Choose Peace—End the Siege on Gaza
NOBEL LAUREATES, 26 Jul 2010
Two months have passed since Israel’s attack on a humanitarian aid convoy to Gaza, with very tragic results—including nine deaths and 40 injuries. Yet, as this week’s events quietly reveal, it seems Israel will get away with its blatant disrespect for international law and not be held accountable for this disaster.
It was reported on Monday [12 Jul 2010] that an Israeli military commission found “no failure” on the part of the commandos who took part in the attack. And while the UN Security Council and human rights groups called for an independent and “credible” inquiry into the matter, there are no such plans in the works. Israel has deemed such independent efforts as “anti-Israel” and a threat to the existence of the state. The result? The US and indeed the rest of the international community stand on the sidelines, doing nothing.
On June 5, I was aboard the MV Rachel Corrie—a ship named for a young American activist who was bulldozed to death by the Israeli army in 2003—heading to Gaza. Just days earlier, we had heard via satellite phone that Israeli commandos had boarded six ships, including the Turkish MV Mavi Marmara, in international water, and had killed and injured many aboard.
As the seventh ship of the Freedom Flotilla, we now found ourselves in a frighteningly similar scenario.
The 19 crew and activists aboard the MV Rachel Corrie heard that 35 heavily armed Israeli commandos were now preparing to board our ship. We sat down on the deck to await their arrival. Some of us wondered whether we would face the same fate as our colleagues aboard the Mavi Marmara.
The killing of unarmed civilians was devastating news to us all. They were not terrorists—they were human beings. Like me, they believed that Gaza should no longer be a place of suffering and isolation for its inhabitants.
And like me, and all of the other activists aboard the Freedom Flotilla, they believed in peace.
In the 1970s people told me that peace would not come to Northern Ireland, just as they now tell me that peace is not possible in Israel and Palestine. I lost my niece and two nephews and my sister to the violence in Ireland, and it breaks my heart to see the same fate fall upon so many Israeli and Palestinian families. I have hope and believe that peace will come to Palestine and Israel because I have met so many people there on the ground working to make it happen.
And, just as it brought peace to Northern Ireland, nonviolent resistance will bring peace to this war torn region. That is why I keep coming back to Gaza, much to the Israeli government’s dismay. The last time I attempted to deliver humanitarian aid, in June 2009, I was detained for one week.
On this trip, the world was watching. Many, myself included, believed the tragic events of May 31 would finally open the world’s eyes to the even greater tragedy—Israel’s collective punishment of 1.5 million Palestinians. The violations of international law committed by Israel are well documented by the United Nations and many independent human rights bodies.
Even so, the violations continue under the guise of “national security”, and a policy of isolating Gaza to weaken Hamas.
It is a policy that clearly is not working. Instead, it has turned Gaza into what has rightly been described as the largest open-air prison in the world. The blockade that Israel has imposed on Gaza for the past three years has only punished innocent Palestinians. Lack of access to medical supplies and hospital treatments leads to a loss of life. Bright and eager students are unable to accept spots offered at international universities. Families are unable to rebuild homes destroyed during Israel’s crushing assault on Gaza that killed over 1,400 people in the winter of 2008 and 2009.
And Hamas, Israel’s intended target and the elected representative of the Palestinian people, grows stronger.
Meanwhile, the recent report released by the Israeli military shows that Israel will continue to choose ineffectual policies and violence over peace. In fact, the report went so far as to praise the Israeli commandos who killed nine civilians and injured dozens more, saying they operated “properly, with professionalism, bravery and resourcefulness” and that the use of live fire was justified.
A separate inquiry in Israel is underway, led by a retired Israeli Supreme Court Justice. Given the outcome of this first report, there is no reason to be optimistic that this panel will do anything more than reinforce Israel’s culture of impunity. Nothing less than an independent investigation is acceptable to the families of the victims of the raid and, most importantly, the Palestinian people living in Gaza.
It is about time that we open our eyes. The international community must finally stop allowing Israel to act with blatant disregard for international law and human rights. The partial lifting of the siege shows what international pressure can achieve, but it is not enough.
It is time for Israel to choose peace. It is time for world leaders and the international community to join together and call on Israel to lift the siege of Gaza completely, ending the occupation of Palestine and allowing the Palestinian people their right to self-determination.
Mairead Maguire won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976 for her actions to end the violence in her native Northern Ireland. In the last 10 years, she has travelled to Israel and Palestine promoting human rights and nonviolent resistance.
Maguire is a founding member of the Nobel Women’s Initiative and a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment.
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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 26 Jul 2010.
Anticopyright: Editorials and articles originated on TMS may be freely reprinted, disseminated, translated and used as background material, provided an acknowledgement and link to the source, TMS: Choose Peace—End the Siege on Gaza, is included. Thank you.
This work is licensed under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.
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