Grassroots International joins our partners in Palestine and Israel – and indeed non-violent activists worldwide – in the condemnation of Israel’s attack on the Free Gaza flotilla bound for Gaza. When Israeli forces stormed a multinational humanitarian fleet on its way to Gaza – in international waters – to deliver medicines, medical equipment, building materials and food they also assaulted Nobel laureates, holocaust survivors and civilians from 40 nations. And they also assaulted hope for basic human dignity and recovery in a region under illegal siege for more than three years.
Make no mistake: the ships carrying humanitarian supplies through international waters threatened to unmask both the inhumane and violent nature of the siege of the Gaza Strip, and the relative inaction on lifting it by the world community. And they have done so with tragic consequences. Death estimates range from 10 to more than 20, but as yet the media and civilians have not been allowed access to the members of the international delegation, and we still do not know the full extent of the damage.
In a press release yesterday, members of Palestinian Civil Society Organizations are calling for international solidarity to “begin a global response to hold Israel accountable for the murder of foreign civilians at sea and illegal piracy of civilian vessels carrying humanitarian aid for Gaza.” Dr. Eyad el Sarraj, Director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program, a longtime Grassroots International partner and grantee, offered a powerful summary of the situation: Due to the Israeli blockade of Gaza, the unemployment rate is near 50 percent. The World Bank has stated that 90 per cent of water in Gaza is not suitable for human consumption, 80 per cent of the population lives on less than a dollar a day, and 70 per cent depend on charity for food supplies. Chronic malnutrition affects 15 per cent of Gaza’s children and its serious consequences for their cognition and growth will be felt for years to come. The boats that the Israeli soldiers attacked were carrying food, medicines, and materials to build prefabricated homes for the people of Gaza. The freedom flotilla was a new attempt to break this Israeli blockade, condemned by the human rights community the world over. The people of Gaza lack these materials due to the blockade imposed by the state of Israel. Civilians were killed and others wounded.
No other place in the world shows as clearly the impact of one nation’s military occupation and total lack of respect for basic human rights, incuding to land, water and food of another people as does the situation in Gaza. More than 1.5 million Palestinians suffer a daily prison sentence, denied freedom of movement, denied the ability to grow their own food or depend on their own water, and denied even the right to rebuild after their homes were destroyed. Even so, justice cannot be denied forever.
For more than 27 years, Grassroots International has worked with community-based organizations in the Middle East and throughout the world that strive to defend human rights, and the political struggle necessary to achieve those rights. In every way possible, the current (and past) Israeli government has denied the Palestinian people the right to land, water, food and freedom.
Grassroots International joins with all people of good will everywhere in demanding justice for the people of Palestine, including an immediate end to the Israeli and Egyptian siege of Gaza, UN action on the Goldstone report on the Gaza war, an independent international commission to investigate the killings that took place on the boats attempting to bring aid to Gaza, and a United States Middle East policy that is based on genuine respect for universal human rights and justice and not simply founded on unconditional support for Israel.