The following speech was given on June 1, 2010 by Anti-War Committee member Meredith Aby at a demonstrion at Senator Klobuchar’s office.
We are here today to protest the outrageous acts of the Israeli military on Monday, May 31st to the Freedom Floatilla which was trying to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza. Israeli commandos boarded the ships in international water and killed at least 10 people for the “crime” of trying to bring humanitarian aid to Palestinians.
The Freedom Flotilla was a convoy of six ships carrying 700 activists, political leaders and journalists from over twenty countries. They were taking around 10,000 tons of basic aid including food, educational supplies, medicines, and construction material to break the brutal and illegal Israeli blockade on Gaza.
Activists who were trying to bring humanitarian aid were taken hostage by the Israeli government. Some of them have been released and they are speaking out against their attack. Their reports include the following information:
- They used concussion grenades, sound bombs and pellets against the ships. People were attacked by the Israeli navy by plastic bullets, electric shocks, and physical attacks.
- Mihalis Grigoropoulos from Greece told Aljazeera, “We did not resist at all, we couldn’t even if we had wanted to. What could we have done against the commandos who climbed aboard? The only thing some people tried was to delay them from getting to the bridge, forming a human shield. They were fired upon with plastic bullets and were stunned with electric devices.”
- Hanin Zoabi, a member of the Israeli parliament, was on board the Miva Marmara, the ship that was the scene of a confrontation between activists and Israeli soldiers. That clash left at least ten people dead. She told CNN “they started beating people. My head was smashed against the ground and they stepped on my head. They later cuffed me and put a bag over my head. They did that to everybody.”
- Members of the media were even attacked and had their camera equipment purposely destroyed.
We are not alone in our anger. Protests have already happened around the globe including in Indonesia, Turkey, Malaysia, Australia, India, Canada, Greece, Egypt, France, Italy, Sweden, and Iraq. And more protests are happening today.
We need to use these murders to highlight the issue these activists gave their very lives for – the need for Israel to stop the siege of Gaza. Israel’s blockade is an example of the horrendous collective punishment it uses against the Palestinian people and specifically against the 1.5 million people living in Gaza. Gaza is one of the poorest places in the world and to deny Palestinians access to the basic supplies its people need to survive – including food and medical supplies is downright criminal! The blockade has also prevented Gaza from rebuilding after the devastating Israeli military offensive early last year.
I had the privilege of visiting Gaza on a human rights delegation in 2001. I saw the remnants of apartment buildings Israel had bombed with military aid the US gave them where children under the age of 5 were killed in large numbers in the attempt to kill one suspected militant. I saw refugee housing that had been used for over 50 years despite it’s inability to truly house any one. I saw a population malnourished and starving for freedom. Repeatedly Palestinians asked me to work here to change our government’s policy of unconditional support for Israel, and if we want peace and justice for Palestinians, an end to aid to Israel is essential!
We must use this bloody massacre as an opportunity to challenge the US unconditional support for Israel. Israel has the ability to hold such a brutal occupation of Palestine because of the support of our country. The US gives Israel more military aid than any other country in the world and US politicians compete over who can be its best friend. The US repeatedly provides the diplomatic cover for Israel after it’s war crimes against Palestinians like the war on Gaza last year and after the war with Lebanon. We need to demand that the US not use it’s power to block the anger the international community can and should be targeting towards the Israeli government. The White House has reacted cautiously since the bloody massacre and has only called for disclosure of all the facts. This is not enough. Obama should be outraged at this unprovoked attack in international waters of a humanitarian aid mission. We need to demand that the US cut ties with Israel – including an end to aid! We need to demand the US stop sending 3 billion dollars in military aid to Israel each year. We cannot stand by as our tax dollars are used to cause this oppression and violence.
Please join with me in chanting:
The people of Gaza are under attack what do we do, stand up fight back!
The people of conscience are under attack what do we do, stand up fight back!