Medical and construction supplies, food, water filtration equipment, in addition to supporters from abroad sailed toward Gaza (a tiny strip of land controlled and blockaded by Israel but inhabited by Palestinians) in attempts to provide relief, or rather…sustenance. (…because even these flotillas would not have been able to relieve the suffering in the occupied Palestinian territories). The humanitarian flotillas that headed for Gaza had announced their purpose months in advance, asserted their non-violent intent, and even waved a white flag, signaling peace and surrender.
Previous to any contact, Israel opposed the flotillas, vowing to block any of them from reaching the Palestinian coast. Bringing aid to Gaza by boat, and not through Israel, asserts the right of international organization to give humanitarian aid directly to the Palestinian people.
At 4:30 Monday morning, while many people on the Freedom Flotillas were sleeping, Israeli commandos slid down ropes form helicopters and landed on board the flotillas, opening fire. At least nine people are dead, and many more injured. The death toll comes from the Israeli Defense Forces and is likely to be a conservative number. Other sources have reported up to 20 dead. Israeli forces claim that the violence was premeditated by the activists bringing aid to Gaza. The Israeli authorities, and their supporters, have thrown around the word terrorist to discredit the humanitarian activists on the Freedom Flotillas. It seems as though Israeli authorities are attempting to cloud the apparent attack on what was clearly a nonviolent act of solidarity and aid.
Israeli Navy boarded civilian boats in international waters and have gone on to detain many of the activists that were on board. Israeli forces have thwarted attempts to provide relief and basic necessities to the severely oppressed and deprived Palestinians in Gaza, all in conservation of the encumbering system of power distribution (or lack thereof). It is seriously disturbing to see the maintenance of a tradition of oppression and discrimination getting in the way of people’s basic basic necessities for survival like sufficient food and clean water. From the removal and elimination of many Native American tribes by European settlers to Apartheid in South Africa to the enslavement of Africans brought to the United States and now to the designation and occupation of Palestinian territories in Israel today, there is a pattern of injustice that has perpetuated with humans throughout history. This pattern must come to an end. There is no justification of Israeli actions. Despite the uncertainty of where the order came from, this assault was a deliberate and violent act to prevent aid from reaching the Palestinians. This act needs to be recognized for what it is and be taken as a reminder that on an international level, things need to be done everyday to work for a fair, just and peaceful resolution of the situation in the Palestinian Territories. People and countries around the world have already condemned the assault on the Freedom Flotilla and the continued blockade of Gaza, and I encourage those who are as disconcerted about the event as I, to attend some type of demonstration in solidarity and in protest. What does this have to do with ‘us’ you might ask? Palestine and Israeli are a part of our world and it is our responsibility to protest and demand different treatment from the Israeli government, especially since they are such close allies of our government. We live in an age of technology and communication, where information from around the world is easily accessible to many of us. This broadens our communities and makes it possible for us to be a part of a single struggle connected to people across seas and borders. This afternoon there will be a rally in Chicago on Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive, outside the Israeli Consulate at 4:30 p.m.