16 June 2011 — Gaza Friends

On 14 June 2011, as part of its 17th Session, the Human Rights Council held discussions on the status of implementation of the conclusions contained in the report of the independent international factfinding mission on the flotilla attack. The Freedom Flotilla II Steering Committee submitted the following statement:

In September 2010 the international Fact-Finding Mission to investigate violations of international law resulting from the Israeli attacks on the Freedom Flotilla I concluded that the conduct of the Israeli military towards its passengers, when it was unlawfully intercepted on the way to Gaza on 31 May 2001, “demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence… It constituted grave violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law.” Unfortunately and incredibly, Israel is threatening to use even greater violence against Freedom Flotilla II, which will sail to Gaza the end of this month. Its threats have included the use of snipers and canine units. Even more deplorable, world leaders, rather than demanding that Israel halt its provocative behaviour towards us and refrain from once again attacking unarmed civilians, have called the Flotilla initiative a provocation and have asked countries on the Mediterranean to prevent us from sailing.

In its September Report, the Fact-Finding Mission concluded that the passengers on board our ships in May 2010, many of whom they interviewed at length, were “persons genuinely committed to the spirit of humanitarianism and imbued with a deep and genuine concern for the welfare of the inhabitants of Gaza.” The same spirit of humanitarianism compels us to again take action – even at the risk of serious injury or death – to confront massive injustice with global nonviolent action. For too long our national and international leaders have passively watched the tragedy of Gaza – of all of Palestine. The grossly unjust and unlawful blockade of the Gaza Strip and the ongoing belligerent occupation of the rest of Palestine – imposed by Israel and tolerated by the world community – is a stark case of states sacrificing principle and human rights for power and self-interest. For those who have any lingering doubts that a man-made crisis continues to Gaza, just yesterday the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights issued an alert indicating its extreme concern over the “running out of medications and contraction of health services in the Gaza Strip.”

The Fact-Finding Mission gave much thought to and called upon the international community to recognize some role for “humanitarian organizations who wish to intervene in situations of long-standing humanitarian crisis where the international community is unwilling… to take positive action.” It included in its broad definition of humanitarianism both types of organizations involved in the Flotilla: those that engage in activities taken to alleviate crises and those that take action to address the root causes of the crises. The Mission understood that “too often” humanitarian organizations, such as those behind Flotillas I and II, are “accused of being meddlesome and at worst as terrorists or enemy agents.” Today, these same humanitarian organisations and human rights activists are being accused of ‘provocation’ and Israel is threatening, once again, to unlawfully and brutally stop them. We therefore call upon the Human Rights Council to stand up to these Israeli threats, to defend our right to intervene in the long-standing tragedy which is Gaza and to expose and put an end to Israel’s illegal behaviour, which has too long been tolerated by the international community.

We are determined to sail to Gaza. Our cause is just and our means are transparent. To underline the fact that we do not present an imminent threat to Israel nor do we aim to contribute to a war effort against Israel, thus eliminating any claim by Israel to self-defense, we invite the HRC or any other UN or international agency to come on board and inspect our vessels at their point of departure, on the high seas, and/or on their arrival in the Gaza port. We will – and must – continue to sail until the illegal blockade of Gaza is ended and Palestinians have the same human and national rights those of us sailing enjoy.

— Our message of peace is a call to action, for other ordinary people like ourselves, not to hand over your lives to whatever puppeteer is in charge this time round, but to take responsibility for the revolution. First, the inner revolution — to give love, to give empathy; It is this that will change the world. — Vittorio Arrigoni

The real heart deep down doesn’t only stand up for what’s right but also helps others to learn to stand up for what’s right. — Mary Alfar (age 11)

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