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Ending the Occupation of Gaza


Below is the information I received today from my friends on their way to Gaza on ships. This group of Pro-Peace Activists are not only Palestinian, some are Jews, one a Holocaust survivor in her 80's, many religions and those that choose no religion.
**************************************************************************************
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Israeli Government Recognizes “Humanitarian” Mission to Break the Siege of
Gaza

For more information, please contact:

Greta Berlin, Cyprus
+357 99 081 767
Iristulip@gmail.com

Angela Godfry-Goldstein, Israel
+972 547 366 393
Angela@icahd.org

NICOSIA, CYPRUS (18 Aug. 2008) - In a letter today to the Free Gaza Movement,
the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs acknowledged that the group of
international human rights activists attempting to break the siege of Gaza were
“humanitarian,” and stated that the Israeli government “assume[s] that
your intentions are good.”

Greta Berlin, one of the organizers of the Free Gaza Movement stated that,
“Since the Foreign Minister’s office responded to our invitation to join
us, and said that we have good intentions, we now fully expect to reach
Gaza.”

According to recent reports in the Israeli media however, the Israeli military
is preparing to use force to stop the nonviolent campaigners from reaching
Gaza. It’s not clear if the letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
signals a change of policy, or is simply an attempt to open up an official
dialogue between the state of Israel and the Free Gaza Movement regarding the
current blockade.

The Free Gaza Movement is preparing to sail two ships into Gaza carrying 40
human rights workers from 17 different countries. They will also deliver
hearing aids for children who have lost some or all of their hearing due to
Israeli sound bombs and sonic booms.

The ships have been named the SS Free Gaza, and the SS Liberty - in recognition
of the USS Liberty, a U.S. Navy ship, carrying 340 that was attacked by Israeli
fighter planes and torpedo boats on 8 June 1967, assassinating 34 American
sailors and wounding 170.

The Free Gaza Movement hopes to draw attention to the devastating consequences
of the Israeli blockade by actively demonstrating the power of non-violent
direct action to change inhumane governmental policies.
###

18 August 2008

Noam Katz
Director, Public Relations Department
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Israel

Dear Mr. Katz,

The Free Gaza Movement thanks Foreign Minister Livni for your response
regarding our efforts to break the siege of Gaza. We appreciate Israel’s
formal recognition of our human rights mission, as well as its acknowledgement
that our “intentions are good.”

However, several factual errors in your letter need to be addressed. You wrote,
“Your claim that the residents of the Gaza Strip are suffering from hunger is
groundless…” According to the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination
of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), “only 43.5% of basic commercial food import
needs were met during the period between 3 and 30 December 2007.”
Furthermore, in May 2008, several international aid organizations, including
CARE International UK, CAFOD, Christian Aid, Oxfam, and Medecins du Monde UK,
stated that, “the stranglehold on Gaza’s borders has made ... the work of
the UN and other humanitarian agencies ... virtually impossible. Only a trickle
of medicine, food, fuel and other goods is being allowed in. [The Israeli
Blockade of Gaza] has made people highly dependent on food aid, and brought the
health system and basic services such as water and sanitation near to
collapse.”

Although, we appreciate your offer to deliver humanitarian supplies for us,
Israel’s deplorable track record of delivering supplies is, in fact, the very
reason for our mission.

Your offer also slights our human-rights mission, which is to break your siege
of Gaza. We intend to raise international awareness about the open-air prison
called Gaza, where Israel collectively punishes 1.5 million Palestinians. We
want to pressure the international community to review its sanctions policy and
end its support for Israel’s continued occupation. Finally, we want to uphold
Palestine's right to welcome internationals as visitors, human rights
observers, humanitarian aid workers, and journalists.

We would like to, once again, invite Foreign Minister Tsipi Livni to join us on
our historic voyage to end the siege of Gaza, and to see first hand the
devastating effects of Israeli policies on the men, women, and children of the
Gaza Strip.

