By Anis Hamadeh
For the second time now, the Free Gaza Movement successfully challenged the siege of Gaza. A year ago, Israel officially declared the Gaza Strip to be an "enemy entity" filled with enemy people. The mantra of the evil terrorists and of Israel's "fears" has appeased the mainstream public to conclusions such as: both parties must compromise. As if there were two parties. There is one of the most lethal armies in the world on one hand and a native population without an army on the other. And Israel uses collective punishment against the local population.
The Free Gaza Movement concluded that direct action is called for. The arrival of the "Dignity" in Gaza on October 29 was another milestone in the history of nonviolence. As stated by Ramzi Kysia, one of the organizers of the Free Gaza Movement, "Our first voyage in August, the first voyage of any international ship to Gaza in over forty years, showed that it was possible to penetrate Israel's blockade. This second voyage shows that it is repeatable. The Siege of Gaza can be overcome through non-violent resistance and direct action." The media attention is tremendous: the BBC, the New York Times, al-Jazeera, thousands of articles and news features from around the world helped generate security and the safe arrival of the voyagers, despite prior warnings from Israel that the boat would be stopped by force.
The President of the UN General Assembly, Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, sees the movement as an example for nonviolence, saying: "Gandhi's and King's successors in the twenty-first century have carried out further experiments in the power of nonviolent truth to achieve justice and peace in every corner of the world-including, in the last two months, Gaza. The Free Gaza Movement has succeeded in breaking the siege of Gaza by nonviolent direct action. (...) As Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories noted, it is now a question of whether the courage and commitment of the Free Gaza Movement 'can awaken the conscience of humanity to an unfolding tragedy'."
Israel appears threatened by the movement because Free Gaza undermines its total control of Gaza. Zionists worldwide claim Free Gaza is a friend of terrorists. This is only consequential when you start with enemy entity thinking concerning the Gaza Strip. Mary Hughes-Thompson, who was on the first Free Gaza voyage, recently wrote from London: "A shocker from Heathrow airport: I just tried to access our website www.freegaza.org and this is what I got: 'Internet access to this site has been BLOCKED. British Airways has blocked access to certain internet sites which may be considered to be illegal or offensive. This site is currently on the barred list.'"
Free Gaza does not support terrorism. We worked closely with several NGO's in Gaza to coordinate details for our voyages and itineraries while there. Free Gaza is not party-political; our stated mission is to enable humanitarian workers and aid to reach the people of Gaza who are suffering as a result of Israel's punishing blockade.
Within Hamas there are individuals and groups who have been guilty of human rights violations, and the Free Gaza Movement is confronted with the question of how it can inherently support terrorists. In this logic, any support for the civil population in Gaza is pro-Hamas and pro-terrorist. How cruel to punish a whole people in that way. Hamas was democratically elected and it is so-called "democrats" themselves who undermine democracy by not acknowledging the elected party. It is ironic that all of Israel's early prime ministers came from terror groups, and no official ever bothered to demand boycotts and sieges except for the people from the region who were powerless to implement them on a major scale. Besides, the Gaza Strip is not sovereign, but illegally and brutally controlled by another state: Israel. This fact legitimizes resistance on behalf of the Gazan people. Not terror, certainly. Terror in the sense of harming civilians for political purposes is never legitimate, whether committed by individuals, groups, or states.
It is a mystery how the Free Gaza Movement can polarize to this extent by nonviolently demanding the human rights to be applied to humans. The reason probably is that the boats from Cyprus remind people of what has happened to this country over the last decades. Because when you have one of the most lethal and active armies in the world on the one hand and a native population without an army on the other, you can imagine who makes the decisions. But - when an army has to shy away because it cannot act in secret like in the Free Gaza case, then people realize that there is something even stronger than violence, and that is the public.
- Anis Hamadeh is in the Free Gaza Web and Media Team and hosts the Free Gaza Song Contest. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.