As you surely know, at this very moment there is a boat en route to Gaza, that little Palestinian enclave. Its mission is to observe, break and eventually end the inhumane, illegal and for all involved parties destructive blockade of Gaza. Women’s Boat to Gaza, as we call our action, is an initiative by Ship to Gaza and the Freedom Flotilla Coalition.
Our “ship” is a 15-meter-long sailboat that we have named the Zaytouna Oliva. Those of us on board are crew and delegates; we are 13 women of all ages and of varying religious and political beliefs. We come from all corners of the world: the US, South Africa, Australia, Malaysia, Spain and the UK.
Some of us are relatively well known, like the Nobel peace-prize awardee, Mairead Maguire from Northern Ireland and human rights activist Marama Davidson from New Zeeland. Others are not so famous, for example crew member Emma Ringqvist from Sweden.
Together, out of solidarity with our sisters in Gaza, we would like to contribute through practical action to Israel’s and Egypt’s blockade of that minuscule beach – one tenth of the size of Mallorca but populated by nearly two million people – finally ending.
We have been asked why we don’t sail to Syria instead. To that we can only respond that the war-torn hell in Syria does not make the situation in Gaza any less intolerable. We have also been asked why our action is targeted at the blockading powers of Israel and Egypt, rather than at Hamas’s patriarchal command. To that we can only respond that the occupation, including the Gaza blockade, is the main cause of the misery in that outdoor prison to which Gaza is sometimes referred.
The blockade constitutes collective punishment and a violation of international law, to which the international community must react and intervene. When it doesn’t, movements like Ship to Gaza and the Freedom Flotilla Coalition are forced to act. Whom is in charge in the “outdoor prison”, regardless of how reprehensibly it is managed, is secondary, and chiefly a concern for the Palestinian voters.
Many of us human rights defenders around the world were joyful when we heard that your government officially recognized Palestine. Many of us are also very hopeful regarding the feminist foreign policy that you have proclaimed. Gaza will constitute a litmus test for both of those policies.
This coming summer, the blockade will be ten years old. Meanwhile, Israel’s occupation of Palestine will be 50 years old. It has resulted in nothing good–only violence, death, distrust, insecurity, hopelessness. It must end.
Those of us aboard the Zaytouna Oliva are now approaching the Gazan coast at a healthy pace. According to Captain Madeleine’s estimates, we should reach our destination some time on Wednesday. The question is when all of us – in Gaza, its surrounding regions and the rest of the world – will attain our collective goal: ending the blockade on Gaza.
Women’s boat to Gaza and Ship to Gaza Sweden