Gaza is crumbling under the
weight of an Israeli siege backed by the Obama administration.
Roughly 80 percent of Palestinians in Gaza now depend on aid. Vast
amounts of infrastructure destroyed in the Israeli attack of
2008-09 require repair. Thousands of families still live doubled
up with relatives or are homeless.
Children are being short-changed educationally because of damaged
and horribly overcrowded schools and a lack of textbooks. Their
health is compromised by polluted water and food insecurity.
In response, over 1,000 human-rights workers from around the world
will sail this June on a dozen boats for the Gaza Strip to
highlight this human-made tragedy.
Our boat — the American boat — is The Audacity of Hope. It will be
carrying approximately 60 students, nurses, artists, journalists
and filmmakers, lawyers, academics and ordinary civilians of many
beliefs from around the country. Many of us are Jewish.
Last May, Israeli forces stormed the Mavi Marmara and killed 9
passengers, including an American citizen. A fact-finding mission
of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human
Rights found that the “circumstances of the killing of at least
six of the passengers were in a manner consistent with an
extra-legal, arbitrary and summary execution”. All the civilian
deaths on board the humanitarian vessel were inexcusable. Yet,
once again, the Israeli government has threatened to initiate
violence against us.
Israel insists it has a right to blockade Gaza, to keep its
population on a restricted diet and to destroy its economy by
cutting it off from international trade. The rest of the world
disagrees. UN chief Ban Ki-moon has called the siege
“unacceptable” and has said it must end immediately. Even
President Obama has termed the siege “unsustainable”,
notwithstanding our government’s full support of Israeli policy.
Israel states that the purpose of the blockade is to keep weapons
out of the hands of the Hamas government in Gaza. There are many
ways to do this without imprisoning 1.6 million people inside an
area about twice the size of Washington, D.C. Gaza’s children,
women, elderly and other civilians pay the price for Israel’s
refusal to use international inspections, diplomacy and
negotiations to achieve its goal. Under international law, this is
known as collective punishment and can be regarded as a crime
The US and European governments have not acted to end Israel’s
siege. Those of us sailing to Gaza on The Audacity of Hope have
chosen to support international humanitarian law where our
governments have not. We sail as an expression of human solidarity
with the beleaguered people of Gaza.
We will be unarmed and nonviolent. Representatives from the media,
who are invited to sail with us, will be able to testify to this.
The boats’ cargo will be open to international inspections before
sailing. Our cargo consists of letters of solidarity to the people
of Gaza from thousands of Americans.
As the world witnessed this year in Tunisia and Egypt, human
solidarity is far more powerful than the force of arms. Despite
the Israeli government’s propaganda against us, we believe that
most of the world opposes the attempt to reduce Gaza to
desperation and dependence. Dov Weisglass, an adviser to Israel’s
former prime minister, put Israel’s effort succinctly: “The idea
is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of
hunger.” We reject this cruelty.
Nevertheless, the Israeli government has launched a scare
campaign, accusing us of being “terrorists” with ties to Hamas,
who are “willing to become martyrs”. This is false. Our goal is to
end the illegal siege of Gaza and highlight the injustice of
Israel’s ongoing occupation of the Palestinian territories.
The Audacity of Hope sails in peace and will not be deterred by
Israeli threats. Our actions are very much in keeping with the
moral impetus that drove Freedom Riders 50 years ago to travel
south to stand nonviolently with African Americans against
government-backed violence and Jim Crow discrimination. We intend
to promote both Palestinian liberty from Israeli domination and an
economic opening to the world for Gaza.
Jane Hirschmann is a member of Jews Say No! in New York City and
one of the national organizers of the US Boat to Gaza. Hirschmann
has been active in anti-war efforts for the past four decades.
is a psychotherapist and the co-author of three books.
(Redress Information & Analysis)