Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Lauren Booth: Why we sailed to Gaza...

By Lauren Booth, The Guardian – 2 June 2010 www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jun/02/palestinian-territories-gaza

I was a passenger on the first effort to break the Gaza
blockade. Our mission was to show that normal people cared.

Since the military attack on a fleet of civilian
ships in international waters, Israel’s well
oiled spin machine has imposed a total news blackout about the
survivors, taking their phones and denying them access to consular
representation. The void has instead been filled with disinformation
about the passengers on board the Mavi Marmara ferry. For those of us
with colleagues and loved ones of whom we still have no clear news,
such lies only exacerbate our anxiety and fury. So, before I have to
read another weasel word from politicians about inquiries into the
motives of the flotilla, let me shed some light on the kind of people
either hospitalized or being illegally held in prisons in the south of
the country.

In 2008 I was a passenger on the first ever effort to break
the Gaza blockade
in a peaceful, non-violent, but very
direct way. Tired of the international community’s refusal to act while
1.8 million Palestinians were being systematically denied their human
rights on a daily basis, 46 people from all walks of life prepared to
sail from Cyprus to Gaza.
Kathy Sheetz, a nurse from the US, Therese McDonald, a Scottish postal
worker. and Osama Qashoo, a Palestinian film-maker now resident in the
UK, were on board then as now. And we too were called “provocateurs”
by the Israeli media, “left-wing radicals” and “terrorist sympathisers”.

Our mission was simply to show the population of Gaza that normal
people cared about their plight; that we saw their hunger, their fear,
their imprisonment, their struggle; and that we – everyday folk with
good hearts – would do what we could to bring their plight to the eyes
of the world.

Then, as now, our intention was never to go anywhere near Israel’s
shores, nor its waters, nor its military. Then, as now, the cargo on
our ships was rigorously checked by European port authorities and
stamped as free from any weapons whatsoever. We believed, back in those
innocent days, that this would not furnish Israel with even the most
vapid excuse to board or attack us on the pretext that we were a
security threat. Then, they did not. This week, they did.

Let me ask you one final question that’s been troubling me, as
sympathy for those apparently fragile Israeli commandos continues to
pour in. If you were on a boat in the Mediterranean and hundreds of the
world’s most notoriously violent soldiers started falling from the
sky, wouldn’t you defend yourself? The brave human beings on the Mavi
Marmara were acting in self-defense. And because of this many died.
Something of the hopeful child in me died with them.


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