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In Besieged Gaza, Journal of a Voyage

By Gideon Spiro  Posted by Jordan Thornton (about the submitter)     Permalink       (Page 1 of 7 pages)
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http://www.kibush.co.il/show_file.asp?num=30176

In besieged Gaza, Journal of a voyage by Gideon Spiro : A call for civil disobedience Red Rag. Weekly Column, 14 November 2008

Translated for Occupation Magazine by George Malent
Original Hebrew: http://www.hagada.org.il/hagada/html/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=6292

27 October 2008

When Mairead Maguire, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate from Northern Ireland, called me and asked me to join the sea-voyage of the humanitarian delegation from Larnaca (Cyprus) to Gaza to break the Israeli closure and to bring medicine to the besieged city, I answered positively without hesitation. It was to be the second sea-voyage to Gaza, the first having arrived in August.

I oppose the closure of Gaza because it is a collective punishment of a million and a half residents, including babies, children, women and old people, not to speak of sick people whom the siege prevents from getting medicine; a completely innocent population that is suffering because of no crime it has committed. Therefore I had no difficulty in agreeing to the invitation to be part of the international delegation. I also considered my participation to be important because I am a journalist, whose duty is to report from places to which most people do not have access.

I departed early in the morning from Israel to Cyprus, a flight that lasts no more than 45 minutes, and at 8:30 we landed in Larnaca. After a quick passage through passport control I was in a taxi that took me to the hotel where the delegation was staying.

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Most members of the delegation had already arrived; I was among the last. The delegation comprised 25 members, and together with the boat's crew we were 30 people. Its composition was diverse and interesting. Most of them from Europe (Britain, Ireland, Italy), but also from the USA. There was a fair representation of Palestinians, most from the diaspora. Among the participants was Mairead Maguire, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize from Northern Ireland who, as I have said, initiated my participation, and Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, a member of the Palestinian parliament and former member of the Palestinian unity government.

As a delegation bringing medicine, we also included 4 doctors.

The age of the members was very diverse, starting from the 20s up to a doctor from Scotland who is pushing 80.

During the whole trip we were accompanied by a crew from Al Jazeera.

Members of the delegation met for several preparatory discussions, mainly regarding the Israeli government's announcement that it would not permit the boat to pass. A number of possible scenarios were raised, including how much time the boat could hold up if the Israeli navy barred its route in the open sea. The food would suffice for three days. After that we would have to go to the nearest port, the preferred option being Beirut. I was already imagining landing in Beirut and what would be awaiting me there, but the Palestinians in the delegation reassured me: don't worry, nothing bad will happen to you. You are not alone but with the delegation, and we're all guarantors for each other.

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28 October 2008

At midday we headed towards the place where the boat was docked. The local media was already waiting for us. Interviews, photographs and leave-taking from the organizers, who remained in Larnaca as liaisons for assistance from shore in case we encountered difficulties during the voyage.

Among those who saw us off was a 16-year-old Palestinian boy in a wheelchair, who had been seriously wounded by the Israeli occupation army's gunfire. His leg was entirely cut off, and he had arrived in Cyprus with the boats of the first flotilla that returned from Gaza. There is no medical facility in Cyprus that can take care of him and he is waiting to be accepted for treatment in a European country.

The vessel or the boat is in fact a medium-sized yacht from the 1970s, acquired by the Free Gaza movement which is organizing the entire trip. The yacht was intended for a family of four or five people at the most, but not 30 people. It was indeed crowded. All the space in the yacht up to the last millimetre was taken up for the passengers' baggage and crates of medicines.

We also took a megaphone with us, in case our way should be blocked by the navy, and I was assigned the task of addressing the sailors in Hebrew and explaining to them that blocking our way would violate international law and that it was an illegal order that they were obliged to refuse to carry out.

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