annihilation of one group of ill-equipped people by one of the mightiest armies in the world.

Our motives go beyond drawing attention to the crisis in Gaza. It is now about ensuring that ordinary people around the globe ask themselves why we are allowing the persecution of the Gazans to continue. An open air prison camp where people die from treatable illnesses and suffer malnutrition while living beside openly running sewage – this is Gaza’s reality, and it is man made, by Israel.

Gazans don't need bags of flour and rice, they need the siege to end and we need to rise above donating money to massage our consciences and take action to end the siege. Our bold aim is to achieve justice for the people of Gaza, and this is an aim that we carry on our shoulders with millions of people around the world backing us.

The author is founder and Chair of Friends of Al-Aqsa, a UK based NGO. He is also the Director of IslamExpo and Youelect. He has published several books and his work on the Palestinian issue is published extensively in the English media.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

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