Friday, May 28, 2010

Support Humanitarian "Ship-In" to Gaza:
Urge Israeli Govt to Let Ships Land

Pictured above is the MV Rachel Corrie at dock in Ireland in April. It is one of ten ships currently on there way to Gaza to deliver humanitarian aid.

I am reproducing below an email which I recieved from Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center re the aid flotilla to Gaza, and its likely interception by the Israeli navy.

At the very bottom I have added some suggested Action Items for Canadian readers.

* * *

This weekend, 10 small ships bearing humanitarian civilian supplies for the people of Gaza are on the verge of reaching the coast of Gaza.

According to Israeli news reports, half the Israeli Navy has been deployed to intercept these ships instead of letting them proceed to deliver food, medical supplies such as wheelchairs, and materials for reconstructing homes that were destroyed during the Israeli government's attack on Gaza a year ago.

The ships are being sent because the Israeli government has imposed a blockade on many civilian goods from entering Gaza. The ships are intended as a nonviolent way of breaking through the blockade.

In Israel, Rabbis for Human Rights has urged the government to allow the ships to pass and to end its blockade of civilian goods from entering Gaza. The Shalom Center joins in this plea and invites our readers and members to join in it as well by writing or calling Secretary of State Clinton, the Israeli Embassy to the United States, and the Israeli consulates near where they live.

This nonviolent approach to achieving political change is both profoundly ethical and profoundly practical. It echoes, for example, the work of the civil rights movement in the United States in the early 1960s. Sit-ins, freedom rides, freedom schools, and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party all operated on the principle of carrying into practice in the present the vision that its activists had for the future. ^

Their vision was that restaurants, buses, and schools should be open to all, and that the Democratic Party in Mississippi should reflect the voting rights of all citizens of Mississippi, black and white.

What civil rights activists faced was racially segregated society and culture. They did not begin by petitioning Congress for new laws; they did not attack segregationists or segregated institutions. Instead, they embodied the future that they hoped for -- in the present when they were living.

Since they hoped to achieve integrated restaurants, they went in integrated groups to the restaurants. That left the burden of response on the owners and officials. They could arrest sit-in activists; they could even kill them; or they could let the restaurants become integrated.

Over time, so many Americans were moved and drawn by these nonviolent protests that they joined the demonstrations, and insisted that Congress change the laws.

These ten ships approaching the coast of Gaza are doing the same thing. They want the blockade of civilian goods to end; so they are ending it by bringing humanitarian supplies.

For years, many of us have urged Palestinians to turn to nonviolent action. Now they and their supporters are doing this. And they are doing it not by boycotting or divesting from Israel but by a positive rather than a negative action -- affirming the simple justice of allowing Palestinians in Gaza to receive what human beings need. I hope that many Americans, many Jews among them, will respond as Northern whites responded to the sit-in movement 50 years ago.

Below you can find three items: the English translation of the letter sent today by Rabbis for Human Rights in Israel to Defense Minister Ehud Barak; a letter of mine to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and to the Israeli Embassy; and the telephone, fax, and e-mail addresses of Secretary Clinton, the Israeli embassy to the United States, and consulates around the country.

I encourage you to draw on Rabbi Ascherman's and my letters as you like, to phone, e-mail, or fax your own comments to Secretary Clinton and the Israeli government -- -- urging them to welcome, rather than attacking, these ships bearing humanitarian supplies. (If you are Jewish, I encourage you to say so; if you are a rabbi, please say so.

I know that many of us will be turning to this Memorial Day weekend for pleasure and relaxation. Yet Memorial Day reminds us of soldiers killed in many wars. Let us take this moment to support a nonviolent action that attempts to meet the needs of human beings without killing or destruction. ^

There is a Yom Kippur prayer that implores God to move from the Divine throne of strict judgment to the Divine throne of merciful compassion. At this moment it is the government of Israel that we must ask to move from judgmental rigidity -- not only to merciful compassion, but also to a sense of decent justice.

Shalom, salaam, peace!

This is the English translation of the letter sent today by Rabbis For Human Rights to Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

To Defense Minister Ehud Barak,

Rabbis For Human Rights believes that, instead of viewing humanitarian aid as a provocation, Israel ought to let the Gaza flotilla reach the Gaza port, along with the cargo and those on board, after a thorough but quick inspection.

Rabbis For Human Rights supports the people of conscience from around the world who have sent humanitarian aid to Gaza. We also welcome Israeli government's announcement that it will allow humanitarian aid to enter Gaza. We are hopeful that, after years of the blockade that has caused great suffering to the Gaza's civilian population, violated international law and prevented Gazans from rebuilding their lives after the Gaza War, Israel will carry out the Jewish tradition's demand that, even when a town is under siege, a side must be left open. (Mishna Tora; Hilchot Malakhi 6:7)

However, Israeli statements hedging on what will be allowed in and denying that there is a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, along with the list of goods denied in recent years, whose only connection with security is that they allow the civilian population to exist, causes doubt as to Israel's true intentions.

