On July 11, 2 a.m. local time, Israeli warships fired on the Palestinian/international boat, Gaza's Ark, which burst into flames and was completely destroyed. We had been working on this project for over two years, buying on old fishing boat, the largest one we could find in Gaza, and converting it into a cargo vessel. It was due to sail out of Gaza in September, carrying goods from the occupied West Bank and Gaza to trade with the outside world, in an attempt to break the illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Building this boat continued the movement to sail boats to and from Gaza and was also part of the much larger movement of non-violent resistance to the Israeli Occupation of Palestine.
So the question posed is, why was Israel so afraid of our little boat, carrying Palestinian embroidery and boxes of dates, a boat that posed no threat whatsoever to Israeli security? Why did the Israeli Occupation Forces feel it was necessary to destroy it?
The answer is simple; the Israeli government is terrified of non-violent resisters like us, because we expose their moral bankruptcy to the world. Had we set sail in two months' time, Israel would have intercepted us and stolen the boat like they have many of the others trying to sail into Gaza. Their excuse has always been that they think we are carrying weapons into Gaza. This is an absurdity, of course, because every boat sailing from international waters into the waters of Gaza (we were not sailing into the waters of Israel) has already been thoroughly inspected at the port of departure, and nothing dangerous has ever been found. This excuse to board us, kidnap the passengers and keep the boats and all their equipment, however, can't be used the other way round.
What are they going to accuse us of this time -- carrying weapons out of Gaza?! So the Israelis were terrified of our visibility. After all, we had already successfully sailed in to Gaza five times. If they stole our boats as usual, the world would see them for what they are -- a large power bullying a defenceless population for no apparent reason whatsoever. And, if the Israelis let us continue, our little cargo vessel, Gaza's Ark, would sail past their massive rigs where they are currently stealing Gaza's natural gas from under the waters that belong to this slice of the Mediterranean. This is the real reason for the blockade. Two billion dollars-worth of natural gas has been found under Gazan waters, and the Israelis are determined to get their hands on it.
Under the Oslo Agreement, the Palestinians are supposed to be able to fish up to 20 nautical miles off their coast. Israel, however, restricts their movement to six miles, and often as little as three, attacking any boat that dares to go out further, and stealing their boats, and therefore the livelihood of the fishermen and their families.
Further details about Israel's stealing of natural gas may be found in the excellent chapter written by Seaman David Schermerhorn in Freedom Sailors.
In summary, the Israelis are terrified of us, because we have the moral high ground, we are non-violent resisters against Israeli control of Gaza, and we have nothing to hide, but everything to expose to the world -- the Israeli theft of Gaza's natural resources. That is why they destroyed our boat. However, they have failed to destroy our resolve to break the illegal blockade of Gaza. Our motto is "building hope" and we will continue our mission in one way or another until Gaza is free.
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