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Why will there only be women participating on the boats?  

The Freedom Flotilla Coalition has launched the Women’s Boat to Gaza because we believe that it is essential to highlight the vital role women play not only in the resistance movement, but in the survival of the Palestinian people as a whole. We intend to raise awareness about the ongoing struggle that women in Gaza, in the West Bank, inside the Green Line and in the diaspora, have waged and continue to wage against the Occupation.

Women fulfill diverse roles in direct actions such as the Women’s Boat to Gaza, and play an integral role in various efforts that are being undertaken both in Palestine and to achieve justice and peace through non-violent means.

What is the importance of highlighting the struggle of Palestinian women in Gaza, Palestine and across the world?

Although numerous versions of feminism exist, we respect Angela Davis’s point that: “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people”.

Like most people, we recognize the need to make our world more just and egalitarian. Women in Gaza often fill the role of caring for and sustaining life, and are actively involved in community development and nation building. It is important to make their voices heard, even more so during periods of extreme injustice.

Women in Palestine participate in all social sectors and in all forms of resistance. They defend their rights and the rights of their children and communities, with courage and determination. Families encourage their children to attend school, despite the Israeli checkpoints and ongoing harassment. During the olive harvest and popular demonstrations, they challenge the soldiers and settlers. Despite its importance, their work in women’s organizations remains virtually invisible. Women and men in Gaza endure the inhumane Israeli blockade and continue against all odds to raise their children and overcome barriers.

Women’s empowerment is linked to the general struggle of the Palestinian people against the Occupation and in particular the dire need to lift the blockade. They are an inspiration and role models for all women and men who dream of a better world.

Can men participate in the campaign and if so, in what capacity?  

Yes, women and men from campaigns around the world are organizing this project. The names of our partners are on our website (www.freedomflotilla.org). Within this struggle, women and men play equal roles. In this particular project, women will take on the major role of confronting the Israeli Occupation Force (IOF). This does not minimize in any way the role that men take throughout the planning and implementation stages of the project.

What is the Freedom Flotilla Coalition?  Which countries are participating?

The Freedom Flotilla Coalition is composed of civil society organizations and initiatives from many countries.  We have been challenging the illegal and inhumane Israeli blockade of Gaza for many years and are committed to continue the struggle until the blockade is unconditionally lifted and Palestinian people everywhere realise their full rights.

The Freedom Flotilla Coalition campaigns participating in the Women’s Boat to Gaza include: Ship to Gaza-Sweden, Ship to Gaza-Norway, Canadian Boat to Gaza, Freedom Flotilla-Italy, Palestine Solidarity Alliance-South Africa, Rumbo a Gaza-Spain, International Committee to Break the Siege of Gaza, US Boat to Gaza, Kia Ora Gaza – New Zealand/Aotearoa and Free Gaza Australia.

Why is the WBG challenging the Israeli blockade by sea?

The Freedom Flotilla Coalition has been challenging the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza in several different ways for 6 years, whilst other organisations have importantly been challenging the land blockade of Gaza.

You say your campaign supports the full rights of the Palestinian people: what are they?

While our focus is on opposing the blockade against the Palestinian people of Gaza, we see this in the larger context of supporting the right to freedom of movement for all Palestinians. The Occupation daily violates the rights of Palestinians to move freely around their country and to leave and return to their country, as guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We also support other broad-based demands for Palestinian rights based on International Law, including:

  1. Ending the Israeli Occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Apartheid Wall;
  2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
  3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194 of 11 December 1948.

For information about the devastating effects of the blockade, see this Fact Sheet produced by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Why is the Israeli blockade of Gaza illegal?

Israel has occupied the Gaza Strip since 1967 and, as the occupying force, it is responsible for the well-being of the population within this territory. Experts warn that if the siege of Gaza continues, normal life will not be viable in the territory by 2020. The current blockade has been imposed for ten years by Israel and Egypt, with support from many international governments. The blockade has imposed restrictions of movement on people and goods for more than a decade.  By applying restrictive measures that affect the population as a whole, it violates International Humanitarian Law, including the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit collective punishment.

