A Palestinian shopkeeper displays mugs with pictures for U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama in his shop in Gaza November 2, 2008. The mugs read â€œHey!!! Come and drink the Palestinian coffee with the flavor of the US Presidential Electionâ€.
â€œNam, Nehnu, Nastatyehâ€ is Arabic for â€œYes, we canâ€. Three small ships and less than 100 brave humanitarians have accomplished what many thought was impossible. They have broken the siege of Gaza, not once but twice.
Readers of The Muslim Observer are intimately familiar with the suffering and deprivation of the people of Gaza. The main stream media pay scant attention to the situation. If it is reported at all, it is an air brushed version of the actual conditions usually done without identifying the state of Israel as the oppressor.
Humanitarians around the world have tried to shine a light on Gaza and many have tried to relieve the conditions of the Gazan people. Among the most active and successful group has been the freeGaza movement which in late August broke the more than 40 year siege of Gaza by sailing into Gaza at its Mediterranean shoreline. While spending a few days there, the passengers worked with and visited the local population, leaving some of their members in Gaza and returning with Gazan residents. The later included residents of Gaza who would reunite with family and children in need of medical procedures that could not be performed locally.
On October 29, the third ship, the USS Dignity, flying a flag of Gibraltar, successfully completed the second trip. The ship and its crew and passengers arrived to the cheers of thousands of Gazans in rainy conditions. The U. S. S. Dignity had been threatened by the Israeli Navy in a superficial move to save face. The shipâ€™s passengers and crew were informed through the media and not directly by the Israeli authorities, that Israel would forcibly stop the ship. Israel backed down, the ship not having entered Israelâ€™s territorial waters as the Israelis knew it would not. Indeed, the freeGaza movement extended an invitation to prominent Israeli officials to accompany the ship on its humanitarian mission.
The crew consisted of 27 unarmed civilians on a humanitarian mission and carried in its hold badly needed medical supplies. Among the passengers was Huwaida Arraf, an attorney and teacher at Al Quds University in Jerusalem; Nobel Prize winner Mairead Maguire, and Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, a member of the Palestine Legislative Council.
Again the freeGaza travellers accompanied Gaza fishermen beyond the 6 mile limit imposed on them by Israel. One of the ships with an international aboard was fired upon. There were three Israeli Naval vessels, on of which had a large water cannon. As a result of fire from the canon, much of the equipment on the boat was blown overboard.
After accomplishing its mission in Gaza, the USS Dignity returned to Cyprus on November 2nd. The internationals brought with them a student who had been denied by the Israelis the right to study medicine in Belgium and 23 of the original passengers. All were greeted by Palestinian refugees from Iraq holding olive branches and signs. Many of them were displaying the names of towns and villages taken by the Israelis and many were waving the keys to their stolen homes. Huwaida Arraf said: â€œOnce again weâ€™ve been able to defy an unjust and illegal policy while the rest of the world is too intimidated to do anything.â€
To find out more about the freeGaza movemnet and to make badly needed donations, please access their web site at: <www.freegaza.org>.