“Israel has promised the use of force against this unarmed
convoy of volunteers, who range
in age from 1 ½ to 88, if it does not turn back.”
Anchored in the Mediterranean Sea for the past 24 hours, the Turkish IHH ship, the Mavi Marmara, has been awaiting the recent arrival of one final boat carrying members of parliament from various European countries. This convoy of five ships and one Irish ship, the MV Rachel Corrie, will carry humanitarian aid and nearly 800 volunteers towards the Gaza Strip, despite Israel’s threats to block, arrest and/or deport the entire convoy.
The glassy azure sea must be deceptively harsh given three Free Gaza boats became victims of mechanical complications and breakdown yesterday during their short trip to join the Mavi Marmara, the largest passenger boat. In addition, political tension between the Turkish controlled North and Greece controlled South in the small island of Cyprus delayed the joining of the European MP’s, who were denied passage from South Cyprus and who have arrived only minutes ago.
On board the Mavi Marmara, over 560 volunteers from more than 32 countries continue to lift each others spirits through song and ceremony, study and prayer, as they await other participants and organize the delivery of thousands of tons of aid around the impending conflict with Israel. Volunteers from South Africa, Algeria, Turkey, Macedonia, Pakistan, Yemin, Kosovo, the UK and US, Kuwait, and many more – including an exiled past Archbishop of Jerusalem living in the
Vatican – have joined together across cultural and religious differences, age and occupation, to challenge the illegal siege of Gaza.
The cargo includes prefabricated homes and playgrounds, cement and other home-building supplies, medical devices and medications, textiles and food. The Israeli siege on Gaza, which restricts the entry of all materials, including food and medicine, into Gaza has been in place for nearly four years despite its glaring illegality.
Currently, Gaza receives only about 5% of the basic supplies it needs to function and none of the materials necessary to rebuild following the 2008-2009 massacre by Israel which killed more than 1,400 and destroyed hundreds of thousands of structures.
Israel’s open threats to the safety and mission of the convoy have been supplemented by vague and unreliable promise. If denied entry, the aid and volunteers are prepared to wait in International waters for as long as necessary to draw global attention to the siege and to encourage international intervention from the more than 32 countries
represented on the humanitarian convoy. Israel has promised the use of force against this unarmed convoy of volunteers, who range in age from 1 ½ to 88, if it does not turn back. To do so would be a crippling move in terms of Israel’s already-shaky public relations campaign, which works diligently to paint Israel in a positive light amidst
growing global awareness of its unjust treatment of Palestinians in both the West Bank and Gaza.
The best move Israel could make from all perspectives is to allow this convoy of aid into Gaza without hesitation and to quickly end the siege of Gaza before even greater public opinion and, possibly, foreign governmental support of Israel turns starkly against it. Whether this happens, however, is up to both the Israeli citizenship and government, and the citizenship and governments of all the countries represented on this convoy. As the hours unfold, it will
become clear who supports this just humanitarian mission and who chooses to turn their backs on it, an outcome that will surely be to the detriment of all.