California-based Free Palestine Movement recruiting prominent Americans to challenge Israeli siege, bring humanitarian supplies and human rights volunteers to Gaza.
El Cerrito, CA – The Free Palestine Movement announced plans to participate in an international initiative that will send at least eight cargo and passenger vessels to the Gaza Strip next month. Backed by activists in 30 countries and organized by groups in Turkey, Cyprus, Greece, Ireland, Sweden, Malaysia, the United Kingdom, and the European Union as well as the U.S., the project is the biggest international effort yet to break the Israeli siege of Gaza.
The vessels, which will include at least three substantial cargo ships, will set sail from European ports in early May, converge in the eastern Mediterranean, and head for the port of Gaza. The convoy will carry more than 5,000 tons of cargo, including cement, prefabricated housing, other building materials, water-purification equipment, medical supplies, and educational supplies. Some 500 passengers from at least 20 countries, including parliamentarians, artists, and other public figures, will also be on board.
The Free Palestine Movement, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation launched in September 2009, is a continuation of the California-based Free Gaza Movement. As the only U.S. nonprofit participating in the upcoming convoy, the organization is contributing to the purchase of the vessels, recruiting prominent Americans (including members of Congress) to sail on board, and bringing news of the project to the American public.
The 1.5 million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip have been under Israeli occupation and barred from trading by sea for 43 years. Since 2006 the 25-mile-long enclave has been subject to an ever-tightening Israeli siege, which has permitted only a trickle of supplies to enter. After the devastating Israeli assault of December 2008-January 2009, which wrecked the territory's infrastructure and economy, the international community pledged $4.5 billion in reconstruction assistance, but almost none of it has so far reached Gaza. Although the attack left 100,000 people homeless, Israel has continued to block shipments of cement and other desperately needed building materials.
The flotilla will proceed directly from international waters to Gaza, without passing through any areas claimed by Israel, so there will be no legal basis for Israeli interference. Since August 2008 five ships carrying aid and Palestine-solidarity activists have successfully breached the Israeli blockade, although Israeli naval vessels, acting with no legal foundation, have blocked the last four attempts to reach Gaza by sea and confiscated two ships.
In a rare instance of cooperation between traditional antagonists, Greek and Turkish organizers have worked together on the project, and Greek- and Turkish-flag vessels will sail side by side in the flotilla.
The Free Palestine Movement is committed to upholding international law and the human rights of the Palestinian people. FPM's other projects include plans to fly an aircraft to Gaza later this year, to send Palestinian volunteers on commercial flights to Israel's Ben Gurion airport to assert their right under international law to return to their homeland, and to organize a major concert for Palestine in the U.K. and other locations.
For more information, visit www.freepalestinemovement.org