Is the WBG a non-violent initiative?

Yes, our goal is to peacefully end the illegal Israeli blockade.  Every initiative that the Freedom Flotilla Coalition has launched has been grounded theoretically and practically within the framework of non-violence.  We choose to always counter oppression using non-violent strategies.

When will the Women’s Boat to Gaza sail?  

On 14 September 2016, Zaytouna-Oliva began its journey through the Mediterranean Sea towards Gaza, from Barcelona. It stopped in Ajaccio, Corsica for a few days and then sailed to Messina, Sicily. We intend to reach the shores of Gaza in early October 2016.

What will be the names of the boats?

Following an international competition, we selected the names Amal-Hope and  Zaytouna-Oliva. Amal symbolises the hope that we will bring to the shores of Gaza and Zaytouna symbolises the mighty olive, the tree of life in Palestinian agriculture. In addition, Oliva was the name of the civil protection boat that activist-journalist Vittorio Arrigoni sailed in solidarity with Palestinian fishing boats in Gaza before he was murdered in 2011. Unfortunately, only one boat (Zaytouna-Oliva) is now participating in the final part of the voyage. Further details are available throughout our news pages.

Who will be on board?  

We have selected participants from around the world, including politicians, members of the media, cultural artists and activists.  Full details including biographies are available here.

Will you be bringing aid to Gaza?  

The Women’s Boat to Gaza is a solidarity, not an aid mission.  Simply put, we want to end the illegal blockade, not make it more “humane.” We also have concerns about Israel using humanitarian aid as an excuse to attack the boats (e.g., it is contraband or weapons).

As such, the boat will only be transporting the women along with the hopes of an ever-growing international community to end the blockade. We hope that upon reaching the shores of Gaza, the Women’s Boat will open the channels for others to travel to Palestine and more importantly, for the Palestinian people to use their own territorial waters for fishing and other maritime commerce.

What is the current situation on the ground in Gaza?

The United Nations has described the situation recently as “intolerable”. Two years after the massive Israeli bombardments in 2014, most people and institutions are still struggling to cop, with the work of humanitarian and development agencies to meet the basic needs of the most vulnerable impaired by “severe underfunding” (see United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Fact Sheet – August 2016). Since 2007, Israel has ravaged agricultural fields, schools, workplaces, hospitals, water supplies, electricity and homes throughout the Gaza Strip, depriving Palestinian people in Gaza the resources they need to live. The Israeli Occupation Forces have even made swimming in the Mediterranean unhealthy, because their bombs have destroyed the local sewage system. Nearly two million Palestinian people struggle for life in Gaza, with 72% of Palestinian people living in Gaza, 65% of whom are children, suffering food insecurity.

Are there any risks for those participating?  

There are always risks whenever the illegal actions of the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) are challenged. However, these risks are minimal compared with those faced every day by Palestinian women in Gaza, who have no choice whether or not they live in a war zone.

How will the Women’s Boat to Gaza be funded?

Each of the participating campaigns are raising funds in their own countries and communities, by connecting with individuals and organizations who support our effort. The Freedom Flotilla Coalition is not affiliated with any political organization. We are a network of grassroots civil society individuals and groups. Any donation is welcome, no matter how small. We see our action as representing all those who refuse to remain silent and thereby complicit.

How does the Women’s Boat to Gaza fit with the current refugee crisis and the many people travelling across the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe?

We see the refugee problem stemming from a lack of political will to solve situations which force people to leave their homes in search of safety. The Palestinian people of Gaza do not even have the option to set sail towards freedom, as the Israeli Occupation Forces blockade their access to the Mediterranean Sea. Let us not forget that 5 million of the world’s refugees are Palestinians.

How can I support the campaign?

There are many ways to become involved. You could share information with your family, friends and/or work colleagues; organize a fundraising event, join one of our work teams or make a donation through any of the campaigns participating in the project. Please follow us on the web, Facebook or Twitter. If you are willing to support the campaign and its political demands, please contact the campaign closest to you.