By Thomas Sommer*
Sunday 23 May: “The dog barks, but the caravan passes on.”
Will we be able to sail in one or two days? Is everything ready and loaded? All papers signed? We have thousands of tons of materials to load in the cargo –cement, water-treatment plants, prefabricated houses, generators, electric wheelchairs, medical supplies and school kits – and hundreds of passengers arriving in Greece. In Turkey, hundreds more will join and thousands more tons of cargo will be loaded. We are ready to go. One boat has already sailed from Ireland; she is going as fast as possible to eat the miles between her and us. All of us need to be at the meeting point on the same day and we are running out of time. Gathering so many boats, people and cargo from so many countries is a crazy job. For sure, the friends who are organizing it will need very long holidays after that! But we will make it. The spirit, here, in Greece is so high, and the hearts are so big, that there is always someone coming with a solution to overcome every single problem, one after the other.
That’s why the Israelis are furious. Can you hear them? Going to every single government shouting, begging, rumbling: “Don’t let them go!” But it is too late, we are going in few hours, in one day, maybe two. That’s sure. We are going. So they are shouting even louder: “We will stop the boats! We will stop them with military force! And we will not be responsible for what happens to these people! The governments who allow the boats leave their countries will be the ones to take the responsibility.” This is the familiar refrain of the Israeli state. We destroy, but it is not our responsibility. We kill, but it is not our responsibility. We steal, but it is not our responsibility. It’s never their responsibility, it’s always the other side — the Palestinians, the Arabs, or even the United Nations. But even the US government is tired of that old tune, so you can imagine the rest of the world! So, let’s see what will happen. Let’s see what they will do to hundreds of people, peace lovers, journalists, even members of parliament, who are going unarmed to bring love, solidarity and aid to a population that Israel is starving to death. Frankly, they would be smarter to let us go. But if they want to send their Navy, they can do it. If they want to send their commandos, all painted black, with Uzi and grenades, they can do it. They can do whatever they want. But if they decide to stop us in the international waters or in the waters of Gaza, if they decide to arrest us and seize our boats, they will have to bear the responsibility for being vulgar pirates. In front of Al Jazeera and Euronews…
But to be fair to Israel, we have to acknowledge that our governments are also responsible. Not for what Israel might do to us, but something much more terrible. Many of our governments and the “international community” bear a huge and awful responsibility for turning a blind eye to what is happening in Gaza and in the rest of Palestine. They let Gaza die slowly, they let the entire people of Palestine live under constant terror and oppression, but they open their arms to the State of Israel. Which power, which government tried to prevent the terrible punitive war against Gaza one year ago? Not one. As the images of the bloodshed were broadcast on every screen, which government said “Stop. Enough is enough”? Not one. So a hurricane of bombs, missiles and bullets devastated Gaza, leaving more than 1400 death, among them 300 children. More than 5000 houses, 700 factories, dozen of schools and water plants were simply erased from the map. Gaza was torn to the ground. Which government sent emergency aid and reconstruction teams? Not one. Nothing happened and the Palestinians from Gaza remain locked in the world’s biggest jail, among the ruins. Their Israeli jailers are keeping the doors closed and the EU and the USA are making sure that it is airtight. Do you know how many tons of cement were authorized to enter in Gaza since the war? Around four hundred, maybe five – enough to build nine houses. A European parliamentary delegation that tried to enter Gaza was stopped by Israel. They were supposed to check what happened to the billions of euros invested by the European Union in Gaza in the years just before the war. Well, to see something they would have had first to clean the 600,000 tons of rubble left by the Israeli bombardments. Enough work to occupy a lifetime. Just days ago, Israel received a warm welcome from all 31 OECD members and the European Union is seriously thinking of strengthening its economic and political agreements with Israel. Are our governments completely blind, or out of their mind, or both, to act like that?
If we were living in a normal world, we would not have to take boats full of cement and medical supplies to Gaza. First, because the war against Gaza would not have happened and even if it did, there would be an emergency response from the international community, imposing on Israel an end to the siege and sending thousands of tons of aids. In a normal world our governments and the “international community” would not let Israel steal Palestinian land and kill Palestinian children. Our governments would act with responsibility to guarantee peace and justice, also for the Palestinians.
But we are not living in such a world. So we are on the boats and we are going to Gaza. Because we, and the thousands and thousands of normal people supporting us, cannot accept a minute more what is happening there. We cannot accept a minute more the occupation, the stealing, the lies and the destruction of Palestine. So, we are going now. Be sure that nothing will prevent us trying. How could we do otherwise when the people of Gaza, in spite of the siege and the destruction, are standing and fighting for their freedom and for the unity of Palestine. We salute them. Whatever happens this time, nothing will prevent us from sailing again in few months or in one year, with more people, with more boats, with more solidarity. Israel may bark, but our caravan will pass.
* Thomas Sommer is a research associate with Focus on the Global South and is on board the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza. The flotilla consists of eight boats with 5000 tons of construction and aid materials and hundreds of passengers, including members of parliament and personalities. The government of Israel has announced that they will try to stop the flotilla by any means necessary.