In a surprise announcement yesterday, activists announced that two boats were en route from Turkey to break the blockade of Gaza. This latest initiative, dubbed the 'Freedom Waves to Gaza', is the 11th mission to sail across the Mediterranean in a campaign to highlight the inhumane and illegal imprisonment of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
majd kayyal (Photo: Arabs48.com )
I remember helping with media work from the ISM office for the first boat mission, with ships named the SS Liberty and the SS Free Gaza. The joy we felt upon hearing the boats had arrived in the port of Gaza was overwhelming. For the first time in years the blockade was broken, even if only symbolically. Only three years later and the boats to Gaza have developed an entirely different meaning. No one remembers the five boats that had initially entered Gazan territorial waters with no Israeli interference. Instead, millions of people know about the excessive violence that Israel used to stop the Mavi Marmara and the tactics that Israel used during the Freedom Flotilla II to discredit the activists and damage their boats. The international effort to end the siege on Gaza has taken a small civilian initiative and turned it into a powerful force of action, pushing the international community to reconsider and condemn conditions in Gaza, and altering the course of the Palestinian liberation movement.
One determined youth aboard the Tahrir is Majd Kayyal, a Palestinian activist whose family originates from the demolished village of Al-Berweh. Majd is currently studying philosophy and political science in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and resides in Haifa. He is the co-editor of the political and cultural website Qadita and maintains the blog "Message To The Tricontinental". I interviewed him by email before he left Turkey on the Tahrir:
Why did you choose to be part of this? What inspired you?
The blockade is still choking the Palestinian people and separating us from our sisters and brothers in Gaza, more and more every day. I want to take part in order to show the support of the Palestinian youth and the student movement to the people of Gaza and all of those resisting against the occupation.
It's important for us, also, to cooperate with people around the world because we believe that the Palestinian cause is not only a nationalist struggle, but part of a global condemnation of racism and colonialism.
Are you concerned you will be treated worse because you are Palestinian?
I hope not, but usually Palestinian activists face more problems from Israeli armed forces. However, as a Palestinian citizen of Israel, it's extremely important to show the unity of the Palestinian people to the international community and remind the political leadership that they cannot abandon our rights and must include the status of '48 Palestinians in any just solution.
How do you see the Palestinian struggle right now?
I think that the Arab spring is the most inspiring and is providing us with a renewed motivation. I see that we need to rebuild the popular struggle on the ground. We need to revitalize the participation of the youth and the students in forging a more powerful movement, as we can see their importance in the uprisings of Egypt, Tunisia and others. Now is the time to move beyond partisan problems and focus on the main target, which is the colonial and racist regime Israel has imposed on the Palestinian people.