July 28, 2010
Six weeks after the Freedom Flotilla ships were forcibly boarded in international waters, their passengers illegally jailed and the cargo impounded by the Israeli authorities, the office of the United Nations Special Co-ordinator for the Middle East (UNSCO) has promised to deliver the full humanitarian aid cargo to UN. agencies in Gaza.
“The cargo finally being processed for delivery this week consists of supplies prevented by Israel from entering Gaza for the last three years. On the MV Rachel Corrie, the cargo ship of the Free Gaza Movement, we were carrying 20 tons of paper, plus pens & books for schools & universities, over 50 tons of medical supplies & 550 tons of cement for Al Shifa Hospital. Instead of docking in Gaza & distributing the supplies to the intended recipients, Israel impounded cargo, searched, then handed over to an overburdened UN, who can give no guarantees that it will get to the intended schools or NGO’s.” said Niamh Moloughney, coordinator of the Free Gaza Movement – Ireland.
The Rebuilding Alliance, one of the U.S. organizations to place humanitarian cargo on the Rachel Corrie is none-the-less hopeful that the backpacks, sports equipment, and building materials donated by hundreds of Americans will be delivered to the designated Gaza non-governmental organizations (NGO’s).
“When we first learned of the Freedom Flotilla, we asked our partner NGO’s in Gaza what we could send that would matter most to them, given the 3 year-long blockade,” said Donna Baranski-Walker, Executive Director of the Rebuidling Alliance, a San Mateo CA-based nonprofit. “They asked Americans to send messages to children, along with backpacks, sports equipment, and cement to build a kindergarten.”
Added Ms. Moloughney, “Israel has insisted that cargo be brought into Ashdod for delivery, but this ignores the overall illegitimacy of Israel’s closure policy. It also means that once more Israel profits from its illegal acts. The ‘easing’ of the blockade means nothing to families whose homes and businesses are still in ruins and allows them only to be consumers of Israeli goods.”
The Free Gaza Movement repeats that only a complete end to Israel’s punitive closure policy will suffice in starting to repair the economy of this decimated slice of the Mediterranean, the only territory in the world that does not have access to its own sea.
“We ask people throughout the world to press their governments to open Gaza, not just for aid but for movement and trade as well, to truly end the collective punishment of Gaza’s civilian population,” said Huwaida Arraf, chair of the Free Gaza Movement. “That’s why we will continue to send ships to Gaza loaded with civilian supplies Israel refuses to allow into Gaza – and on return, fill our ships with goods from Gaza for export. We look forward to international cooperation in developing a sea route certification system to assure aid, fair trade and the safety of all.”
Israel continues to hold all of the vessels that it illegally commandeered, including the seven ships of the Freedom Flotilla, as well as the Spirit of Humanity, which Israel hijacked in June 2009.
Contact: Niamh Moloughney, +353 857 747 257
Donna Baranski-Walker, +650 325-4663 Rebuilding Alliance
Huwaida Arraf, +972-548-817-046 or +970-598-336-215