For Immediate Release
2 Nov. 2011
Canadian and Irish ships set to challenge Israel's illegal blockade with
Freedom Waves to Gaza
The Canadian ship Tahrir and the Irish ship Saoirse have successfully reached international waters, marking the start of the Freedom Waves to Gaza campaign. The boats are currently in the Mediterranean Sea, preparing to sail for Gaza within a matter of hours.
"Flowing out of the Freedom Flotillas, the Freedom Waves to Gaza are now underway," says Canadian Boat to Gaza organizer Ehab Lotayef from on board the Tahrir. Also on board in this citizen-to-citizen initiative are delegates from Australia, the US, and Palestine. "We are now in international waters and hope to reach the shores of Gaza in a matter of days. Among the significant obstacles in our way are Israel's military and the complicity of the Harper government, but we have the wind of public opinion at our back and in our sails, which strengthens our resolve and determination to challenge the illegal blockade of Gaza's 1.5 million inhabitants."
"The fact that we have reached international waters is another victory for the movement," says Canadian Boat to Gaza organizer David Heap from on board the Tahrir. "Despite economic blackmail, despite the outsourcing of the blockade to Greece, despite being forcibly boarded by the Greek Coast Guard, and despite Israel mobilizing a significant portion of its navy to stop us, we are now even closer to reaching Gaza, breaking the blockade, and occupying the occupation."
"The Palestinians living in Gaza want solidarity not charity, and have made it clear to the world that their primary demand is for freedom. While humanitarian aid is helpful, Gazans are still prisoners with no freedom of movement," adds Lotayef. "Israel's illegal blockade prevents not only imports into Gaza, but exports as well. And the blockade prevents Palestinians from moving freely between Gaza and the West Bank, in violation of fundamental human rights."
The Freedom Waves to Gaza initiative is a non-violent, civil society movement to challenge the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Bios of delegates are available here. There will also be various media outlets reporting on developments aboard the Tahrir, including Al Jazeera and Democracy Now.
Restrictions at the eleventh hour by the port authorities have meant that only one third of the assembled delegates and media have been allowed to embark. Despite this latest challenge, the Tahrir and Saoirse will soon be at full speed ahead toward Gaza.
"While the Tahrir will be delivering much-needed medicines, our primary aim remains to help free Palestinians from the open-air prison known as Gaza," says Heap. "There's a song from the civil rights movement with the chorus of ‘we who believe in freedom cannot rest.' And we will keep challenging the illegal blockade until Gaza and the rest of Palestine is free."
Call to action:
Boats sailing now to Gaza! Spread the word.
Israel and the U.S. outsourced the siege of Gaza to Athens last summer by preventing eight boats in the Freedom Flotilla 2 -- Stay Human from sailing from Greek ports to Gaza. Despite this we were able to bring worldwide attention to the blockade of the Gaza Strip. Our efforts in Greece only fueled our determination to challenge the imprisonment of the people of Gaza. We said we would continue to sail and so we are!!!
At this moment, two boats are in international waters in the Mediterranean heading to Gaza. One boat, the Saoirse from Ireland, includes Irish parliamentarians among its passengers. The other, the Tahrir, carries representatives from Canada, the U.S., Australia, and Palestine. The U.S. Representative on the Tahrir, Kit Kittredge, was a passenger on the U.S. Boat to Gaza, The Audacity of Hope mission in Athens in July. A journalist from Democracy Now is on the Tahrir also. Civil society organizations in Gaza await their arrival, and look forward to the delivery of letters collected from thousands of U.S. supporters in the To Gaza With Love campaign.
We need your help to make this mission a success. Please take these actions immediately.
1. Check these websites for updates: U.S. to Gaza, Irish Ship to Gaza and Canadian Boat to Gaza, watch or listen to Democracy Now for live coverage from the Tahrir. Look for twitter hashtag #Freedomwaves.
2. Spread the word far and wide -- send this alert to your contacts.
3. Call the State Department and the White House -- demand that they take immediate action to ensure the safe passage of these boats and to put an end to the siege of Gaza.