Sincerely,
Greta Berlin, Ramzi Kysia, Tom Nelson
Free Gaza Movement, Cyprus
+357 99 081 767
FriendsOfGaza@gmail.com
-----

18 August 2008
The Steering Committee for the Free Gaza Movement, Cyprus

Dear Committee Members:

Your letter to Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni
as published on your website has been brought to our attention. We assume that
your intentions are good but, in fact, the result of your action is that you
are supporting the regime of a terrorist organization in Gaza, an organization
dedicated to non-recognition of the State of Israel and its right to exist; an
organization that sends women and children to commit suicide in order to hurt
others; an organization that has committed dozens of terrorist acts against
Israeli civilians, including massive attacks of rockets and mortar bombs on
Israeli communities in the heart of Israel's sovereign territory. It is this
organization that does not allow the Israelis and Palestinians to live in
peace. In 2005, Israel withdrew all of its forces and all of its citizens from
the Gaza Strip so that the Palestinians could manage their own lives; in
return, innocent Israeli citizens were the targets of repeated attacks launched
from within Palestinian civilian population centers, turning the Palestinian
population into hostages of the terrorist organizations and the Hamas regime.
The attacks from the Gaza Strip against Israeli communities continue to this
day.

In June 2007, Hamas led a violent coup in Gaza and seized the government
illegally, a fact which led to an international boycott and isolation of its
government. The international community also set clear conditions that Hamas
must fulfill in order to be regarded as a partner for diplomatic contacts and
normal economic relations. Hamas is the central player in the Gaza Strip and
the address to which you should direct your complaints concerning the situation
there. In this protest voyage to Gaza , you seek to remove legitimate pressure
on the Hamas government and to violate the conditions of the international
community; therefore we cannot cooperate with your efforts.

Your claim that the residents of the Gaza Strip are suffering from hunger is
groundless considering the amount of food that passes every day from Israel to
the Gaza Strip. There isn't another conflict in the world in which one side
supplies all the needs of the other side – food, medicines, water, fuel and
electricity. Thousands of Palestinians have crossed into Israel from the Gaza
Strip to receive medical treatment at Israeli hospitals.

We would like to point out that the area to which you are planning to sail is
the subject of an advisory notice that has been published by the Israeli Navy,
which warns all foreign vessels to remain clear of the designated maritime zone
off the coast of Gaza in light of the current security situation.

We have received information that you are planning to bring humanitarian aid to
the Gaza Strip. We would like to bring to your attention that the transfer of
humanitarian aid to Israel is effected, at present, through agreed-upon
channels, and the Israeli authorities will ensure that the shipment reaches its
destination via the land crossing points. We will be happy to assist you in
this endeavor.

If your intentions are good, please choose this way; if you do not intend to
deliver the humanitarian aid via Israel , this proves that your goal is
political and constitutes the legitimization of a terrorist organization.

Sincerely,
Noam Katz
Director, Public Relations Department
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
-----

5 August 2008
Tzipi Livni
Foreign Affairs Minister, Israel

Dear Foreign Minister Livni:

On behalf of the Free Gaza Movement, we would like to formally invite you to
join us on our upcoming voyage from Cyprus to the Gaza Strip. We feel that your
presence on this important mission would help alleviate concerns that have been
expressed in the Israeli media about our objectives. More importantly, we
believe that it would be extremely helpful for you to see firsthand the
horrific effects of Israeli policies on the people of the Gaza Strip, as well
as to witness firsthand the effectiveness of non-violent action in bringing
about positive change.

While we disagree with many of the statements and policies you have made as the
Israeli Foreign Minister, we wholeheartedly agree with a portion of something
you wrote two years ago when you said:

“For too long, the Middle East has been governed by zero-sum logic. One
side's loss was seen as the other's gain. This thinking has brought much
suffering to our region” (Tzipi Livni, "The Peace Alternative," Asharq
Alawsat, 18 June 2007).

This is absolutely correct. We seek an end to this suffering. We find
ourselves, and you must be feeling this intensely yourself, in truly difficult
times. The one thing that is clear is that violence has not worked for anyone
in this conflict. As a group of avowed non-violent, peace activists, we hope
that you will accept this opportunity, move past the zero-sum logic of your
government’s blockade, and join us on this historic voyage to break the Siege
of Gaza.

Your government's siege on the people of Gaza has been deemed illegal by
numerous human rights organizations, has lead to the death of over 200 patients
in the last year as a result of being denied adequate medical care, and has
caused a man-made humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip. Clearly this is
not the behavior of a civilized government, nor can these policies ever lead to
peace for Israel.

Our voyage may seem to be a quixotic endeavor and therefore easily dismissed,
but as a group of individuals who fervently believe that such moves can be
vitally transforming, and that individuals do indeed each have the power to
change our world for the better, we hope that you will take our offer
seriously. We set sail for Gaza in the next few days. Please join us.

Sincerely Yours,
The Steering Committee for the Free Gaza Movement, Cyprus
Tel. +357 99 081 767
FriendsofGaza@gmail.com
http://www.FreeGaza.org

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