[Washington, D.C. June 10, 2007] The final speakers at the 27th annual ADC/Arab-American Anti-Discrimination conference inspired a wave of hope amongst the SRO crowd in the Empire Room at the Omni Shoreham, by announcing that this summer ten boats will be sailing through international waters to bring food, water, medicine directly to the people of Gaza.
Irish American dissident, [not a Jew, but had once been married to one] Greta Berlin, a proud member on the Jewish S.H.I.I.T.E. List, of 7,000 Jews who have been labeled as "self-hating and Israel-threatening Ediots"
http://www.masada2000.org/ informed the crowd, "We have been invited by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society of Gaza to go to Gaza. The people of Gaza expect us and will come out in their boats to meet us. We will fish together."
Co-visionary of End the Siege in Gaza, Dr. Paul Larudee, a former Fulbright-Hayes lecturer and piano tuner who had scheduled twenty piano tuning appointments throughout the West Bank during the summer of 2006, but spent two weeks in a Ben Gurion jail cell instead
http://www.norcalism.com/paulstory.htm further ignited the crowd, "So far we have raised the money for two boats, but we want to send ten. So far eighty people have committed to ship themselves to Gaza through international waters; we are not going through Israel. Israel claims Gaza is unoccupied and so, we are going to unoccupied territory, as soon as we raise another $150,000.00 for six more boats. We will embark in Cypress and disembark in Gaza. This can play out in many ways; we may get blown out of the water, we may get towed away, but we will remain nonviolent and exercise the soverignity of international waters, for we are not going through Israel. We will not allow the Coast Guard to enter onto our boats, we will demonstarte nonviolently our solidarity with the residents of Gaza who invited us. We are taking food, water, medicine, but the issue is solidarity with the people of Gaza. If our rights are denied, we will remian nonviolent."
So far, scores of writers, teachers, medics, musicians, secretaries, parents, grandparents, lawyers, students, activists, actors, playwrights, politicians, singer-songwriters, web designers, international training consultants, a former Hollywood film industry worker and an aviator, who come from South Africa, Australia, America, England, Israel and Palestine are supporting this creative nonviolent action. Human rights observers, aid workers, and journalists have committed to be on board and they bring years of experience volunteering in Gaza and the West Bank. Because of the ever increasing stranglehold of Israel's illegal occupation of Palestine many have found it impossible to enter Gaza, many have been refused entry to Israel and the West Bank as well. Despite the humanitarian crisis, the Israeli Government, who under international law is responsible for the welfare and needs of those they occupy continues to control air, water and land borders of the 1.5 million inhabitants of the largest open air prison in the world.
"Missing from Israel's security framing is the very fact of occupation, which Israel both denies exists...and that 'security' requires Israel control over the entire country...rendering impossible a just peace based on human rights, international law, reconciliation." –Jeff Halper, Obstacles to Peace: A Reframing of the Palestinian Israeli Conflict, page 1.
Sara Roy, another speaker at the ADC Conference and a senior research scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University and political economist who has worked in Gaza since 1985 just returned from there.
Sara stated, "In 1948 we began with emergency food aid and we are still there. There is nothing new in Gaza, just more acute and the internal breakdown due to restrictions and 527 physical barriers and cantonizations make it impossible for Palestinian businessmen to move their goods and they have been forced to hire Israelis as middle men who are able to transport Palestinian goods over the 535 miles of roads that Palestinians have been denied access to. The few Palestinians who are able to access these roads have become a privileged class.
"This new class is also dependent on international donors who are not building new structures to challenge the occupation and this has resulted in the humanitarization of Palestine; donors and Israelis are not treating them as human beings with political rights.
"This has caused fragmentation, isolation, cantonization which will soon become worse. The physical impediments, roadblocks and required permits have caused most of the people to give up, for their efforts to move their goods increases their costs so much and since there is no guarantee that their efforts will result in them being able to transport their wares, many have given up.
"In Gaza there are literally streets under Hamas control and within a few blocks other streets under Fatah control. The neighborhoods have become so fragmented that my taxi driver kept changing his radio station and flag on his windshield so we could travel from block to block.
"There is a great sense that the people are robbed of their space and time and this has resulted in a de-development of the human being. The impact of the divisions in Gaza, Jerusalem and the West Bank means the people can no longer carry the mantle of nationalism, they are so drained by just trying to get through the day there is no time for politics, so the mantle of nationalism is now being upheld by Arabs in Israel.
"Soon Palestinians will be required to obtain visas to move from one canton to the other and visas will also soon be issued at Ben Gurion for any foreigners wishing to enter the West Bank.
"The issue is no longer occupation but sovereign control...Palestinians have become interlopers in their own country. All vestiges of Palestinian presence is being destroyed by Israel."
"In September 2005, Israel completed the "Gaza disengagement plan"...however, Israel continued to control the air and sea space, movement between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank (also via neighboring countries), the population registry, family unification, and the crossing of goods to and from Gaza . Also, residents of the Gaza Strip rely solely on Israel for its supply of fuel, electricity, and gas. Until 28 June 2006, an independent electric-power station operated in the Gaza Strip, producing about one-half of the electricity needed by the residents in the Strip. The station relied completely on fuel and gas from Israel. On 28 June, Israel bombed the electric-power station. Since then, residents of the Gaza Strip have relied completely on Israel for their electricity...the disengagement did not lead to any improvement in the living conditions of the area's residents, and Israel continues to violate their rights by its various acts and omissions...forty percent of the work force in Gaza is unemployed. Israel froze, following the establishment of the Hamas government, the transfer to the PA of tax moneys it collected for it. This action prevents the payment of salaries to public employees and aggravates the already bad economic condition. Eighty percent of the residents of the Gaza Strip live under the poverty line.
"Following disengagement, some of the armed Palestinian organizations in the Gaza Strip continued to initiate attacks against Israel, mostly by launching Qassam rockets at Israeli communities near the Green Line. In response, the IDF opened artillery fire at "Qassam launching spaces," thus endangering the lives of civilians living in those areas. Israel also increased its attacks on armed Palestinian activists, killing many bystanders in the process. Lastly, following the abduction of Cpl. Gilad Shalit, on 26 June 2006...Israel began a major wide-scale operation that has included, in part, bombing of civilian infrastructure and incursions into densely-populated areas. In doing so, Israel's security forces have systematically violated many fundamental principles of the laws of war, among them the principles of distinction and proportionality." http://www.btselem.org/english/Gaza_Strip/Index.asp
Another speaker at the ADC Conference, Ambassador Afif Safieh joked, "Someone asked God if there would be peace in the Holy Land and God replied, 'Yes, of course, but not in my lifetime!'"