Civil society must expose Israel’s policies to the world

Israel has blocked eight ships carrying 10,000 tons of aid and 800 activists and politicians on its way to Gaza by using military force and boarding ships in international waters.

Reports indicate that at least 9 activists have been killed and about 40 injured as Israeli military forces boarded one of the ships and opened fire on its passengers and crew. Israel maintained that they reacted only after being provoked by those onboard.

The Free Gaza Movement organized the aid flotilla with the hope of sending a message to the world that Israel has no right to starve 1.5 million Palestinians.

Adam Shapiro in New York is a board member of the Free Gaza Movement. His wife, Huwaida Arraf is the chairperson of the Free Gaza Movement and was onboard the flotilla. Arraf was arrested by Israeli commandos when they boarded her ship.

“The people on her ship offered no resistance, however they were filming with cameras and people were punched and subdued with physical force by the Israeli soldiers. They then of course wrapped their wrists in plastic cuffs and then they were taken to prisons, the detention center. There was a lot of physical force used against the passengers,” said Shapiro.

Some contend that the activists went into the situation looking for a fight. Shapiro disagrees, stating that the objective was to get the aid into Gaza and break the blockade.

“If part of breaking the siege means being stopped by the Israeli army and showing to the world what the siege is and what this blockade is and what it means to have a policy of collective punishment on one and a half million people, then that is what we are doing ,” said Shapiro.

Shapiro said the United Nations, foreign governments and even US President Barack Obama had previously called for the Israeli blockade of Gaza to end, yet no action has been taken by any party.

“It is up to us as civil society and as the real international community, the people of the international community, to take action and to expose Israel’s policies to the world and to also try to break the blockade on our own,” said Shapiro.

Israel continues to maintain that they reacted only after being provoked by the activists onboard, however Shapiro says there is no such evidence and that reports confirm otherwise.

“Israeli commandos boarded the ships firing live ammunition at the passengers. By the time the people picked up any kind of sticks or iron bars to defend themselves there was already at least one person dead onboard and quite a number injured,” said Shapiro.

There is no evidence of weapons on the ships and live streaming video supports the story told by activists onboard the flotilla. All cargo was inspected in Europe and Turkey and determined to be legitimate for travel.

Shapiro notes the escalation in violence against foreigners who choose to stand up to Israeli policy in Gaza.

“There is a war Israel has launched, not only on Palestinian civilians but also on foreign civilians who dare to stand up and question Israel’s policies,” said Shapiro.

Public opinion in the United States typically supports Israel, but has begun to shift in the other direction. Shapiro said that public opinion began to change with the initiation of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza this past year and continues to shift with recent events. The Free Gaza Movement is currently working to put together another flotilla to challenge the Israeli blockade of Gaza again.