A Call to Conscience

In yet another of Israel’s “operations” against unarmed civilians, Israel went at least 50 miles into international waters and boarded a global humanitarian flotilla from the Free Gaza Movement, which was carrying food, medicine, school supplies, and building material to the besieged and hungry people of Gaza. The human toll thus far is 16 unarmed civilians, murdered. Israel has refused to release their names and over 680 have been taken to unknown locations. By holding the only witnesses to this crime, Israel is stealing precious time to disseminate its propaganda and spin the story to its advantage.

Before anyone had a chance to react, Israeli PR and spokespeople were busy feeding stories and giving interviews. Their claim amounts to this: “Rioters” from all over the world left their homes, jobs and families to gather on a boat in order to lure Israeli commandos into international waters and proceeded to attack them with sticks and kitchen knives. The highly trained Israeli special unit soldiers with the most advanced and technological weapons known to man had no choice but to kill unarmed civilians on this boat. Thus, Israel acted in “self defense” against “terrorists” and organizations with “links to Hamas and Al Qaeda” – a mendacious mantra that has become tiresome.

The abuse of language does not stop there. Israel goes on to claim that its barbaric devastation of Gaza is an “embargo” and therefore legal – as if the intentional starvation and destruction of an entire people were legitimate!

The Free Gaza Movement was started by friends of mine – ordinary citizens of the world who refuse to hide behind “I didn’t know” or “What could I do?” as Israel has slowly turned Gaza into a death camp, where food and medicine are disallowed in sufficient quantities. The consequences are clear in reports from the World Health Organization – rampant malnutrition, with at least 10% of Gaza’s children having stunted growth for lack of food; where the education system has all but collapsed not least because Israel has bombed hundreds of Gaza’s schools and continues to prevent the import of books and school supplies; where Israel rains death from the sky onto this captive civilian population with no place to run or take refuge, leaving thousands dead and wounded and 80% of Gaza’s children suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, a crippling disorder that may well produce generations of lost children; where employment (not unemployment) hovers around 20%; where the sewage system cannot be repaired after Israel’s assault and clean water is a luxury few have; where fishermen are fired upon by the Israeli navy dare they try to catch a day’s food in their own waters; and where diabetics, asthmatics, dialysis and cancer patients must die because they lack the most basic medicines and cannot leave to get help in other countries.

So, as Gazans have been left by Israel and by the “international community” to trod in their own excrement, drink toxic water, beg for food, die of treatable diseases, wet their pants at night and quiver with fear in the arms of their equally bewildered parents, unable to work, to fish, or to get an education; unable to breathe or to find hope in this tiny sliver of a prison land, world leaders meet to decipher the “competing narratives,” issue their impotent “statements” and summon their Israeli ambassadors for a slight smack on the hand.

Incidentally, these so called “rioters” and “terrorists” with international “terrorist links” include Hedy Epstein, an 85-year old Holocaust survivor, Mairead McGuire, an Irish Nobel Laureate, Henning Mankell, an renowned Swedish author, a baby whose name I do not know, a journalist for Al-Jazeera, a former US ambassador, a retired math teacher from California, and many other known and unknown extraordinary individuals from all walks and from a multitude of nations. They are my heroes. They are doing what leaders have failed to do, namely to stand up to extreme racism, tyranny and oppression. Not for one moment do I believe Israel’s lie that these individuals were carrying and firing guns.

What do you believe?

More importantly, what will you do?

Will you ask yourselves: What have Palestinians done to deserve such a fate? What have we done to deserve the world’s silence as Israel slowly and cruelly wipes us off the map and destroys our society, then kills those righteous individuals who try to show a minimal recognition of our humanity?

For many, this is a call to conscience and a call to action: To take a stand as individual citizens; to demand a principled stand from our government and to divest and distance yourselves from Israel and those who profit from these endless war crimes that go on with impunity.

Susan Abulhawa is the author of Mornings in Jenin, a work of historic fiction and the founder of Playgrounds for Palestine. Read other articles by Susan, or visit Susan's website.

