Viva Palestina USA to defy blockade of Gaza
By John Parker
Published Jul 1, 2009
June 30–Today units of the Israeli navy blockading Gaza attacked and boarded the Free Gaza Movement boat, the Spirit of Humanity, abducting 21 human rights workers from 11 countries. The passengers and crew, including Noble laureate Mairead Maguire and former U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney, are being forcibly dragged toward Israel. The boat is carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza with an international delegation that set sail from Cyprus.
McKinney was a 2008 presidential candidate on the Green Party ticket. She is also one of the main participants in another heroic campaign, along with New York City Council member Charles Barron and British MP George Galloway, sending medical supplies to Gaza.
Viva Palestina USA will leave July 4 from New York City, with hundreds of people taking a convoy of trucks through Egypt to the border of Gaza to deliver much-needed medical supplies to the besieged people of Gaza.
This is the second trip initiated by Galloway — the first was launched in February from Europe — and is being done in cooperation with Ron Kovic, the anti-war activist, veteran and author. This is the first trip organized by Viva Palestina USA.
The national office of Viva Palestina USA is in Chicago, but organizing from the ground up is being enthusiastically initiated from many areas and sectors – from anti-war organizations to human rights and social justice organizations and activists, to local mosques and other religious groups, including anti-Zionist Jewish organizations.
These organizations and individuals are determined to have their voices heard in opposition to U.S.-Israeli aggression, especially since the latest war crimes escalated by Israel against Gaza last year.
According to Palestinian officials and human rights groups, that one-sided war by Israel — funded and armed by the United States — killed at least 1,440 Palestinians, 900 of whom were civilians, including 431 children. It is estimated that 20 percent of children in Gaza suffer post-traumatic stress syndrome as a result of witnessing Israel’s violence.
Half of Gaza’s hospitals were destroyed, exacerbating the medical emergency for many civilians wounded in the attacks. None of this horror even takes into account the many people yet to fall victim to leukemia and other illnesses resulting from the 75 tons of depleted uranium left by Israel during its illegal war. (AlJazeera.net, June 27)
Concrete solidarity with Palestinian people
This is why the effort by Viva Palestina, along with the call for an international boycott against Israel and actions to close down Israeli embassies, is receiving wide support.
“There’s a new atmosphere in the U.S. over Palestine,” stated Galloway on the homepage of the Viva Palestina Web site, “The phenomenal response to this tour demonstrates that.” (vivapalestina.org)
Judy Greenspan from the International Action Center (IAC) will be traveling from Oakland, Calif., as part of the delegation and says she is determined to help build solidarity. “I am honored to be part of the Viva Palestina convoy to Gaza. As a long-time anti-Zionist Jewish activist, I embrace Viva Palestina as a critical part of the international solidarity movement worldwide,” said Greenspan.
According to national organizers, Viva Palestina USA has raised several million dollars to fund this material aid effort, and in the beginning of July, hundreds of Palestine solidarity activists will drive in a convoy of trucks and other vehicles to deliver this humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza.
Along with Cynthia McKinney and Charles Barron, who will be at a send-off event at the House of Lords Church in Brooklyn, N.Y., on July 3, Ron Kovic —whose Vietnam War experience was portrayed by Tom Cruise in the film “Born on the Fourth of July”—is a major participant in Viva Palestina USA. Not only was Kovic born on the date the convoy is leaving, but he is also deeply committed to justice.
Addressing the participants of the convoy in a statement, Kovic said: “I want all of you to know how much I admire everyone involved and committed to this most extraordinary and historic mission. What you do ... is of great importance, the inspiring words that you speak, the crucial funds that you raise will literally be saving lives, comforting the afflicted, and giving hope to those who have suffered for far too long.
“You will be representing your country, ... not with rockets and bombs, helicopter gun ships, and weapons of war, but with love, compassion, and a sincere respect for the lives and dignity of all human beings. That is what Viva Palestina USA is about and that is why we must do all we can ... in the days to come to make this courageous and extraordinary journey to Gaza a reality.”
June 6 was the 42nd anniversary of the Israeli seizure of Gaza from the Palestinian people. Yet, like the U.S. attempts at re-colonizing Iraq, none of Israel’s U.S.-supplied weapons of mass destruction has been capable of destroying the Palestinian people’s will to continue fighting the illegal occupation.
It is this spirit of resistance that will continue to inspire many more Spirit of Humanity trips and Viva Palestina convoys loaded with medical supplies and various other forms of international solidarity with the people of Palestine.
Parker is an organizer with the International Action Center in Los Angeles and is part of the Viva Palestina USA delegation.