Blocking Freedom Marcher/Viva Palestina Aid to Gaza - by Stephen Lendman
Since Israel isolated Gaza under siege in mid-2007, it's blocked essential humanitarian aid from entering, including:
-- on December 1, 2008, when its warships stopped a Libyan cargo vessel several kilometers from Gaza, ordering it back to El-Arish, Egypt or be attacked; it was carrying 1,200 tons of rice, 750 tons of milk, 500 tons of oil, 500 tons of flour, and 100 tons of medicines;
-- on December 15, 2008 when the Spirit of Humanity carrying five tons of aid and 21 passengers, including three volunteer surgeons, was intercepted at sea, 100 miles from Gaza, and warned to turn back to Larnaca, Cyprus or be assaulted; and
-- on June 30, 2009, the Free Gaza Movement's Spirit of Humanity was intercepted and boarded 23 miles off Gaza's coast; its aid cargo and 21 human rights activists were seized, including Nobel laureate Mairead Maguire and former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney; they were threatened and forcibly taken to Israel's southern port of Ashdod, held incommunicado under horrific conditions one passenger described as a "horror movie....in a warehouse, where we slept on a cockroach-infested cement floor as armed soldiers" stood guard; all their personal possessions were confiscated, and a day later two of them were taken to Ashdod's central bus station with no money or belongings; the others were arrested and treated like criminals.
Cynthia McKinney described her ordeal as prisoner number 88794 at Ramle prison, known as one of Israel's harshest - a former British police station, overcrowded, "stinking," many inside with no bed, everyone confined to tiny areas, some in isolation with no sunlight, and a series of dungeons six feet long, three feet wide, and six feet high that are dark, filthy, unbearable to be in, and those inside are stripped naked, beaten, unable to shower, given a thin coverall, and allowed to use the toilet once a day only.
McKinney had a suitcase with crayons for children. Others had medical and building supplies. Authorities tried to get her to confess to a crime. She refused so was treated harshly. She called Ramle:
"incredibly black: populated mostly by Ethiopians who also had a dream," were en route to Israel for it, yet were denied and then imprisoned. She and 14 others were held in a 7 by 7 meter cell in Israel's summer heat, searched twice daily, but said it's nothing to how Palestinians are treated.
One of the passengers, Ramzi Kysia, told the Israeli news service, Ynet.org:
"We'll be back again and again....the Israeli regime should be careful, because we're coming. We won't stop until this blockade is broken forever and Gaza residents have access to the rest of the world." She also said the group's attorney will demand that Israel return its vessel.
Gaza Freedom Marchers' (GFM) Mission of Mercy
In late December, around 1,400 activists from about 43 countries gathered in Cairo, Egypt, preparing to travel to Gaza with humanitarian aid as a show of solidarity with its 1.5 million people needing all they can get - "put(ting) forth a global call to Israel to Lift the Siege of Gaza!"
Seven months in the planning, the group included doctors, lawyers, diplomats, students, artists, rabbis, priests, imams, and others, young and old, men and women, united to end the blockade, free the Gazan people, end their suffering, and highlight Israel's outrageous crimes of war, against humanity, and brutalizing oppression that continues daily against civilian "protected people" under international law.
The march was under the auspices of the International Coalition to End the Illegal Siege of Gaza, formed after Operation Cast Lead, representing a "diverse coalition that represents all faiths (and no faith) and is focused on human rights in conformance with international law."
On arrival in Egypt, they were harshly treated and prevented from entering Gaza, save for a token 24 hours offered 100 only that the group summarily rejected as outrageous and unacceptable. Some dozens, in fact, went, as explained below.
On December 27, 30 freedom marchers were held under house arrest at their hotel in El-Arish, and another eight at the bus station to prevent them from traveling to Gaza. At the same time, security police broke up a Kasr al Nil Bridge commemoration on the anniversary of Israel's attack, disrupting a peaceful protest against it.