History Freely Streaming from On Board the SS Liberty and Free Gaza

Never doubt that a few, thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

— Margaret Mead

Within the next few days, history will be freely streaming from aboard the Free Gaza and SS Liberty as a few committed global citizens focus the world’s attention onto the 1.4 million open-air prisoners of Gaza who have been collectively punished by Israel’s ongoing occupation.

On board are Internationals, Israelis, Palestinians, a Catholic Nun, Child of The Holocaust, Journalists, Human Rights Activists, Fathers and Mothers, Civil Engineers and Coordinators of Children’s Programs in Gaza, Professors, Film Makers, Writers, Non-Violence Trainers and Activists, former Marine and Legislative Representative, Musicians and More who have been led by the desire to stand up for the voiceless who have endured under siege conditions before and after the ‘disengagement’ in 2005, for Israel has always maintained complete control of air, land and sea borders.

“We have been invited by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society of Gaza to go to Gaza. The people of Gaza expect us and will come out in their boats to meet us. We will fish together,” announced Greta Berlin, Co-Founder of the Free Gaza Movement, at the closing of the 27th annual ADC/Arab-American Anti-Discrimination conference in Washington, D.C. June 10, 2007, which preceded a March on D.C. by over 5,000 dissenting American’s Against the Israeli Occupation of Palestine.

The MSM was MIA at both events, but the March was well attended by USA Security Forces.

In 2007, the plan had been to sail ten boats through international waters to bring food, water, medicine directly to the people of Gaza. It has been said that you don’t make war with the army you wish you had, but the army you have; the army out to change the world consists of two boats- the Free Gaza and SS Liberty and streaming video.

Co-visionary and Co-Founder of Free Gaza, Dr. Paul Larudee, a former Fulbright-Hayes lecturer and piano tuner, had scheduled twenty piano-tuning appointments throughout the West Bank during the summer of 2006, but instead, spent two weeks in a Ben Gurion jail cell before being deported for his non-violent activism against the route of The Wall and U.S.A. tax dollars that support the Israeli Military Occupation of Palestine.

Larudee explained in 2007, “We are going through international waters; we are not going through Israel. Israel claims Gaza is unoccupied and so, we are going to unoccupied territory… We will embark in Cyprus and disembark in Gaza. This can play out in many ways; we may get blown out of the water, we may get towed away, but we will remain nonviolent and exercise the sovereignty of international waters, for we are not going through Israel. We will not allow the Coast Guard to enter onto our boats; we will demonstrate nonviolently our solidarity with the residents of Gaza who invited us. We are taking food, water, medicine, but the issue is solidarity with the people of Gaza. If our rights are denied, we will remain nonviolent.”

Also on board is American-Israeli Professor Jeff Halper, Founder of Israeli Committee against House Demolitions and famous for his explanation of Israeli democracy, “Israel is not a democracy, but is an Ethnocracy, meaning a country run and controlled by a national group with some democratic elements but set up with Jews in control and structured to keep them in control… Missing from Israel’s security framing is the very fact of occupation, which Israel both denies exists… and that ‘security’ requires Israel control over the entire country… rendering impossible a just peace based on human rights, international law, reconciliation.”

Sara Roy, is a senior research scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University and political economist who has worked in Gaza since 1985. She had just returned from there and spoke prior to Greta and Paul at the 2007 ADC Conference:

There is nothing new in Gaza, just more acute and the internal breakdown due to restrictions and 527 physical barriers and cantonizations make it impossible for Palestinian businessmen to move their goods and they have been forced to hire Israelis as middle men who are able to transport Palestinian goods over the 535 miles of roads that Palestinians have been denied access to. The few Palestinians who are able to access these roads have become a privileged class…This new class is also dependent on international donors who are not building new structures to challenge the occupation and this has resulted in the humanitarization of Palestine; donors and Israelis are not treating them as human beings with political rights.

This has caused fragmentation, isolation, cantonization which will soon become worse. The physical impediments, roadblocks and required permits have caused most of the people to give up, for their efforts to move their goods increases their costs so much and since there is no guarantee that their efforts will result in them being able to transport their wares, many have given up.

There is a great sense that the people are robbed of their space and time and this has resulted in a de-development of the human being… The issue is no longer occupation but sovereign control…All vestiges of Palestinian presence is being destroyed by Israel.

The Free Gaza and SS Liberty are scheduled to set sail for Gaza from Cyprus by the middle of August 2008. When the international crew alerted the people of Gaza of some recent delays, the resilient and patient reply was, “Don’t worry. We know you are coming. And we are waiting.”

The Free Gaza Movement is endorsed by an impressive array of international groups and personalities including South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mairead Maguire and former Prime Minister of Lebanon Dr. Salim Al-Hoss.

On two small boats, 40 global citizens from 16 countries, (the oldest will celebrate her 84th birthday on board and the youngest is a 22-year-old student from Denmark) on their way to Gaza, will be freely streaming reality video with hope to nonviolently defeat the Israeli Navy and begin the End of the Occupation.