RHR also calls on those responsible for the flotilla to change their decision, and to agree to the request of Gilad Shalit's father to take a package and letter to his son.

B'Vrakha (In Blessing),
Rabbi Arik Ascherman
Executive Director
This is my [Rabbi Waskow's] to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and to the Israeli Embassy

Dear Ambassador/ Dear Secretary,

As a rabbi, I am deeply committed to the physical safety and the moral and ethical legitimacy of Israel. Both would be enhanced by welcoming, rather than halting and arresting, the ships bringing humanitarian aid to Gaza -- and by ending the Israeli government's blockade of civilian goods.

Ten ships, over 700 international passengers, and some 5,000 tons of reconstruction materials, representingover 50 countries, are represented on this Flotilla, including parliamentarians, medical professionals, and peace activists. These individuals have every right - indeed,. Obligation -- to sail into Gaza's sea port and deliver the much needed humanitarian, medical, and construction materials necessary for Palestinians in Gaza to rebuild their lives.

Media sources report that Israeli naval forces are allegedly in training to prepare to interdict the Flotilla and prevent the arrival of the ships at "any price". According to news reports, about half of the Israeli naval forces will participate in an operation to prepare to seize the boats in the flotilla and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak will supervise the operation.

Israel has stopped at least three Free Gaza sailings since January 2009, including one ship which almost sunk after being deliberately rammed by an Israeli vessel and another ship which Israel intercepted in international waters and arrested all of its passengers. Another ship was forced to turn back after the Israeli Navy threatened to shoot the civilian passengers on board.

I am writing to ask you to do everything possible to prevent Israel from using military force to launch an attack or naval blockade on the Flotilla and it's peaceful, unarmed, international citizens. Please do the right thing and stand with the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza by calling on Israel to ensure that all threats to attack the Freedom Flotilla are withdrawn and its safe passage is guaranteed. I remain hopeful that you will take to heart your role in this and will do everything in your power to ensure their safety.

Rabbi Arthur Waskow
Below is relevant contact information:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Phone (Office of Public Affairs): 202/647-5171.

Embassy of Israel to US
Phone: (202) 364-5500
Fax: (202)364-5429

Consulate General of Israel in Atlanta
1100 Spring St. N.W. Suite
440 Atlanta, Georgia 30309
Phone: (404) 487-6500
Fax: (404) 487-6555

Consulate General of Israel in Boston
Phone: (617) 535-0200
Fax: (617) 535-0255

Consulate General of Israel in Chicago
Phone: 312-297-4800
Fax: 312-297-4855

Consulate of Israel to the Southwest
Phone: (713) 627-3780; (713) 622 4924
Fax: (713) 627-0149

Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles
Phone: (323)852-5500
Fax: (323)852-5555

Consulate General of Israel in Miami
Phone: 305-925-9400
Fax: 305-925-9455

Consulate General of Israel in New York
Phone: (212) 499-5400; (212) 499-5000

Consulate General of Israel in San Francisco
Phone: 415 - 844-7500; (415) 844-7510
Fax: 415-844-7555

Consulate General of Israel in Philadelphia
Phone: 215-977-7600
Fax: 215-977-7611
* * *
Canadians may wish to write to the Israeli Embassy In Ottawa:
Embassy of Israel
50 O'Connor Street
Ottawa, ON K1P 6L2
(613) 567-6450

Or, you may wish to take advantage of Prime Ministers Netanyahu's upcomimg visit with Prime Minister Harper, to write the P.M. and urge him to urge Netanyahu to let the ships pass.

You can send your comments by e-mail to or write or fax the Prime Minister’s office at:

Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
K1A 0A2

Fax: 613-941-6900


Blogger Verschell said...

I think that a balanced story is quite important here. Israel has offered to accept the ships at their port in Ashdod, where after sorting to remove contraband materials, the rest of the supplies will be allowed into Gaza (supplementing the 100,000 tons of supplies Israel has allowed in over the last year). They do this because shipments like these have been used to smuggle weapons and explosives into Gaza in the past.

NY Times article on this:

4:33 pm  
Blogger Sydney Nestel said...

100,000 tons a year, equals 273 tons a day, equals 273000 kilos a day, equals 0.182 kilos a day per person (there are about 1,500,000 people living in Gaza). Thats under 200 grams per person per day!!

In addition Israels idea of contraband is very broad. Currently Israels allows in only food, medicine, and limited clothing. No building supplies, electrical supplies, stationary, toys, textiles, car parts, paint, brooms, computers, phones, scotch tape, furniture, plastic, carpets, blankets, washing machines, umbrellas, etc etc etc

6:41 pm  

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