Monday, July 1, 2020 — The Palestinians in Europe Conference and the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza held an online conference on Epal-Facebook Platform, titled: “The role of the European grass-roots organizations in breaking the siege on Gaza.”
The conference commemorated the 10th Anniversary of the Israeli assault on the Freedom Flotilla in the Mediterranean, where about 750 activists were attacked by one of the most powerful and aggressive military forces taking a toll on a number of passengers, peacefully traveling the sea to break the siege on Gaza, coming from some 40 nationalities.
On May 31, 2010, the Gaza Freedom Flotilla consisting of of the Mavi Marmara, Sfendoni, Challenger I, Eleftheri Mesogios, Gazza I and Defne Y vessels embarked on a sea journey to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza. However, they were confronted with an illegal raid and intervention by Israeli military forces. The boats were only carrying humanitarian aid and staffers.
During this attack and in its aftermath, 10 humanitarian aid workers lost their lives and 56 were severely injured.
9 of the 10 were brutally killed during the attack and the 10th victim died after spending a prolonged period in coma.
Participants on the Flotilla were illegally imprisoned and ill-treated, being handcuffed despite the injury.
Khaled Taraani, president of IPalestine, himself one of the activists who bore witness to the assault, called the day, “a day of infamy.”
Mazen Kahil, chair of the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza, saluted the families of the hero activists, who sacrificed their lives while expressing solidarity with Gaza, and the activists who consisted a passionate group with the Palestinian cause and challenged the blockade on Gaza.
“It was a turning point in the history of breaking the siege of Gaza Strip. This barbaric attack revealed to the world the uncivilized face of the Israeli Occupation, which brutally attacked unarmed civilians on board the ships of the Freedom Flotilla.”
“Without any doubt, [the Freedom Flotilla] has achieved its objectives because when we went on the high sea, the whole world saw what Israeli navy has done to unarmed and civilian people. That was a high price that Israel paid, speaking of its relations with Turkey. Israel was marketing itself as innocent, but it was not upon attacking these activists who just wanted to reach Gaza to say that the blockade is a crime against women, children and the weak.”
Kahil, speaking on behalf of the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza, said: “we are trying to challenge the siege by all the means we have, we want to see it ending.”
Huseyin Oruc, Deputy President of IHH and a passenger on Mavi Marmara, stated the following:
“Before the Flotilla people in Turkey supported the Palestinian cause, but after the Flotilla all Turkish people realized that there is a Palestine problem; there is al-Aqsa Mosque and it is occupied by Israel. Palestine became the internal politics for everybody and every house; it was not limited to the government or the Islamic community, but for every one the Palestinian struggle went on top of the agenda.”
Quoting an interviewer’s view, who sought him after the assault, Oruc added:
“The westerns have built a very big wall between Palestine and Turkey, and you have demolished these walls with the Mavi Marmara.”
The human rights activist and spokesperson of the Return Marches from Gaza, Palestine, Ahmad Abu Retima, also commented on the Flotilla’s achievement, saying:
“They could not arrive into Gaza, but their message was very important and it was conveyed, which was that this is a humanist struggle and it not the struggle of Palestinians alone. It was the struggle of all the people around the world, who believe in freedom and the human dignity. This is, I think, why Israel committed this cruel massacre against the activists, these heroes.”
Ann Wright, member of US Boats to Gaza and the Gaza Freedom Flotilla Collation, stressed that “Palestine is one of the big issues that peace activists around the world work on.”
Asked about the experience in the Israeli jails and how it changed her perspective on the Palestinian cause, she said:
“My perspective was already changed as I went to Palestine six different times, and also by going to the West Bank.”
“Nevertheless, being on that Flotilla and seeing —even though I was not on the Mavi Marmara itself. We were on the boat next to it and saw the assault. Our boat was being assaulted, but no one got killed — the brutality of the Israeli commandos who really did not care that you are peaceful, and still they beat you. That is what Palestinians endure every single day.”
Ziad Elaloul, spokesperson of the Popular Conference for Palestinians Abroad, accentuated:
“The Freedom Flotilla and the Mavi Marmara turned the Palestinian cause into an international one, not only because political and human rights activists from all over the world participated, but due to the price paid by the participants, especially the Turkish ones.”
“The message of breaking the siege on Gaza and the right of Palestinians to free their land and to return to their homes that was carried by the Freedom Flotilla still remains,” he stressed.
Michele Piras, member of the Italian Democratic Party and member of the Executive Board of the Collation of Parliamentarians for al-Quds, said:
“The case of Gaza and the Palestinian issue are symbols of very serious abuse and denial of human rights; they are also a symbol of the weakness of the international community to impose a new phase of respect and recognition to the right of self-determination.”
In reference to the annexation projects that the Israeli occupation plans to implement soon, Piras pointed out that, in Italy, 70 MPs have subscribed statement of strong of condemnation, demanding the intervention of the international community to stop Israel and the occupation.
“The sacrifice of May 31, 2010, of nine persons and sixty wounded, was there to remind us that the Israeli policy in Gaza and Palestine will not change without a new commitment of the international community, and particularly, I believe, the U.S. and Europe.”
In June 2007, Israeli restrictions imposed on the Gaza Strip intensified, which have been enforced since the early 1990’s. Israel escalated its violation of Gazan’s rights as it pushed to a land, sea and air blockade. Despite relaxation of some blockade-related restrictions in recent years, 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza remain “locked in,” denied free access to the remainder of the territory and the outside world. The blockade has undermined the living conditions in the coastal enclave and fragmented the area’s economic and social fabric, since people continue to be robbed of their basic rights to clean water, electricity and medical services, among others.