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June 16, 2010

Freedom Flotilla - a journey destined to end the occupation

"By now it has been demonstrated that neither governments nor the UN will challenge this blockade, only people of conscience and courage will." - Richard Falk, Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University.

It's been one lie after another in the US media about the Israeli attack on the Gaza-bound relief flotilla. 

No matter that the Israeli media views the whole incident as a debacle for Israel, but in the US, the Israel-can-do-no-wrong crowd is on overdrive defending the operation.  As usual, facts don't matter to them.

Obama’s popular Cairo University speech to Muslims is an epitome of rhetoric manufactured to the tune of popular Muslim sentiments.

But hollow words disappear into thin air. The Obama administration remains more committed to protecting Israel from being held accountable for its war crimes than it is committed to international law, human rights and the principle of accountability.

Despite the predictable US and Canadian government’s shameless reaction, international condemnation has been unusually swift and robust.

In his speech to the Turkish parliament following the attack, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, denounced Israeli "state terrorism" and demanded that the international community exact a price.

Erdogan vowed that "Turkey will never turn its back on Gaza," and that it would continue its campaign to lift the blockade and hold Israel accountable even if it had to do so alone.

Nonviolent resistance always involves self-sacrifice on the part of those who struggle for justice.

Though the tragedy in the loss of life is not to be downplayed, the flotilla has already proven successful in significant ways; people around the world, including influential leaders, have responded by condemning the Gaza blockade, and millions more have learned about the international movement to transform the conflict in the region.

The historical analogies abound.

Brazen brutality by occupying powers can unleash social movements that lead to the dismantling of the perpetrating regime. The Sharpeville shootings in South Africa toppled the apartheid regime and the Amritsar massacre in India, was the catalyst for the colonial Britain’s departure from India.

Let’s hope the journey of Freedom Flotilla would end the occupation and the return of the exiled Palestinians to their home land — Palestine.

Palestinian freedom cannot be left to the haggling and horse-trading of diplomacy, which leaves the fate of millions of Palestinians hostage to international elite politicking. Instead, continued direct grassroots pressure on Israel both complements Palestinian indigenous resistance and raises the political costs of Israel's refusal to end its siege and occupation.

People around the world are rising up because the world is tired of Israeli occupation and persecution of an entire people.

This life-choking blockade, according to Richard Gladstone, the eminent jurist of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, constitutes “Collective Punishment” of a civilian population an act illegal under Article 33 of the fourth Geneva Convention.

But the Culture of Impunity, under which Israel operates, means Israel continues to ignore International Law with many of the World’s Governments and international bodies’ remaining silent.

The withholding of food, medicine, schoolbooks, building supplies, among thousands of other items, as well as the right to enter and leave Gaza for any purpose became a weapon to terrorise the civilian population.

A senior Israeli government advisor Dov Weisglass explained in 2006: "The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger."

By this standard, the blockade — shamelessly supported by several Arab governments and the Quartet (the US, EU, UN secretary-general, and Russia) has been a great success, as numerous studies document alarming increases in child malnutrition as the vast majority of Gaza's population became dependent on UN food handouts. Hundreds have died for lack of access to proper medical care.

The complex power equations of the Middle East have muddled the cost of human suffering which is an inevitable part of the package. With each day the darkness around Gaza deepens. Peace talks, war crimes and peace talks again. The cycle goes on with a status quo which suites the perpetrators more than the victims.

Palestine as a geopolitical entity is in rags. Its landmass divided by unjustified borders and fences. Its body scarred, bruised and bleeding. Every day brings new wounds and fresh death.

The harp of hope for millions of Palestinians is long broken. The identity of Palestine has been untimely aborted by cruel hands of the Israeli establishment.

Richard Falk is right: ‘People of conscience and courage’ will have to rise up and continue to press until a free and a viable state of Palestine is established.

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M. Elmasry

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