Gaza-Bound Flotilla Aims to End Inhumane Israeli Blockade

by Jessica Corbett
Common Dreams
April 5, 2024

As Israel continues to starve Palestinians to death in the Gaza Strip, an international coalition on Friday was preparing to set sail with humanitarian aid and human rights observers “to challenge the ongoing illegal Israeli blockade.”

Israel has limited the flow of people and essential goods in and out of Gaza for nearly two decades but dramatically increased those restrictions in response to the Hamas-led October 7 attack. Six months later, Israeli bombs, bullets, and limits on necessities have killed and wounded over 108,000 people and displaced most of the Palestinian territory’s 2.3 million residents.

The Freedom Flotilla Coalition (FFC), which has “sailed since 2010 with the goal of breaking the blockade of Gaza,” plans to head toward the besieged enclave with 5,500 tons of humanitarian aid and hundreds of observers in mid-April.

In a Thursday statement about the effort, Ismail Moola of South Africa’s Palestine Solidarity Alliance—which is part of the FFC—highlighted the January ruling from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that said Israel is plausibly committing genocide in Gaza.

While the South Africa-led case is ongoing, the United Nations court directed Israel to prevent genocidal acts and allow humanitarian aid into Gaza—an order the ICJ reiterated last week, noting the “the spread of famine and starvation.”

“The International Court of Justice’s preliminary measures ordered against Israel are very clear,” Moola said. “The court’s ruling requires the whole world to play their part to stop the genocide unfolding in Gaza, including unobstructed access to vital aid.”

“While our governments fail to lead in these urgently required humanitarian responses, people of conscience and our grassroots organizations must act to take leadership,” Moola asserted. “When governments fail, we sail!”

The top international funder of the Israeli assault on Gaza is the U.S. government, which gives the country nearly $4 billion in annual military support. Since October 7, the Biden administration has sought billions more while also repeatedly bypassing Congress to send more weapons to Israeli forces.

As the death toll in Gaza has soared, U.S. President Joe Biden has urged Israel’s leaders to precisely target Hamas militants while also refusing to cut off armed assistance, despite pressure from Americans and people worldwide. In a Thursday call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Biden reportedly threatened to condition future military support. Shortly after that, Israeli officials approved reopening the Erez crossing to allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza.

“President Biden waited six months, waited until 33,000 had been killed, mostly women and children, before picking up the phone and demanding that Netanyahu reduce civilian harm, allow more aid in, and protect aid workers,” said Ann Wright, a retired U.S. Army colonel and State Department official who is now with the women-led peace group CodePink, in a statement Friday.

“But even if Israel allows more humanitarian aid in, it is still bombing Gaza with U.S. bombs, shooting innocent people and imprisoning the… people that live in Gaza,” she added. “Getting humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza is urgent, but it is not sufficient. We must end Israel’s unlawful, deadly blockade as well as Israel’s overall control of Gaza. That’s why we need this flotilla, filled with unarmed civilians, human rights observers from 30 countries, to challenge Israel’s brutal grip on the Gaza Strip.”

Wright plans to join the flotilla later this month, along with CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin.

“I have been walking the halls of Congress every day since October, going to rallies every weekend, writing letters of outrage to President Biden every night—and nothing has worked to stop Israel from murdering thousands upon thousands of innocent people,” said Benjamin. “What more can I do? I can go on this flotilla to try to break the criminal siege that Israel has imposed on Gaza.”

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