The SS Liberty learned to have documentation ready, from its namesake the USS Liberty, which was attacked while in international waters not far from Gaza by the Israeli Navy and Air Force on June 8, 1967. On 13 October, 2007, USS Liberty survivor Phillip Tourney told me:

Israel got away with cold blooded murder! Forty years ago the CIA and the NSA all threatened the survivors not to talk! They scared me so much; I didn’t for twenty years… Israel wanted the world to believe that Egypt [committed the crime]… Thirty-four were killed and 172 were wounded out of a crew of 294… The Israeli planes marked out the Star of David so we wouldn’t know who was attacking us… Our keel was broken, we should have sunk but God kept us alive.

On June 8, 2007, Congressman Paul Findley at the 27th annual American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee’s Washington, D.C. spoke straighforwardly:

It is time to speak openly and honestly about Israel. But, in American politics, that is still forbidden… Pity that we cannot seem to shed our fear of Israel. We are afraid to speak out on Capitol Hill, for fear of losing the next election. They are more like trained poodles jumping through hoops than leaders! Why this fear? How did we get here?

Forty years ago to this day, June 8, 1967 the change occurred, the floodgates opened and money poured into Israel as never before. When President Johnson heard about the USS Liberty being attacked by Israel he ordered the rescue fighter planes to return to the deck. The rescue mission was aborted and the survivors have said they heard LBJ’s voice tell Admiral Giess, ‘Get those planes back on deck. I don’t care if the ship sinks, I will not embarrass Israel.’

LBJ also threatened to court martial anyone who reported what had happened. Johnson accepted Israel’s false claim of “mistaken identity” and he knew it was a lie. That is when the change began and Israel learned they could get away with murdering U.S.A. soldiers.

Even President George W. Bush sometimes gets it right, as he did at the Second Inaugural Address:

In the long run, there is no justice without freedom. There can be no human rights without liberty. All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know the United States will not ignore your oppression or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for liberty, we stand with you.

Get on Board.

Eileen Fleming is the author of Keep Hope Alive and Memoirs of a Nice Irish American Girl's' Life in Occupied Territory and the producer of 30 Minutes With Vanunu. Email her at ecumei@gmail.com. Read other articles by Eileen, or visit Eileen's website.

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  1. eileen fleming said on August 13th, 2008 at 4:49pm #

    Wed, 13 Aug 2008 11:51:02 GMT

    By Yvonne Ridley, Press TV

    By the time you read this, our two boats, the Free Gaza and SS Liberty should be sailing from Chania’s old port in Crete despite a gloomy forecast of storms ahead.

    Our captains have decided it is time to quit our dock for security reasons and so we are heading along the Crete coastline on our way to pick up the rest of our passengers who have been waiting patiently in Cyprus.

    We could be in for a rough ride, but without going into too much detail, we probably are more at risk by not moving.

    Israel has a history of using Mossad and Kidon to sabotage and destroy peaceful operations designed to help or show solidarity towards Palestinians.

    From Crete we will head towards larnaca, Cyprus to pick up the rest of our group and then we are bound for Gaza to break the medieval siege imposed by Israel.

    Media interest is once again gathering momentum and there are those who want to join us on board while others are considering hiring their own boats … the more the merrier. Wouldn’t it be great if we had a huge flotilla?

    However, there are concerns from the media because Israel has a history of
    shooting, killing, and arresting journalists who try to report the truth about
    the brutal occupation of Palestine.

    I was reminded of this only this morning as I read a release a few minutes ago
    from Reporters Without Borders. The human rights group was condemning today’s
    announcement by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) to detain Ibrahim Hamad, a
    soundman employed by the Palestinian news agency Ramattan, for six months
    without bringing charges and without taking him before any court.

    Hamad was arrested by Israeli soldiers at his home in Qalandiyah, near the West
    Bank city of Ramallah, on July 15. “The Israeli military may not under any
    circumstances arrest journalists or media assistants without giving a
    reason,” Reporters Without Borders said.
    “If they think a journalist has done something wrong, they must say what it
    is and they must explain why they are arresting him. We call for Hamad’s
    immediate release.”

    When reached by Reporters Without Borders, the management of Ramattan firmly
    condemned his arrest and called for his release.

    They also called on the Israeli authorities to explain why they are holding
    him. “This is not the first time that one of our employees has been arrested
    by the Israeli military,” the agency said.

    Israeli boasts it is a democracy … these are not the actions of a democratic
    state. These are the actions of a brutal state which tries to crush those
    dedicated to telling the truth about the full horrors of the Zionist regime and
    its determination to see through its deliberate and slow genocide of the
    Palestinian people.

    We will be able to see in a few days time exactly how the Israelis react to a
    group of peaceful activists who want to sail into Gaza armed with nothing more
    than love and support for their Palestinian brothers and sisters.

    If Israel is really a free and open democracy then its Navy will let us past,
    Mossad will stop trying to sabotage our journey and all of the journalists on
    board, including myself, will be able to report the truth about what is
    happening in the world’s largest open air prison called Gaza.

    In the meantime, I would urge the IOF to release our brother Ibrahim Hamad and allow him to continue his media work.