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Israel, Don’t Be Jealous Of My Date (And Stop The Aggression)

June 16, 2011

Later this month I anticipate encountering the Israeli military in the waters of the Mediterranean Sea. This year’s International Freedom Flotilla is bigger, stronger, and more popular than even last year’s version. It is a remarkable undertaking that demonstrates civil society’s concern with the siege Israel has imposed on 1.6 million Palestinians living in Gaza. We are acting where governments have failed.

This year there will be more than 10 ships carrying humanitarian aid and activists from over 100 countries . My advice to Israel: “Please, stay at home. Keep your weapons and commandos, which last year killed nine innocent passengers, among them an 18-year-old U.S. citizen, and injured dozens more, tightly controlled. Respect the human rights of all participants. Acts amounting to state-sponsored piracy will not be tolerated by the international community. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights fact-finding mission determined that the “circumstances of the killing of at least six of the passengers were in a manner consistent with an extra-legal, arbitrary and summary execution. ” None should have been killed for attempting to help Palestinian civilians living in grim circumstances.

The Israeli blockade of Gaza is illegal under international law. According to human rights experts, collective punishment aimed at a civilian population is contrary to human rights law.

We are a nonviolent human rights delegation traveling to Gaza to reconnect with Palestinian civil society. Our act is one of solidarity and friendship with Palestinians, Israelis and internationals who oppose occupation and blockade.

I will be a passenger on the US Boat to Gaza, “The Audacity of Hope.” It is named after President Barack Obama’s novel to remind him that he is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and should live up to the honor.

American support of the occupation and siege of the Gaza Strip harms Palestinian civilians and the chances for peace in the region. We are following the footsteps of the Freedom Riders and civil rights movement in promoting freedom, equality, and justice for Palestinians in Gaza.

Our boat is going from international waters directly to Palestinian waters. We will never enter Israeli waters. Attacking and hijacking our boat would be an act tantamount to piracy.

As an artist, I am looking forward to meeting with other artists in Gaza to stage an art show at a children’s gallery. I will be bringing prints, photographs, posters, poetry, and music from artists and collectives intent on sharing with isolated Palestinian artists.

Remarkably, several items crucial to artists were, until recently, prohibited from being imported to the Gaza Strip through Israeli borders: musical instruments, size A4 paper, writing implements, pencils, crayons, and notebooks. Also prohibited were newspapers, toys, hair brushes, hair combs, shoes, clothes, blankets, coffee, tea, toothpaste, detergent, fabric softener, dish soap, medicine and medical equipment, diapers, feminine hygiene products, toilet paper, baby wipes, shampoo and conditioner. The only reason they are allowed today is because of the courageous effort of last year’s flotilla participants.

Israel’s siege policy was summed up several years ago by Dov Weisglass, an advisor to the Israeli Prime Minister, when he stated, “The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.” This is an appalling and dangerous statement that has roused many to reconsider Israel’s domination of the Palestinians and led more voices to be raised in concern.

The injustice of such a blockade is worth highlighting for all the world to see. We are sailing despite repeated Israeli threats against the International Freedom Flotilla and last year’s attack on the first flotilla.

The Israeli military, which is severely damaging the rights and livelihoods of Palestinians in occupied Gaza, has no right to stop us in international or Palestinian waters.

We sail without arms, but with conviction and love for Palestinian civilians too long denied their most fundamental rights.

Libor Von Schönau is a cofounder of Art And Struggle, artist & activist collective. Libor is also Vice-chair of the Middle East Crisis Committee, media and human rights organization. Further information about the US Boat can be found at http://www.UStoGaza.org.

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