Friday, August 22, 2008

We salute you

We salute you

By Khalid Amayreh in al-Khalil (Hebron)

As I write these words, two boats with some 46 peace activists from many nationalities onboard are sailing from Cyprus to the Gaza Strip in a symbolic effort to break Israel’s cruel blockade of the coastal Palestinian territory.

The Free Gaza Movement, the organizer of the bold mission, includes people from various religious and cultural backgrounds who are united in their dedication to the cause of freedom for the estimated 1.5 million Gazans, thoroughly tormented by a nearly hermetic blockade that has effectively reduced the originally impoverished enclave to a virtual concentration camp.

Among the people taking part in this brave endeavor are an 81-year-old Catholic nun and the sister of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair as well as Muslim, Jewish and Christian activists.

If all goes well, the two boats, SS Liberty and “Free Gaza” will deliver urgently-needed medicine and other humanitarian aid to the children of Gaza.

Hundreds of Gaza children and other civilians have died due to the acute shortage of medicine and food resulting from the year-long siege.

Israel, which is obviously embarrassed by the publicity surrounding the humanitarian mission, has threatened to violently prevent the two boats from reaching Gaza.

Some Israeli officials have even hinted at the possibility of using violence against the two boats.

Israel has not stopped telling the world that it no longer occupies Gaza. However, this claim is obviously a scandalous lie since the Israeli occupation continues to exercise tight control over the Gaza Strip’s sea, air and border crossings.

There is no doubt that the continuation of the Gaza siege is a stigma of shame on the conscience of humanity as a whole.

It is a stigma of shame upon the United States which shamelessly conspires with Israel to savage and torment these innocent Palestinians whose only “crime” is their audacity to elect a government that rulers of Tel Aviv and Washington don’t like.

It is also a stigma of shame upon the states of Europe who are watching passively a predator state gang up on helpless civilians very much like the Nazi Third Reich did nearly seven decades ago.

But the greatest shame falls upon Arab countries, especially Egypt, which is effectively complementing the Israeli siege of the shut-in Gazans by refusing to open the Rafah border crossing to allow them to buy food and medicine as well as travel abroad.

I really can’t understand how we, Arabs and Muslims, can blame Israel, a cruel and criminal state that would like to see Palestinians wiped off from the face of earth, while a so-called brotherly Arab country is closing the borders in the face of thousands of desperate Palestinians seeking urgently needed health care.

Indeed, I want to ask the Egyptian leadership how many Palestinians must die before Egypt will listen to the helpless cries of the starving and dying Gazans?. Shame on you.

We salute you

To these brave men and women onboard “SS Liberty” and “Free Gaza”, I would like to say the following.

I salute you for your courage, humanness and self-abnegation. You undoubtedly represent a point of light in a world overwhelmed by darkness. Your selfless efforts on behalf of the oppressed men, women and children of Gaza show that there are still brave men and women in this world who wouldn’t give in to brut power.

I salute that elderly nun, Anne Montgomery, of the religious Order of the Sacred Heart, for her brave determination to take part in this challenging and dangerous mission, despite her old age.

I salute broadcaster and journalist Lauren Booth for demonstrating that journalism is not a “morally neutral job” and that true journalists must also be true human beings who should take a pro-active stance for justice.

I salute Jeff Halper the Professor of Anthropology and Coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICHAD) who by taking part in this sublime endeavor is making an important statement, namely that there are Jews in this world who don’t support Israel’s Nazi-like repression of the Palestinian people and that starving and savaging innocent civilians for political reasons is incompatible with true Jewish morality.

I salute Greek MP Tasos Kourakis who has voiced a determination “to break the wall of silence surrounding Gaza” by exposing the scandalous siege of a people Israel is trying to crush for wanting to be free.

I salute Dr. Paul Larudee, a co-founder of the Free Gaza mission for his fearless, unflinching determination to carry out this daunting task despite all the threats and intimidation coming from Israel.

I salute Yvonne Ridley, TV Presenter, author and peace activist, for her tireless dedication to the cause of justice in Palestine, Afghanistan and around the world.

I salute all of you, one by one, for your moral commitment on behalf of humanity.

May God bless you all.

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