15 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. MichaelKenny said on June 4th, 2010 at 9:28am #

    The silver lining to all this is that absolutely nobody believes the Israelis. Or even the apologists trying to claim that Israel “planned” it all. So I wouldn’t worry if the world doesn’t declare war on Israel. The damage the Israelis ahve done to themselves, and the victory they have handed the Palestinians on a sliver platter, is immense. Apartheid South Africa (and, indeed, the Soviet Union) went the same way without anyone having to fire a shot. At a certain point in time, their leaders were so much on the defensive that they committed blunder after blunder, each blunder putting them ever more on the defensive and ever more likely to commit another, ever greater, blunder. Israel is on the slippery slope and history may well record that this incident was the moment when the world realised it.

  2. kalidas said on June 4th, 2010 at 1:07pm #

    The Israelis are in a league of their own and always have been.
    Even before they were “Israelis.”

  3. hayate said on June 4th, 2010 at 8:25pm #

    The MV Rachel Corrie is approaching Gaza. Mondoweiss is hosting real time communications with the ship as it progresses. They are being shadowed by israeli ships right now. It must be early daybreak saturday there right now.

    Updates on the MV Rachel Corrie

    by Adam Horowitz on June 4, 2010

    The news on the MV Rachel Corrie’s attempt to break the siege has been difficult to follow, but it seems that twitter is the most accessible and reliable news source right now. I’ve embedded the Mondoweiss (@mondoweiss) twitter feed below where we’re posting information as it becomes available.


  4. hayate said on June 4th, 2010 at 8:50pm #

    Latest update is reporting MV Rachel Corrie has been captured by the israelis.

  5. Jonas Rand said on June 4th, 2010 at 10:00pm #

    Note that while the report that you refer to is unconfirmed, #freegazaorg is reporting that they have been attempting to make contact with the crew every two minutes but are not receiving responses.


  6. hayate said on June 4th, 2010 at 10:08pm #

    The idf also claims they have not boarded her. The israelis are jamming communication, like the last time, though.

  7. mary said on June 4th, 2010 at 11:33pm #

    In order to jam the communications (as happened last Monday) surely there must be US involvement in the operations. They own and operate the satellites.

    RIP dear Rachel Corrie. At least the people will be reminded of your name and the way in which you were killed and who killed you. Even the BBC have been giving out this information.

  8. hayate said on June 4th, 2010 at 11:41pm #

    I’m sure the usa has its orders to follow…

  9. Jonas Rand said on June 4th, 2010 at 11:53pm #

    Yes, this virtual “communications blockade” that the IDF has imposed could only be the response of a party who is guilty, ashamed, or unwilling to face the truth.

  10. Jonas Rand said on June 5th, 2010 at 1:05am #

    the israeli occupiers are preparing to use violence against the Rachel Corrie’s crew, or to “stop it” by any means necessary.


  11. mary said on June 5th, 2010 at 1:54am #

    Sad news on the Free Gaza twitter.

    The Rachel Corrie has been forcibly seized by the Israeli navy and is being towed to Ashdod. All on board are reported safe. From Perdana
    less than a minute ago via web

  12. hayate said on June 5th, 2010 at 2:20am #

    IDF denies they have boarded, but they are going to post ‘their’ video tape soon. Eyewitnesses can see the boat from the shore 12 minutes ago via web

    About 12 min after the post saying the ship was captured.

  13. hayate said on June 5th, 2010 at 2:57am #

    IDF boarded the Rachel Corrie with permission of the crew, did so by sea, no helicopters no reports of violence. 3 minutes ago via web

    OK, that sounds pretty conclusive and I think they’ll be OK. Other people are reporting israeli media now saying the ship has been captured without incident, as well. Time to hit the sack.

