Across the world, there are laws against threatening other people. Verbal threats give rise to great personal and emotional insecurity, and they can be the midwives to terrible violence. Many of us on board the SS Liberty and SS Free Gaza have been threatened in these past few days. It’s appalling enough to receive phone calls, warning us that our boats will be blown up or asking us if we know how to swim, but when the callers go after our families, then that crosses the line from adolescent intimidation to psychological terrorism. This past Thursday, Lauren Booth received one such call.
“On the 14th of August 2008, an anonymous man called my home in France as my daughters played hide and seek in the garden. This stranger spoke to my husband, warning him that ‘your wife is in great danger. These ships will be blown up.’ My husband asked how it was this person had obtained our private home number. No response was forthcoming, but the illicit threats carried on.”
Other members of our nonviolent project have had their families in Occupied Palestine threatened with violence as well. From these threats, a pernicious pattern of intimidation is beginning to emerge. The question, of course, is just who benefits the most by trying to terrorize and stop us from breaking Israel’s terrible siege on 1.4 million Palestinians in Gaza?
In April, 2008, The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel released a report stating, “The illegal exploitation of family members, who, in most instances, are not suspects themselves, has on many occasions caused severe psychological suffering to interrogees and to their innocent relatives. In more extreme cases, this method takes the form of psychological torture of a detainee rendering him a victim of a cruel psychological manipulation via the illegal exploitation of a close relative.”
Today in the Israeli newspaper, Haartez, Amos Harel writes: “Defense officials favor forcefully blocking two boats, which a group of U.S.-based activists plan to sail to Gaza … A position paper by the Foreign Ministry’s legal department says Israel has the right to use force against the demonstrators as part of the Oslo Accords … the Foreign Ministry’s paper means that security forces could detain the vessels upon entry to Gaza’s territorial waters, arrest the passengers and haul the ship to Israel, where the detainees could be interrogated.”
The Oslo accords expired in 1999, but even when they were in place they never advocated or allowed Israel to use deadly force against nonviolent human rights workers. However, Israel has decided to interpret the now-defunct accords as giving them permission to act violently against us.
Given this situation, we, the members of the Free Gaza Movement, would like to make two things very clear to the government of Israel:
1) We are nonviolent human rights activists and we have vowed to take no violent action, in either word or deed, against any other human beings – including against Israeli government and military officials who, apparently, wish us harm.
2) The threats and intimidation that we have received these past few days, though disturbing, do not even come close to the suffering imposed on 1.4 million Palestinians through the illegal and immoral Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip. Given the enormity of this crisis, we will not be deterred.
We will sail to Gaza, and this siege will be lifted.
Members of the Free Gaza and Liberty, setting sail this week. – http://www.FreeGaza.org
As an Israeli peace-activist, although by far not a prominant one, I can assure you that we’re all are watching breathlessly what’s happening to the Free Gaza Movement. And although I’m not one of those who “decide”, “call” or “organize”, I’m sure that an attempt to stop the boats from reaching Gaza will not go silent in the Israeli streets. Demonstrations will rise, that peace-activists will stand up and make themselves heard to support the Free Gaza Movement!
“La verite est en marche et rien ne l’arretera” [truth is on the march and nothing can stop it]. – Emile Zola in “J’accuse”