On 2 November 2011, two boats carrying 24 civilians from various countries, including a representative from our youth movement, set sail for Gaza. Conscious of the violent tactics that Israel has used to intercept previous boats to Gaza, including the 31 May 2010 military assault on the Freedom Flotilla, which resulted in the death of nine volunteers and the injury of over 50, we call on the United Nations to take urgent action to protect this mission as well as to end its compliance with Israel’s criminal blockade of Gaza. Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, has been returned to his family, removing one of Israel’s main pretexts, albeit not a justification, for its Draconian closure policy. And while 1027 Palestinian prisoners have been exchanged for Shalit (although 550 have yet to be released), over 1.5 million Palestinians remain caged in the prison that is Gaza.
In our schools, universities and through our organizations, we are taught about human rights and international law, and yet it seems like Palestinians fall into a class of people upon whom these rights don’t apply. Like the blacks in America a half a century ago, or in South Africa two decades ago, we are victims of an exclusivist ideology and those who tolerate and enable it. Indeed the voices pontificating loudest on human rights, liberty, the rule of law, are those who make possible the systematic violations of these very principles. We are tired of listening to these self-righteous entities that do not respect our people, but pay lip service to our rights and aspirations. What has the U.N. gained from condoning this hypocrisy, double-standard, and systematic violations of its own laws and principles?
Last May, in seeking to discourage Freedom Flotilla II, Secretary General Ban Ki Moon stated that all aid to Gaza should go through “legitimate crossings and established channels,” which in practice means through Israel. It is shameful to witness the head of a world organization that is supposed to defend and promote the rights of all peoples, advocate on behalf of a belligerent occupying power to the detriment of an occupied people. Stop treating Gaza (and Palestine as a whole) as a charity case! Our problems and humanitarian crises are the results of deliberate Israeli policies denying us freedom and other human rights. There are no “established channels” through Israel for our freedom.
We, Palestinian youth born and raised under the yoke of occupation, declare our support and full participation in Palestinian and international actions nonviolently challenging Israel’s brutal policies, particularly Israel’s closure of Gaza, which constitutes illegal collective punishment, according to the U.N.’s own statements, of our people there. We call on the United Nations, tasked with maintaining world peace and security, to cease its recognition and compliance with the closure regime, which only serves to give Israel’s policy false legitimacy, thereby allowing this collective punishment to continue, and tainting the entire U.N. system. It is incumbent upon the U.N. to take urgent steps to protect the boats en route to Gaza and all of the humanitarian volunteers aboard, as well as to declare its support for nonviolent, humanitarian action, designed to do what the U.N. and its members states have thus far failed to do.
We say today, in no uncertain terms to the United Nations, to the Secretary-General, and to all nations supporting the collective punishment and continued oppression of the Palestinian people whether actively or through complicity (including silence and inaction) – stand up for what’s right or stay out of our struggle, stay out of our way.