By Aayesha J Soni
“Palestinian women”, a phrase that conjures up images of courage, strength and the backbone of Palestinian survival under ruthless and vicious Israeli occupation. There is not a single Palestinian woman who is unscathed by the violence that Israel unleashes daily. While Palestinian women are the stone-throwers, demonstrators, field-workers, activists, and the heads of households; they are also the victims of daily human rights violations, assault, imprisonment, torture and murder.
Palestinian women play multiple roles in the survival of Palestinian life. The Freedom Flotilla Coalition’s Women’s Boat to Gaza (WBG) aims to highlight this role. The illegal Israeli naval blockade of the Gaza strip increases the difficulty of the tasks faced by the Palestinian women exponentially.
Gaza is the largest open air prison in the world. The illegal blockade prevents aid and daily consumables from entering the strip. Items such as A4 paper, diesel fuel, gasoline, fruit, vegetable, wheat, sugar, meat, chicken, fish products, dairy products, animal feed, hygiene products, clothing and shoes are not allowed into Gaza. Construction material to rebuild
Palestinians homes after three devastating invasions of the Strip by the illegal occupying force is also not permitted to enter. The effects of the siege on Gaza are both economical and designed to deprive people of basic every day commodities. This ties in with Zionist philosophy to change the demographics of historic Palestine through genocide and ethnic cleansing.
This is why non-violent women’s only initiatives such as the WBG, which attempt to challenge the blockade while promoting women and their rights are important. The boat is not an aid boat, it is a humanitarian solidarity mission.
Notable activists, politicians, members of the media and cultural artists from around the globe will sail aboard the WBG. These include Nobel Laureate and peace activist Mairead Maguire, playwright and screenwriter Naomi Wallace and Cigdem Topçuoglu, a professional athlete and coach, whose husband was killed in the Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara in 2010.
As a woman, I am in awe of these brave female activists who will be on board the WBG. Israel is an illegal, pitiless and heartless occupier and has no respect for human rights or life. The Zionist Apartheid regime has displayed its total disregard for international law repeatedly and I doubt they will hesitate to use excessive force again even where these brave non-violent female activists are concerned.
There have been many attempts to break the siege on Gaza. Most noteworthy of these attempts was the flotilla organized by the Free Gaza Movement. The Mavi Marmara was part of this flotilla. The Turkish Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (İHH) was also part of this attempt in 2010. Even though it was carrying only humanitarian aid and construction material, it was attacked by the illegitimate Zionist military in what has been called, an act of unprovoked aggression and piracy in international waters. The attack resulted in the death of many renowned activists.
The names of the boats (Amal-Hope and Zaytouna-Oliva) that will set sail are very significant. Amal, which will set sail on September 14th, symbolizes the hope that will be brought to the shores of Gaza. Oliva was the name of the civil protection boat that activist-journalist Vittorio Arrigoni sailed in solidarity with Palestinian fishing boats in Gaza before he was murdered in 2011. Zaytouna symbolizes the olive tree. The role of the mighty olive tree in Palestinian history is well documented. It is also an ancient symbol of the inevitable victory and peace that will embody the courage of the Palestinian women. Palestinian women, who bend with the wind, but never break.
– Aayesha J Soni, Vice Chairperson of the Media Review Network on behalf of the Women’s Boat to Gaza. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Follow Aayesha: @AayeshaJ