The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Greta Berlin (English)
tel: +357 99 081 767 /

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Caoimhe Butterly (Arabic/English/Spanish):
tel: +357 99 077 820 /

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Israel Attack Justice Boat; Kidnaps Human Rights Worksers; Confiscates Medicine, Toys and Olive Trees


23 miles off the coast of Gaza

Today Israeli Occupation Forces attacked and boarded the Free Gaza
Movement boat, the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY, abducting 21 human rights
workers from 11 countries, including Noble laureate Mairead Maguire and
former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (see below for a complete
list of passengers). The passengers and crew are being forcibly dragged
toward Israel.

"This is an outrageous violation of international law against us.
Our boat was not in Israeli waters, and we were on a human rights
mission to the Gaza Strip," said Cynthia McKinney, a former U.S.
Congresswoman and presidential candidate. "President Obama just told
Israel to let in humanitarian and reconstruction supplies, and that's
exactly what we tried to do. We're asking the international community
to demand our release so we can resume our journey."

According to an International Committee of the Red Cross report
released yesterday, the Palestinians living in Gaza are "trapped in
despair." Thousands of Gazans whose homes were destroyed earlier during
Israel's December/January massacre are still without shelter despite
pledges of almost $4.5 billion in aid, because Israel refuses to allow
cement and other building material into the Gaza Strip. The report also
notes that hospitals are struggling to meet the needs of their patients
due to Israel's disruption of medical supplies.

"The aid we were carrying is a symbol of hope for the people of
Gaza, hope that the sea route would open for them, and they would be
able to transport their own materials to begin to reconstruct the
schools, hospitals and thousands of homes destroyed during the
onslaught of "Cast Lead". Our mission is a gesture to the people of
Gaza that we stand by them and that they are not alone" said fellow
passenger Mairead Maguire, winner of a Noble Peace Prize for her work
in Northern Ireland.

Just before being kidnapped by Israel, Huwaida Arraf, Free Gaza
Movement chairperson and delegation co-coordinator on this voyage,
stated that: "No one could possibly believe that our small boat
constitutes any sort of threat to Israel. We carry medical and
reconstruction supplies, and children's toys. Our passengers include a
Nobel peace prize laureate and a former U.S. congressperson. Our boat
was searched and received a security clearance by Cypriot Port
Authorities before we departed, and at no time did we ever approach
Israeli waters."

Arraf continued, "Israel's deliberate and premeditated attack on our
unarmed boat is a clear violation of international law and we demand
our immediate and unconditional release."

Free Gaza is a human rights group founded in 2006. Our mission is to break the Israel's illegal siege on Gaza's 1.8 million civilians, since it inflicts collective punishment on the Palestinians who live there and has destroyed its economy. Free Gaza believes in direct action in confronting Israel's abuse of Palestinians using non-violent means and has found these voyages to be one of the most effective ways to alert the world to the prison-like conditions of Gaza. Ultimately, there is no better example of direct action than Free Gaza's sustained attempts to break the siege on Gaza which Israel claims it no longer occupies