After months of planning and preparation the Gaza Freedom Flotilla consisting of six ships boarded by 700 brave volunteers set sail last Sunday night carrying aid to the 1.5 million besieged people in Gaza. Bravely attempting to sail through and peacefully penetrate the Israeli blockade was their mission.
700 civilians who could no longer sit aside and wait, who could no longer go about their daily lives carrying the weight of their suffering brothers and sisters on their backs. Aware of the risks involved and the unpredictably hostile nature of the Israeli military they left the comfort of their homes and said goodbye to their families convinced that this movement is of absolute importance to the Palestinian people. What they were not aware of while boarding the decks and sailing into the darkness is that their journey will be of absolute importance for the whole world.
It has marked a day in history, a day when Israel lost control of its media cover up. A day that moved many of the younger generation to tears at hearing the news of how this brave journey ended. Nineteen have been shot dead by the Israeli navy who opened fire on the peaceful visitors long before exiting international waters. With communication from the boats severed we had nothing to go by until after the deaths.
The International media’s semantic magic show decided to instantaneously make the word “aid” disappear from their headlines. And as per usual the rest of the world got to hear Israel’s side of the story, which always goes something like this “so and so attacked us” and “it wasn’t us it was them” etc. You know how it goes, you have been hearing it for years. It’s ironic how it is only in Israel that attackers are always the ones dying.
We are stunned by the news but what shook us to the core is the slowness in the Arab governments’ response. The Turkish government moved immediately after the news was heard and so did the Iranian one. Meanwhile, it took our proud Arab nations half a day to appear with their condemnations followed by their announcement that the Arab league will meet no later than tomorrow?! What can be more urgent than a merciless attack on innocent aid workers?
While our Arab league deliberates, the ships bringing aid have become the ones in need of it. And on the Gaza shores the news fell the hardest for the flicker of hope sailing towards them had been once again snubbed by Israel and once again the walls of the siege seemed to rise higher and stand stronger.
We are here to tell Gaza and the people of Palestine that this movement has set the precedent for many more to come. The people have not forgotten you and are ready to fill your seas with their blood delivering the help you need. Today the world’s view has changed in many ways. Israel can stop a flotilla but it cannot stop our longing for freedom. To the families of the people lost on board the Freedom Flotilla I give my sincerest condolences and ask you to keep your heads up for you now carry an emblem of pride on your chests and in your hearts forever.
As for the Arab governments, you could learn a thing or two from these brave martyrs who sailed into the darkness only to see the light.
This article was published in The Gulf Today newspaper on June 1st, 2010.