  14. mary said on June 5th, 2010 at 3:53am #


    For More Information, please contact:
    Free Gaza Cyprus: Greta Berlin or Mary Hughes
    tel: +357 99 187275 or +357 96 383 809,

    Free Gaza Ireland: Niamh Moloughney
    tel: +353 (0)85 7747257 or +353 (0)91 472279,

    Perdana Global Peace Organisation, Malaysia: Ram Karthigasu
    tel: +60 1222 70159,

    (Off the Gaza coast, 5 JUNE) – Just before 9am this morning, the Israeli
    military forcibly siezed the Irish-owned humanitarian relief ship, the MV
    Rachel Corrie, from delivering over 1000 tons of medical and construction
    supplies to besieged Gaza. For the second time in less then a week,
    Israeli naval commandos stormed an unarmed aid ship, brutally taking its
    passengers hostage and towing the ship toward Ashdod port in Southern
    Israel. It is not yet known whether any of the Rachel Corrie’s passengers
    were killed or injured during the attack, but they are believed to be

    The Corrie carried 11 passengers and 9 crew from 5 different countires,
    mostly Ireland and Malaysia. The passengers included Nobel Peace Prize
    laureate Mairead Maguire, Parit Member of the Malaysian Parliament Mohd Nizar Zakaria, and former UN Assistant Secretary General, Denis Halliday.

    Nine international human rights workers were killed on Monday when Israeli commandos violently stormed the Turkish aid ship, Mavi Marmara and five other unarmed boats taking supplies to Gaza. Prior to being taken hostage by Israeli forces, Derek Graham, an Irish coordinator with the Free Gaza Movement, stated that: “Despite what happened on the Mavi Marmara earlier this week, we are not afraid.

    The 1200-ton cargo ship was purchased through a special fund set up by
    former Malaysian Prime Minister and Perdana Global Peace Organisation
    (PGPO) chairman Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. The ship was named after an
    American human rights worker, killed in 2003 when she was crushed by an
    Israeli military bulldozer in the Gaza Strip. Its cargo included hundreds
    of tons of medical equipment and cement, as well as paper from the people
    of Norway, donated to UN-run schools in Gaza.

    According to Denis Halliday: “We are the only Gaza-bound aid ship left out
    here. We’re determined to deliver our cargo.” The Rachel Corrie had been
    part of the Freedom Flotilla, a 40-nation effort to break through Israel’s
    illegal blockade, before being forced to drop off late last week due to
    suspicious mechanical problems.

    The attack on the Rachel Corrie may spell trouble for Israel’s
    relationship with Ireland. The Irish government had formally requested
    Israel allow the ship to reach Gaza. On 1 June, the Irish parliament also
    passed an all-party motion condemning Israel’s use of military force
    against civilian aid ships, and demanding “an end to the illegal Israeli
    blockade of Gaza.”

    Nobel Laureate Mairead Maguire summed up the hopes of this joint
    Irish-Malaysian effort to overcome Israel’s cruel blockade by saying: “We
    are inspired by the people of Gaza whose courage, love and joy in
    welcoming us, even in the midst of such suffering gives us all hope. They
    represent the very best of humanity, and we are all privileged to be given
    the opportunity to support them in their nonviolent struggle for human
    dignity, and freedom. This trip will again highlight Israel’s criminal
    blockade and illegal occupation. In a demonstration of the power of global
    citizen action, we hope to awaken the conscience of all.”

    Passengers aboard the Rachel Corrie include:
    Ahmed Faizal bin Azumu, human rights worker, Malaysia
    Matthias Chang, attorney, author & human rights worker, Malaysia
    Derek Graham, Free Gaza Ireland
    Jenny Graham, Free Gaza Ireland
    Denis Halliday, former UN Assistant Secretary General, Ireland
    Mohd Jufri Bin Mohd Judin, journalist, Malaysia
    Shamsul Akmar Musa Kamal, PGPO representative, Malaysia
    Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Ireland
    Abdul Halim Bin Mohamed, journalist, Malaysia
    Fiona Thompson, film-maker, Ireland
    The Hon. Mohd Nizar Zakaria, Parit Member of Parliament, Malaysia

    The BBC calls these good people, world citizens with humanity and warmth in their hearts, ‘Pro-Palestinian activists’, ie a suggestion that they are – troublemakers, left wing, communist – or whatever other connotations to the word ‘activist’ that their listeners receive by its use in this context.

    Having filled nine coffins already this week, I think that this latest action by Israel, coupled with our knowledge of their falsification of video onboard and video and audio between them and the passengers on the Mavi Marmara, is just another nail in their own coffin.

  15. kalidas said on June 5th, 2010 at 8:35am #

    Rumors of their demise have been circulating for thousands of years.
    Only the name changes.