Choose Peace End the Siege of Gaza and Occupation of Palestine
By Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate
On Saturday 5th June, 2010, 35 heavily armed Israeli Navy Seals commandeered our boat, MV Rachel Corrie, one of the Freedom Flotilla, in International waters (30 miles off the coast of Gaza). As they did so, we 19 humanitarian activists and crew, sat on the deck.
We were quietly anxious, aware of the solitary figure in the wheelhouse with his hands held high against the window, in full view of the three Israeli warships, 4 approaching zodiacs and 2 commando carriers, whose guns were pointing in his direction.
I personally wondered if the courageous Derek Graham would live to tell the tale, conscious of what happened on the Turkish ship, Mavi Marmara, earlier in the week.
On Monday 3lst May, 2010, we heard via satellite phone that the Israeli Commandoes had boarded in International waters, from helicopter and zodiacs, the Turkish Ship, MV Mavi Marmara, killing and injuring many people.
It was later confirmed that 8 Turkish people, l Turkish/USA, unarmed civilians had been shot (2 in the head and several in the back).
All 6 boats on the Freedom Flotilla had been commandeered by Israeli Navy and taken to Israel and during this attack by Israel over 40 people were injured.
These killings of unarmed civilians was devasting news to us all and something we never expected to happen.
All those participating in the Freedom Flotilla participated because they were moved by the suffering of the people of Gaza.
They were not Terrorists, they were human beings, who cared for other human beings in their suffering.
Gaza, cut off by land crossing, sea (its port had been closed for over 40 years since Israeli occupation and had the Free Gaza Rachel Corrie Cargo boat been able to enter Gaza, it would have been the first Cargo boat ever to do so).
Gaza has rightly been been described as the largest open air prison in the world. With Israel holding all the keys for its one and a half million people living under a policy of collective punishment by Israeli. Under siege for over 3 years now, with a shortage of medicine, basic materials to rebuild their homes, after the 22 day bombardment by Israeli in Dec/Jan.2009 has left Gaza and its people, a place of suffering and isolation.
The flotilla was not only to bring humanitarian aid, books for children, toys, writing material, but to help break the siege of Gaza, which is slowly strangling its people.
The violations of international law committed by Israel are well documented by the UN, and many independent human rights bodies.
All of these violations of International laws and norms are committed under the guise of "national security' and A policy of isolating Gaza to weaken Hamas.