What Palestinian people are desperately in need of in these current times as they struggle for their freedom is the will to triumph. When Mohammad Al Qeeq triumphed over his jailors after a tenacious struggle, #alive not a martyr, hope glimmered. When the Freedom Flotilla Coalition (FCC) announced that the Women’s Boat to Gaza (WBG) was about to set sail this year, after a series of long but non-despairing struggles, #we will make it happen, hope glimmered.
When the National Palestinian Movement redefines the National Palestinian Project as a national liberal project, and revises work methodology and tools boldly and honestly, believing in the triumph of will of the Palestinian people in defeating the Occupation, and achieving national independence, hope is ignited.
Under a new initiative by the FCC, the Women’s Boat to Gaza will set sail this year, led by women from different countries all over the world to break the siege on Gaza Strip, and support the Palestinian people in their struggle to end the Israeli Occupation of Palestinian land.
On International Women’s Day, March 8 2016, the initiative will be announced, which was inspired by the spirit of Palestinian women, and sheds light on the Palestinian women’s tenacious struggle in Gaza, the West Bank, inside the Green Line and the diaspora, to gain back their freedom and the freedom of their people.
The WBG does not merely aim to defy the Israeli siege, but also to deliver a message of hope to the Palestinian people, supported by civil society organizations, women’s organizations and activists around the world, in addition to delivering a message of protest against the negativity of the international community and its complicity in the face of the suffering of the Palestinian people.
They set sail with their eyes set on triumph. They did not just begin; they continued to resist the winds, and knocked on freedom’s doors without weariness or despair. They determined their goal and means and set off.
Their goal is to break the siege forced by Israel on 2 million people in the Gaza Strip since 2007. “Gaza has remained under Israeli siege during the last decade, during which Israel led countless attacks against the besieged population, turning their lives into a nightmare and a continuous struggle. Physical wars did not just invade Gaza’s economy, markets and lands, but it also invaded homes, families, schools and national museums, destroying the city, heritage, memories and hopes.
The means is a popular campaign organized by activists from multiple nationalities and from different countries, challenging the siege by leading a flotilla through the waters to draw the world’s attention to the suffering of the Palestinians in general, and the people of Gaza in particular, and bring them moral and physical support.
On May 29 2010, through ports in different countries (Southern Europe and Turkey), the first FCC set sail, and it was comprised of 6 ships (3 Turkish ships, 2 British ships and a common ship between Greece, Ireland, Algeria and Kuwait) from 40 countries with the participation of 750 freedom seekers/ men and women, in addition to members of the European, German, Italian and Irish parliaments; and members of the Turkish, Egyptian, Kuwaiti, Moroccan, Algerian and Jordanian parliaments, and Arab members of the Israeli Knesset.
On June 26 2011, despite the barbaric attack on the flotilla’s ships that carried peace activists using live ammunition and gas, and committing a massacre against activists, the second flotilla set sail, comprised of 8 ships (2 from France, and one from each of: Greece, Italy, Ireland, Spain, Sweden, Norway and Diaspora Palestinians), and with the participation of 350 activists from 22 countries.
On June 29 2015, the third flotilla set sail, comprised of 5 ships (2 fishing boats and 3 tourist ships), and activists from multiple nationalities (intellects, artists and athletes) and 20 international legal activists.
What did those solidarity activists carry on board those three flotillas to Gaza?
They carried food, medicine, shoes, clothing, notebooks, school books, wheelchairs, and toys.
They carried electricity generators, building materials, and a shipment of various items including iron, energy units and solar panels.
They carried determination, firmness on principles, trust in victory, determination to achieve justice, and human security.
Because the project can only be made possible through the support and solidarity of those who believe in its mission, the FFC suggested various means of support, including issuing a solidarity statement with the initiative, and announcing it in any event that is held on the occasion of International Women’s Day, organizing local activities to support it, and possible material donations, in addition to audio or video recordings of solidarity messages to reach the Women’s Boat to Gaza. They also suggested sending stories of struggling Palestinian women to publish them on the campaign’s website, and make known the struggles of Palestinian women.
European countries and some Arab civil society organizations had organized several ways to support the FFC since 2010, and signed many petitions, most importantly when 100 parliamentarians in the European Parliament signed a petition in 2015 supporting the flotilla and calling for lifting the siege on Gaza and not being attacked by Israeli authorities. So how can we as individuals and institutions contribute to the new campaign for this year? Are there any practical suggestions?