The World Ignores The Crisis In Gaza—So Another Gaza Freedom Flotilla Is Ready To Sail In First Half of 2015
By Ann Wright
15 March, 2015
With the 51 day Israeli attack on Gaza in the summer of 2014 that killed over 2,200, wounded 11,000, destroyed 20,000 homes and displaced 500,000, the closing to humanitarian organizations of the border with Gaza by the Egyptian government, continuing Israeli attacks on fishermen and others, and the lack of international aid through UNWRA for the rebuilding of Gaza, the international Gaza Freedom Flotilla Coalition has decided to again challenge Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza in an effort to gain publicity for the critical necessity of ending the Israeli blockade of Gaza and the isolation of the people of Gaza.
Palestinian boys attend Friday prayers as they sit at the remains of a house that witnesses said was destroyed by Israeli shelling during a 50-day war last summer, in the Shejaia neighbourhood east of Gaza City January 23, 2015.
UNRWA, the main U.N. aid agency in the Gaza Strip has stated that a lack of international funding forced it to suspend grants to tens of thousands of Palestinians for repairs to homes damaged in last summer’s war.
“People are literally sleeping amongst the rubble, children have died of hypothermia,” Robert Turner, Gaza director of operations for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), said in a statement. He said UNRWA received only $135 million of the $720 million pledged by donors to its cash assistance program for 96,000 refugee families whose homes were damaged or destroyed in the 50-day conflict between the Hamas government and Israel. Little of the total $5.4 billion pledged for Gaza’s reconstruction at a Cairo conference of international donors in October 2014 has reached the Gaza, and thousands of Palestinians have been sheltering in tents near destroyed homes.
“Thousands more have been living in damaged buildings, using plastic sheeting to try to keep out the rain. Around 20,000 displaced are still being housed in U.N.-run schools.”
While we recognize that funds are needed to rebuild Gaza, we feel that the publicity from another flotilla will help gain attention to the plight of the people of Gaza in ways that other initiatives may not. Indeed, governments are forced to react to the flotillas as evidenced through the diplomatic cables obtained by the Center for Constitutional Rights from the U.S. Department of State to U.S. missions in the Middle East region.
At a December, 2014 meeting, the Gaza Freedom Flotilla Coalition decided to sail a 3-ship flotilla to challenge the blockade in the first half of 2015. Twenty passengers will be aboard each of the 3 ships for a total of 60 passengers. The coalition will seek representatives from 30 countries with each country having two passengers. The U.S.- Palestinian Solidarity community will participate in Gaza Freedom Flotilla 3 and has a target of $20,000 as their part for renovation expenses and to be able to have two persons as the U.S. delegates.
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Ann Wright served 29 years in the U.S. Army/Army Reserves and retired as a Colonel. She was a US diplomat and served in US Embassies in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia. She resigned from the U.S. government in 2003 in opposition to President Bush’s war on Iraq. She was an organizer of the 2009 Gaza Freedom March and the 2011 US Boat to Gaza and was a passenger on one of the boats in the 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla that was attacked by the Israeli government killing nine and wounding over fifty passengers. She is the co-author of Dissent: Voices of Conscience.
Shoks Mnisi Mzolo – Cii Radio | 25 Jumadal Ula 1436/17 March 2015
Here’s a report that will not be quoted by Zionists and their apologists. Fence-sitters might take one glance before returning to their comfortable position of shunning the truth. Israel butchered Palestinian civilians, the report shows. Not even children – from newborns to toddlers and pre-teens – were spared. The aptly titled report, No Safe Place, was released on March 16. It was compiled by an independent medical fact-finding mission to Gaza Strip, when Israel’s terror attacks on the world’s largest open-air prison left more than 2,100 people dead. A quarter of the victims were children, including those mowed by Israeli Defence Force while playing on rooftops or at the beach.
Investigating the implications of the so-called Operation Protective Edge, a 2014 massacre that claimed the lives of so many Palestinians and thousands more injured, through interviews with dozens of injured people in Gaza, No Safe Place is compelling. With forensic analysis of 370 photographs, interviews with Palestinian medicos and the review of dozens of files, the eight-member fact-finding mission zoomed in on the failure of warning mechanisms and the absence of escape routes. Indeed, Gaza is an open-air prison of 1.8 million people – sealed from the Israeli and Egyptian sides.
The report also discusses how the collapse of coordination for evacuating the wounded as well as Israel’s strikes against rescue teams increased the number of civilian casualties in the crammed and blockaded Gaza Strip.
In an interview with Sabahul Khair, one of the co-authors and part of the fact-finding mission, Prof Laurel Baldwin-Ragaven, from the Wits Department of Family Medicine, spoke of desperation and sad loss of lives worsened only by the difficulties associated with going in and out of Gaza. She, alongside Louis Reynolds and six other team members, ended up heading to Gaza after responding to a 2014 call by the Physicians for Human Rights Israel, which has a long history of involvement in the occupied territories, together with fellow NGOs like Al Mezan Human Rights Foundation. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights and the Gaza Mental Health Association completed the picture.
The same organizations “conducted a fact-finding mission, collectively, in the first war in 2008-09,” explained Baldwin-Ragaven, and referring to the intricacies of militarist checkpoints that any Gaza-based Palestinian endures each time they seek to leave or enter the Bantustan. Two South Africans were on that original mission, she told Cii listeners just a day after the release of the report. “When the call came this time I felt that I needed to go.” The academic and health in human rights advocate circulated the information to other colleagues, which is how Reynolds ended up getting involved.
Reynolds, a health in human rights advocate and retired paediatric, has years of work experience in the public sector and is a n associate professor at UCT’s paediatric and child health department. This veteran is also a member of the social justice organisation, People’s Health Movement of South Africa.
“When you arrive you kind of become overwhelmed by the amount of damage and the fact that people’s houses have been destroyed and people have been injured. You see that immediately, within a few meters from the border,” said Reynolds who was able to spend just two days after flight delays. He and Baldwin-Ragaven noted that patient transfers were as complicated, and slowed, by checkpoint and cage tunnel restrictions even during the 2014 Ramadaan massacre.
“There was an urgency to go in. Physicians for Human Rights wanted to send people in as soon as possible. And, of course, they could not go in themselves,” Baldwin-Ragaven said. “It was impossible to send Israeli specialists into Gaza because it’s off-limits for Israeli Jews. The membership of PHR could not go so we were, in a way, proxies for them – their eyes and ears on the ground. And, they were wanting us to go in as soon as possible so that the evidence would be fresh especially for the forensic people, to examine (bodies) and to also document injuries as close to the time as they actually happened.”
Because the Rafah crossing was closed throughout the Israeli onslaught, which remains the case to this day, the only entry and exit point into Gaza for civilians is and was at a crossing through Israel that is always manned by the IDF. Dispiriting as it is, the report is poignant and worth reading for anyone who doesn’t know how Palestinians are being arbitrarily “cleansed” while, in contrast, Israel literally gets away with institutionalized terror and apartheid.
YOU CAN READ THE FULL REPORT HERE