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I have a parallel blog in French at http://anniebannie.net

Date

May 5, 2010

Free Gaza

Dear Friends of Palestine

On May 15th, an international flotilla of cargo and passenger ships will depart from various European ports and set sail for Gaza. 3 cargo ships will carry over 5,000 tonnes of medical and building supplies, and 5 passenger boats will carry over 600 people.

This flotilla is been led by the IHH charity from Turkey, and is supported by many groups worldwide, including the Free Gaza Movement, Free Palestine Movement, European Campaign to End the Siege of Gaza and the Greek and Swedish Boat to Gaza groups amongst others.

In January of this year, IHH was an integral partner with Viva Palestina on the convoy to Gaza, where 500 people in over 200 vehicles successfully broke the siege on Gaza and delivered essential humanitarian aid. Viva Palestina are therefore very proud to announce their involvement with IHH again on this flotilla, and in addition to sending medical and building supplies, a Viva Palestina Coalition team will be on board this historic journey.

The siege imposed on Gaza is now in it’s 4th year. It has created a humanitarian crisis that has left the entire population without sufficient food, water, medicine, electricity, building supplies, clothes, toys, and freedom of movement. 1.5 million people, over half of whom are children, suffer directly because of this siege. Since the attacks on Gaza last year that left over 1,400 people dead, and 50,000 people homeless, no building supplies have been allowed to enter Gaza. 15 months on, people still live in tents and temporary shelter, unable to rebuild their homes.

Viva Palestina, led by George Galloway M.P. have successfully broken the siege on Gaza 3 times with land convoys of aid. Over 1,000 volunteers in 500 vehicles have delivered essential humanitarian aid to the stricken region in the past year. By taking part in this flotilla, Viva Palestina will be bringing much needed humanitarian aid, and attempting to break the siege once more.

We are calling on our supporters to donate towards the cost of medical and building supplies. Viva Palestina will be purchasing supplies in Turkey that will be loaded onto the IHH cargo ship departing from Istanbul. People can donate towards the cost of materials by clicking on the following link: http://www.vivapalestina.org/donations.htm
You can also follow us on facebook by joining the following Viva Palestina Flotilla group: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=238347355199&ref=mf%20
If anyone has any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at: info@vivapalestina.org

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hurrah for John Ging

I tutor a girl at the headquarters of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. Every Wednesday, I see John: tallish black-haired Irish guy walking around the space near the picnic tables where staff (generally Gazan) have coffee. Tomorrow maybe I will go shake John’s hand. Why? Because of this:

Israeli sources have confirmed that Israel will make an official request to the United Nations for clarification of how an official representative of the United Nations could call for European countries to send ships to Gaza without authorization and prior coordination with Israel. John Ging, the Director of Operations of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), has called upon the international community to break the siege on the Gaza Strip by sending ships loaded with desperately-needed supplies to the beleaguered territory.

In an interview with a Norwegian newspaper, Mr. Ging said, “The international community must take responsibility on this issue and embrace practical ways to break the siege, because it is possible to break it.” In urging the world to send ships to the shores of Gaza, he added, “We believe that Israel will not intercept these vessels because the sea is open, and human rights organizations have been successful in similar previous operations proving that breaking the siege of Gaza is possible.”

According to Mr. Ging, Egypt and Israel are responsible for the continuation of the blockade. “How could Israel evade responsibility for the siege, and how could Egypt not agree to show flexibility in order to bring aid to Gaza?” he asked. “It is time for the international community to facilitate assistance by sea as it did in Haiti.”

Officials in Israel were taken aback by the statements and noted that they are unprecedented and very serious. Hebrew radio reported that several overseas aid organizations have taken John Ging’s statement to heart and preparations are already being made to send ships carrying food supplies to Gaza.

I think Ging probably snapped. The Gazan economy is shuddering. There’s too little of the lubrication that normally enables economic systems to run smoothly. Not enough cash, inflated prices, no jobs, no raw materials. And the additional Hamas taxes–necessary, because there’s a dearth of hard cash, a perennial problem that is now at a crisis point–will make the lives of the petty capitalist service providers and merchants that are what’s left of Gaza’s economy much harder. I’m sure Ging knows this and he is probably sick of UN strictures that suggest that he clamp his mouth shut vis-a-vis the illegal siege. Only suggest. Here is the spin: Farhan Haq, a UN spokesman, said, “The United Nations has no plans to use sea routes in Gaza, but will consider all legal options available to bring in assistance and commercial supplies.” Ging didn’t suggest using the sea route, he endorsed it. By endorsing it, he contributed to the flotilla’s symbolic legitimacy. By strengthening the ships’ symbolic legitimacy, Israel will look sillier and sillier when it makes its habitual threats against those amazing ships. Anyway, there are activists on those ships who will be quite willing to sail them into the Israeli bullets that will cross in front of their bows.

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