Posted by CODEPINK Staff
By Amer Shurrab
(Watch Amer give his speech here)
I want to thank all the brave passengers who are going on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla II and on the American boat to Gaza, The Audacity of Hope, in an attempt to break the criminal siege on Gaza. I am not a lawyer, I am not an expert analyst. I am a simple Palestinian from Gaza, now living in the United States, whose family has suffered tremendously from this inhumane siege.
During the 2009 Israeli invasion called Operation Cast Lead, two of my brothers were brutally murdered by the Israeli forces. They were civilians, but nevertheless they were shot and then denied medical help. Despite the desperate pleas from my father, who was with them but not allowed to go for help, my brothers were left to bleed for hours and hours by the side of the road until they bled to death.
My family has been through so much trauma and through all this, I have not been allowed to go home to visit them. Several members of my family have had surgeries and medical problems, but I could not help take care of them. I have not been able to witness the good times, either—the marriages, the new babies. Israel says it imposes the siege on Gaza for security reasons. How is my going home and visiting my family a security threat to Israel?
My father had surgery on his spinal cord about three weeks ago. He was lucky he had his operation three weeks ago, because if he waited a few more weeks he wouldn't have been able to have the surgery because hospitals in Gaza have run out of anesthesia. So we now have thousands of people waiting for surgery, some of them life-saving surgeries, and they cannot have their operations because Israel does not allow medical equipment and life-saving medicines to enter Gaza. Why? Again, Israel says it’s for security purposes. How is a sick person getting medical treatment a security threat to Israel? It makes no sense, it’s inhumane and that’s why we need the international community to act.
That is precisely what the Freedom Flotilla that set sail for Gaza last year was trying to do. It was bringing humanitarian aid, but it was also focusing world attention on the plight of the people in Gaza. Israel attacked the ships in the middle of the Mediterranean in an act of international piracy. Once again, Israel said it was acting in self defense. How is it self defense to board a humanitarian ship in international waters and kill eight Turkish citizens and one US citizen--a 19-year-old American who was shot dead at point blank? Shamefully, instead of raising an outcry against the murder of an American citizen, the U.S. government sided with Israel.
People on the last flotilla were called provocateurs and people on this upcoming flotilla are being called provocateurs as well. This message is not just coming from the Israel government, but also, unfortunately, from the U.S. government.
But I want to remind the world that in the 1960s the civil rights activists and the freedom riders were called provocateurs. Now we remember them as heroes who moved this country forward by helping to end the abhorrent segregation policy in the American south. The ANC activists in South Africa who were trying to end the apartheid regime were called provocateurs, terrorists and criminals. They were beaten up, they were jailed, but that did not stop them. And now we don’t remember them as provocateurs. We remember them as real and proper heroes who took a stand when others didn't.
The people who are going on these boats headed to Gaza are real heroes, too. They are taking personal risks against oppression. They are standing up for human rights, for justice, for American values. We should all salute them.
Amer Shurrab is a Palestinian from Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip who now lives in the United States.