On May 9th, the trawler Marianne of Gothenburg departed from its home port heading for the Eastern Mediterranean and Gaza. Ship to Gaza Sweden and Norway have joined forces with the international Freedom Flotilla to once again to attempt to peacefully break the inhumane, illegal blockade of the besieged Palestinian population on that narrow coastal strip between Israel and Egypt.
There is one obvious objection: don’t we need boats for other purposes in the Mediterranean?
People are being forced to run for their lives from war and persecution in the Middle East and North Africa. Cynical traffickers are cashing in on highly hazardous transportations in unseaworthy vessels. In another part of the region–Gaza–people aren’t even able to flee from their bombed-out homes. The Israeli/Egyptian siege is virtually complete.
In that way, the catastrophe on the Mediterranean and the catastrophic blockade of Gaza are related. Both are caused by misanthropic policies, despotic regimes, crumbling states. Both are caused by an “international community” that prefers to look the other way rather than take its responsibility. In this situation, humanitarian organizations like Ship to Gaza and Doctors Without Borders are forced to act by sending boats to Tripoli and Gaza City in the name of salvaging and defending human dignity.
Another objection is as predictable as the spam in our in-boxes: Isn’t the blockade of Gaza caused by the fact that the area is governed by Hamas, which Israel and Egypt need to defend themselves from? That is the message being trumpeted out by the Israeli right-wing government and its megaphones. Recently in a May 4th editorial in Dagens Nyheter, with a headline that could be translated as “Increase pressure on Hamas,” the editor repeated a rhetorical depiction that has become mantra in the paper’s Middle East reporting: turning the primary issue into a secondary one, and vice versa. To put it plainly: the main problem is not the Israeli/Egyptian blockade; rather it is the Hamas government. The blockade and the Israeli occupation are re-framed as a secondary issue. Accordingly, it then follows that the Israeli wars are not waged on the 1.7 million Palestinians, but on Hamas.
The fallacy of this worldview becomes painfully clear when hearing testimony that the Israeli organization Breaking the Silence has collected and to which global media has referred recently (DN again on 5 May). In it, Israeli soldiers report that they were given express orders to not distinguish between military and civilian targets when the attack on Gaza was initiated on July 17 last year. In that way, DN is right: in Israeli war terminology “Hamas” is just another word for anything Palestinian, any living thing in Gaza.
It is no coincidence that Ship to Gaza is sailing a fishing boat to Gaza this time. The blockade, which will enter its ninth year this year, deprives the besieged population of the freedom of movement, trade, health care, food security, education and future hope. Palestinian fishermen, who are forbidden by the Israeli occupation authorities to sail beyond a three-nautical-mile zone, are subjected to daily harassment, shelling and confiscation of their boats.
Just like in Ship to Gaza’s action with Estelle in 2012, Marianne will stop at ports during its voyage, holding events to build public opinion. After Gothenburg, and Malmo/Copenhagen we are now continuing down the European coast. Marianne will join other ships in the Freedom Flotilla in the Eastern Mediterranean and then sail together toward Gaza City. In order to enable a just peace and for the Palestinian state that Sweden and many other countries have recognized to have a chance to function, Ship to Gaza demands that:
1. the siege is lifted immediately;
2. the port in Gaza City is opened and made functional; and
3. safe transportation routes between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are secured
English translation by Christopher Pastorella