Call the State Department:
• U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton 202-647-5291
• U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Daniel Shapiro 011-972-3-519-7575
• Office of Israel/Palestinian Affairs, Paul Sutphin 202-647-3672
• Office of Consular Affairs, Kim Richter 202-647-8308
• The White House: 202-456-1414
Here are some talking points or suggested messaging:
• Gaza has been under siege since mid-2006, depriving 1.6 million people of their liberty and basic human rights. Although the siege has been condemned by the United Nations, the Red Cross, and many national governments, nothing has been done to ease the plight of these civilians. Civil society has had to act where governments would not. Two ships with 27 passengers from five countries are sailing to Gaza to confront the Israeli naval blockade, and to bring medical supplies and letters of support.
As Americans we insist that our government (which sends Israel $3 billion in military aid every year), demands that Israel insures the ships' safe passage and ends its illegal blockade of Gaza. There is absolutely no excuse to subject 1.6 million people to collective punishment. Ask your local press to cover this story. Up-to-date information will be available at www.ustogaza.org, www.irishshiptogaza.org and www.tahrir.ca
Israel's blockade of Gaza is illegal, inhumane and unjustified. It amounts to collective punishment of the civilian population of the strip. I am and will, in a peaceful and non-violent manner, fight against that blockade till it ends. Beyond the blockade of Gaza I also believe that the Palestinian people in all Palestinian territories and in the diaspora should not be second class citizens denied of any rights accorded to other peoples, and I will always support them in their struggle to gain all their rights. Ehab Lotayef
Is a Canadian Electrical Engineer of Egyptian origin. He is also a accomplished poet, playwright and photographer with several works in print in both English and Arabic. Ehab is an experienced human rights activist and organizer, with many years of experience, both in Canada and Internationally. He has traveled to Iraq and Palestine multiple times on fact-finding and solidarity missions.
David Heap is a parent of two and a University of Western Ontario faculty member (French & linguistics). He has been active in peace and social justice causes, including Latin American solidarity and the labour movement, for as long as he can remember. He participated in the Gaza Freedom March in December 2009 and hopes to help foster people-to-people links that build lasting solidarity with Palestine. David was also a delegate last July aboard the Canadian ship Tahrir which commandeered by the Greek navy to prevent its passage to Gaza.
Karen DeVito writes "reading, research and writing about peacemaking in divided societies have brought me to the Canada Boat to Gaza project. I have participated in social justice movements most of my life. As a delegate on the Tahrir, I will join a collective effort to help our world recognize the tragic predicament of the people of Gaza, and to acknowledge that ordinary people everywhere deserve to live in peace." Karen was also a delegate last July aboard the Canadian ship Tahrir which commandeered by the Greek navy to prevent its passage to Gaza.
Michael Coleman has a keen commitment to social justice which is evidenced by his work in the youth services sector in Sydney, Australia over the last decade. He has been employed as a life skills educator, case worker, and community development worker and is currently coordinating the EMPATHY Program -- a program designed to increase social inclusion for young people that are at risk of homelessness. Michael has also done some voluntary work in Nablus in the West Bank of Palestine for Project Hope, teaching English and music production. In addition to this, he is currently working towards establishing a non-profit incorporated association called ‘Music for the Dark Corners' to support strategies to challenge the occupation that are based on the principles of non-violent direct action. Michael was also a delegate last July aboard the Canadian ship Tahrir which commandeered by the Greek navy to prevent its passage to Gaza. Michael was one of two "kayakivists" who got in the way of the Greek navy ship sent to pursue the Tahir.
Kit is a 53-year-old mother, grandmother, and peace advocate. She is an active member of peace groups CodePink, Seattle Mid-East Awareness Campaign, VFP, and Ground Zero Center for Nonviolence. When not promoting peace and social justice, she works as a massage therapist, and is a volunteer Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and volunteer Firefighter. She enjoys organic gardening and playing with her grandkids. She writes, "I am passionate about promoting peace. I do frequent presentations in schools and communities to help educate and promote social justice. I have helped lead seven delegations to Gaza in the last two years. We made it through five times! I look forward to continuing this process with my participation in the Freedom Waves to Gaza campaign. I firmly believe that all of our efforts contribute to justice and peace for Palestine and the world." Kit was a delegate last July aboard the Audacity of Hope, an American ship commandeered by the Greek navy to prevent its passage to Gaza.
Is a 20-year-old student in Philosophy and Political Science at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He speaks Arabic, Hebrew and English fluently and his interests include political activism, journalism and literature. His is the co-editor for the political and cultural affairs website Qadita.net and the owner of the blog entitled, "Message to the Tricontinental".
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