THE violent assault upon a number of unarmed passengers on board Al Awda, a ship bringing humanitarian aid to Gaza has exposed yet again the hideous face of Israeli occupation. Reports suggest that some of the victims of the 31st July attack had sustained injuries ---- one of them being the renowned Penang-born Palestinian activist, Dr Ang Swee Chai. An eye-witness claims that she saw “blood on the deck of Al Awda as the last passengers were being dragged off the ship.”
20 out of the 22 passengers were initially detained in the Givon prison in Israel. It is possible that some of them have been released.
Seizing a civilian vessel in international waters on a humanitarian mission is a clear violation of international law. Masked Israeli soldiers beating and tasering some passengers has compounded the crime. As a result of the “kidnapping” of Al Awda, much needed medical supplies could not be delivered to the people of Gaza. This is a denial of elementary justice to a people who are struggling to survive in what has been rightly described as the world’s largest open-air prison. It is an act of extreme cruelty.
Citizens and governments that value compassion and justice should demand that Israel releases all detained passengers and allows them to distribute the humanitarian aid that Al Awda was transporting to the people of Gaza. JUST would like to see more open and honest condemnation of Israeli insolence and arrogance. The rogue state of Israel should not get away with its outrageous criminal behaviour which has now become a habit.
It will be recalled that on the 31st of May 2010 a flotilla of six ships led by the Mavi Marmara was hijacked by Israeli commandos in international waters and nine Turkish activists were killed. Their murder incensed the world. An independent UN investigation into the incident found that Israel had employed “an unacceptable level of brutality.” A second flotilla which drew over 300 activists from 22 countries set to sail in early July 2011 was obstructed by the Israeli government through a variety of channels, abetted by a number of other governments. It was also carrying aid to the besieged people of Gaza.
The latest attempt by individuals and groups from different parts of the world to break the blockade against Gaza demonstrates that peace-loving people will not give up their struggle to achieve a modicum of justice for an oppressed community. More and more people from diverse backgrounds all over the planet are coming together now to champion the Palestinian cause. For the ultimate goal of the campaign to break the Gaza blockade is the liberation of the whole of Palestine and its people. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the dispossession of the Palestinian people, the usurpation of their land and their expulsion and massacre. The Palestinians and other Arabs rightly describe what happened in 1948 which saw the establishment of the entity called Israel as Nakba (Catastrophe). It is in the context of this catastrophe that the freedom flotilla this time was called Al Awda, the Return ---- the return of a people forced into exile to their homeland which is the kernel of the Palestinian and Arab struggle for dignity.
* Dr Chandra Muzaffar is the President of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST).
** The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Astro AWANI.