We are launching this campaign:
A. To protest against and challenge the continuing blockade of Gaza, on the basis that it constitutes an illegal, collective punishment of the whole population and a grossly immoral act.
For four years Israel’s blockade has confined the people of Gaza to subsistence living. This externally enforced poverty has created a public and mental health catastrophe. After Israel’s bombardment of Gaza eighteen months ago, there followed even tighter, ever changing and more arbitrary controls, including a total bar on the import of building materials to reconstruct shattered houses, sewage and water systems.
The blockade has also meant Gaza’s population being trapped in one of the most densely populated places on earth. People suffering serious illnesses which cannot be treated within the territory can only seek medical treatment outside Gaza with the permission and at the whim of the Israeli military. Ordinary travel in and out for education, family, business, cultural or sporting reasons continues to be subject to near total prohibition.
Israel also polices Gaza’s long coast, excluding passenger and commercial traffic and denying any opportunity of legitimate trading. In addition, Gaza’s fishermen are prevented from exploiting their own territorial waters. Confined instead to the highly polluted inshore region, they are at constant risk of live fire from the Israeli navy.
Most crucially, Gaza is still prevented from restoring its economy by Israel’s total ban on exports. This means Gaza’s workforce will continue to be without jobs and purchasing power. Even if more consumer goods get in, its people will still be reliant on charity to survive.
B. To protest against Israel’s continuing occupation and settlement of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and the Israeli government’s clear intention of annexing much of that land.
C. To assert that Israel’s policies are not supported by all Jews, that there are thousands of us who wish to state ‘not in our name’.
We stand in the proud Jewish tradition of justice, of championing the rights of the downtrodden, of implacable opposition to prejudice and racism in all their forms. We take our inspiration from the teachings of Rabbi Hillel “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour. That is the whole Torah,” and from the work of René Cassin, the Jewish judge who, shortly after the Holocaust, drafted the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.
Israel’s policies towards Gaza are harsh, inhuman – and counterproductive. They fuel the anger of Palestinians and their supporters throughout the world, and serve as a self-fulfilling prophecy, generating the aggressive response to Israel which, it is claimed, the blockade is intended to halt. They also feed feelings of isolation and persecution within Israel, creating fear and hatred towards outsiders and critics, which, in turn fuel Israeli aggression and violence. We consider, indeed, that Israel’s policies are destructive of the soul of its own people.
The aid goods we will carry on our small boat are necessarily symbolic: at the request of medical NGOs we will have small pieces of medical equipment such as blood pressure monitors, insulated cool boxes for medicines, antibiotics, sterile needles and dressings. We will be taking school books and equipment donated by German schoolchildren for the children of Gaza, and art materials and musical instruments for young people being helped by the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme. We will also carry outboard motors for Gaza’s fishermen.
On leaving Gaza we plan to set an example by acting as a carrier for small export goods and to provide transport for one or two Palestinians with an urgent need to travel – for example, to take up a place in higher education abroad.
While we were planning this campaign, Israel announced a change in policy so as to ease the blockade in respect of goods importation. Adopted following heavy international pressure, their new policy provides for two lists of ‘controlled entry items’ to replace the previous system of wide and uncertain prohibitions. These lists cover ‘dual use’ materials, including some chemicals and fertilizers, whose entry Israel will control unilaterally, and construction materials, whose use must be implemented and monitored by the international community.
We considered carefully how this announcement might impact on our project, and concluded that, for two reasons, the Jewish Boat to Gaza was now even more important:
- All other aspects of the blockade as described in our statement above persist – their appalling effect on the lives of the people of Gaza must not be forgotten.
- It is far too soon to know what impact the two list approach will have, whether it will be workable, and whether it will be honoured. Continuing pressure from the outside world – governments, NGOs and campaigning bodies like JfJfP – offer the best hope that it will deliver positive results for the people of Gaza, and that other essential policy changes from Israel will be achieved.
This statement has been issued by Jews for Justice for Palestinians
Boat principles of operation
1. We do not recognize Israel’s right to blockade Gaza. We will be challenging this brutal siege by deploying civil resistance and non-violent direct action. We will not engage in any physical confrontation and will therefore not present the Israelis with any reason to use physical force or assault us.
2. If, as we expect, the Israeli naval forces intercept us on our way from international waters into the territorial waters of Gaza, we will show them the ship’s manifest, stamped by the authorities at our last port of call, confirming there are no weapons or offensive materials on board and that we require safe passage to Gaza.
3. If they refuse us this and command us to divert to Ashdod we will remind them that, under international law, they do not have the right to blockade Gaza. We will again assure them that we have no weapons on board, that we have nothing that could be put to military use, and we will ask them to consult with their authorities in Tel Aviv and reconsider.
4. If they still refuse to allow us to proceed and order us to change course to Ashdod we will refuse to change course. We will effect a ‘sit down’ protest and deploy the tactics of civil rights movements, namely passive, non-violent resistance and non-cooperation. If they tow the boat to Ashdod, as has been the case with other aid boats, we will not assist with setting up the tow, nor will we helm the boat during the tow.