The Palestine Solidarity Alliance together with its alliance partners hereby condemn with utmost contempt the recent interception of the Al Awda (The Return) flotilla naval vessel on 29 July 2018 and the detention of its human rights activists by the IOF (Israeli Occupation Forces).
We as South Africans are reminded of that fateful day when Gadija Davids was aboard the Mavi Marmara in 2010 when the Flotilla mission was intercepted approximately eighty nautical miles off the coast of Gaza in international waters, where 10 humanitarian activists were killed and many more injured by live rounds of ammunition fired at close range from the Israeli Defence Force (IDF).
Like the Flotilla mission organised by the Turkish aid group IHH and the many which followed including the Women’s Boat to Gaza in September 2016, which included another South African activist Leigh Ann Naidoo, the 2010 Flotilla mission was aimed at primarily to break the siege and naval blockade imposed on the Gaza strip and to ensure essential humanitarian aid, medical supplies and building materials entered the beleaguered occupied territory.
Amongst the findings presented to the Human Rights Council in the UNITED NATIONS FACT-FINDING MISSION REPORT ON THE ISRAELI ATTACK ON THE FLOTILLA CARRYING HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE TO GAZA, 27 September 2010 were inter alia: “The conduct of the Israeli military and other personnel towards the flotilla passengers was not only disproportionate to the occasion but demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence. It betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality. Such conduct cannot be justified or condoned on security or any other grounds. It constituted grave violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law.”
Furthermore, the panel concluded that there was “clear evidence” of wilful killing, torture or inhuman treatment and wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health – all crimes under the Geneva Convention.
The Report also maintains that the blockade was not justified. The report went further and stated that the blockade was a form of collective punishment, contrary to Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
We highly commend the activists upon the Al Awda and previous Flotilla missions who have risked both their lives and bodies in attempting to break this illegal and suffocating blockade which threatens to make life completely unbearable and unsustainable in the occupied Palestinian territory.
Incremental genocide like conditions are already unfolding as Palestinians endure daily catastrophic human suffering imposed by apartheid Israel. Palestinians living in Gaza in the last twelve years have had to endure three deadly wars where war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated by the apartheid Israeli military are well documented. Environmental degradation, water pollution, food and fishing restrictions and embargoes on economic trade and movement are all evident where at least seventy five percent of the civilian population in Gaza are under the age of twenty-five years.
The sea vessel Al Awda (The Return) was traveling in international waters towards Palestinian waters, 49 nautical miles from the port in Gaza City, when it was contacted by the Israeli Defence Forces navy on 29 July 2018. Under ludicrous claims by the Israeli navy of the flotilla vessel breaching international law, the IDF have threatened like in the past to use “any measures necessary” to stop the vessel from proceeding to its intended destination of Gaza. Once again, the IDF ignores with impunity the stark findings in the UN Fact Finding Mission report of war crimes perpetrated by the IDF in 2010.
The Al Awda like many previous flotilla missions have had only one purpose in mind which is to take the only measures necessary to end the blockade of Gaza, deliver essential medial aid and restore the freedom of movement and trade for all Palestinians to live with human dignity.
We are informed of the IDF’s co-ordinated military operations imposing its bullish, ruthless and inhumane military air and sea campaign, including its warships upon the Al Awda carrying only humanitarian activists and medical aid. The IDF strategy of interference in the flotilla’s communications, including deadly raids in taking unlawful possession and control of the humanitarian vessel and navigating it away from its destination Gaza, against the will of its occupants, whilst pirating the essential humanitarian aid and medical supplies is an all but too familiar scene.
We once again call upon the international community to vilify Israel’s arbitrary and unlawful actions and to hold to account apartheid Israeli leaders and military commanders who have captured the Flotilla activists aboard the Al Awda.
We demand the international community holds to account the perpetrators of these egregious crimes and we demand the safe return of all the flotilla activists to their families and friends who have been captured aboard the Al Awda.
We shall continue with our call to isolate apartheid Israel with the imposition of boycotts, divestment and sanctions including the utilisation of all other mechanisms necessary under international law and international humanitarian law to hold Israel accountable for its gross violations of human rights and its imposition of systemic policies of subjugation of the will and spirit of the Palestinian people.
We demand for the immediate termination to the siege and the upliftment of the inhumane naval blockade of Gaza. The actions by the Israeli Defence Force is once again reflective of apartheid Israel’s archaic policies of discrimination, colonialism and belligerent occupation which should never exist in the 21st century.
Al Awda is sailing under a Norwegian flag, carrying 22 people and a cargo of medical supplies, including #Gauze4Gaza. There are people from 16 nations on board, including human rights supporters, journalists and crew, along with €13,000 worth of medical supplies. The boat itself, a former fishing vessel from Norway, is a gift to Palestinian fishers in Gaza.
Four boats left Scandinavia in mid-May and have since stopped in 28 ports building support for a ‘Just Future for Palestine’, that demands Israel end its ongoing breaches of international law and the twelve-year blockade of Gaza, thereby enabling the only closed port in the Mediterranean to open and for people to have their right to freedom of movement. Al Awda is being followed by the Swedish-flagged yacht Freedom, which is also carrying medical supplies along with people from a number of nations. We anticipate that it will reach a similar area where the IOF (Israeli Occupation Forces) attacked Al Awda within the next two days. Two smaller sailing boats that travelled from Scandinavia and sailed through the canal system in Netherlands, Belgium and France visiting inland ports, participated in the mission until Palermo.
The PSA echo the calls of “The Freedom Flotilla Coalition for the Norwegian Government, the national governments of those aboard Al Awda and the Freedom, other national governments, and relevant international organizations to act immediately.” said Torstein Dahle of Ship to Gaza Norway, part of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition. “The international community must assume its responsibilities and demand that Israeli authorities ensure the safety of those on board, the speedy delivery of our gifts to the Palestinian people in Gaza, an end to the illegal blockade of Gaza, and to stop impeding our legal right of innocent passage to Gaza to deliver our gift of much-needed medical supplies”.
Statement Issued by the Palestinian Solidarity Alliance
+1 (519) 859-3579 – David Heap
+1 (519) 281-3978 – Wendy Goldsmith
+1 (808) 741-1141 – Ann Wright
0833095238 – Attorney Ziyaad Patel