Nicosia, Cyprus - On Monday, a
movement known as FreeGaza.org held a press conference in Nicosia, Cyprus,
in which a group of 40 people from around the world announced that they
would board two small boats to travel by sea to Gaza to "break the
siege" that Israel has placed upon Gaza.
There was no acknowledgement that in
June of 2007, the Hamas regime took over Gaza and formalized a total state
of war against Israel with the aim of liberating all of Palestine and using
Gaza as a stepping stone to recoup any and all land ruled by the Jewish
With increasing boatloads of Iranian
military hardware landing on the Gaza coastline, the Israeli navy was
forced to impose an embargo of goods coming into Gaza. Israel offered to
oversee goods and services for humanitarian needs in Gaza, by
allowing specified supervised land crossings for supply to Gaza.
The press conference, held at
“Journalist House” in Nicosia, was launched with an opening statement
by an Israeli American Jerusalem resident, Jeff Halper, who alleged that
Israel was behaving in defiance of international law by closing shipping lanes
to Gaza. He also claimed that the people of Gaza faced a severe shortage
of milk and medical supplies.
Mr. Monir Deeb, a native Gazan who has lived in Los Angeles since 1979,
explained to the media that he was boarding these boats to reunite
with his siblings in Gaza. Mr. Deeb described Gaza as a "peaceful
community under Israeli military siege" and said that this small
convoy was meant to deliver a message to Israel to stop the siege of
This reporter asked Mr. Deeb about the armed Gaza militias who have
fired thousands of missiles over the past eight years against Israeli civilian
communities that surround Gaza. I also asked for his comment on
how the Hamas government is using the current cease fire period to
regroup and train for the next attack on Israel. Mr. Deeb said that he
"could not relate to this question," since it was
"political" and his concern was "only humanitarian" in
The convener of the FreeGaza.org press conference, Ms. Greta Berlin, an
American woman formerly married to a Palestinian whose family was dislocated
from Safed in Northern Israel during the 1948 war, gave examples of the
humanitarian mission on which they were embarking. “One of her missions,”
she said, “was to supply 9,000 hearing aids for Palestinian children who
suffer hearing loss at a young age, due to Israeli missile attacks on
I asked Ms. Berlin if it were not the case that the missile attacks that she
had claimed had been fired at Palestinians in Gaza by Israelis were actually
fired by Palestinians towards the Western Negev, as they screech over
Palestinian villages en route to hit Israeli civilian targets.
Ms. Berlin would not comment, saying repeatedly that the purpose of the voyage
to Gaza was not political, even though the press statement issued by
FreeGaza.org touched every raw political nerve possible.
FreeGaza.org also clearly stated that it strongly condemns Israel for not
allowing "refugees and their descendants the right to return home" to
the villages that have since been resettled by Israel after the 1948 war.
Meanwhile, the "FreeGaza.org" press statement also decried
"Israel's illegal occupation of Palestine," laying aside any
pretensions that the group only favored Israel's full withdrawal from Gaza.
Ms. Berlin reported that the operation to bring two boats into Gaza was
independent of any foreign entities. She mentioned that FreeGaza.org had
already raised $210,000 of the total budget needed, more than $300,000 for
the boats. However, on July 31st, the Palestine Information Center
issued a press release in which it stated that a member of the Lebanese
Parliament had confirmed to Hamas leader Abu Marzook in Cairo that the
boats had been provided by Palestinian popular committees by the Hamas. That would
mean, in effect, that FreeGaza.org received two sources of support for its
work - from American Jewish groups and from the Palestinian popular
committees which are run by Hamas.
Nothing like the profit motive to move things along the high seas.
The boats are timed to arrive in Gaza this coming Saturday night, which this
year marks Tisha 'av, the ninth of Av on the Jewish calendar, a fast day which
marks disasters which have befallen the Jewish people.
By coincidence or not,
pro-Palestinian movements around the world have designated this Friday and
Saturday as a time of solidarity with their cause.
international Palestinian solidarity conference will convene this
coming weekend at Wyndam Ohare Hotel in Chicago,
Illinois, where a coalition of fifty Arab groups will gather under the umbrella
of the first “Palestinian Popular Conference in North America.” The theme of
the conference, promoted in all of their publicity, leaves no room for the
imagination: “Ending Zionist occupation and colonization of Palestine.”