Sydney crew to join international aid flotilla to Gaza 16Jun11 June 17, 2011

Alternative Media Group -  16 June 2011

In 2008 Sydney youth worker Michael Coleman travelled to the occupied West Bank to run a music production workshop for school-aged Palestinian kids from refugee camps around Nablus.

The vibrant and hospitable Palestinian people and their lust for life in the face of such violent oppression amazed him.

“The kids all get educated, they all go to university if they can, though their job opportunities are incredibly limited unless they want to leave the territories,” Michael said.

Next week Michael will return to occupied Palestine by sea, as part of an international peace flotilla attempting to deliver aid and break Israel’s siege of the Gaza Strip.

Three human rights activists from Sydney and one from WA are the Australian delegation to the next Freedom Flotilla named ‘Stay Human’.

Sydney Jews Against the Occupation founder Vivienne Porzsolt and former NSW Greens MLC Sylvia Hale will also join with 1000 activists from almost 40 other countries.

The activists know they face danger, as Israel has not baulked at killing international solidarity activists in the past. Michael also knows he will not get a visa to visit friends in the West Bank.

In that sense he is in the same boat as 4.7 million Palestinian refugees worldwide.

A year has passed since Israeli paratroopers killed nine Turkish peace activists on the Freedom Flotilla that was trying to break the siege of Gaza and deliver humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people.

As governments failed to hold Israel to account, the atrocity committed against unarmed people in international waters has served to mobilise others around the world to join the struggle for Palestinian freedom.

While much has been made in recent days of Egypt’s new post-revolution Government opening the Rafah Crossing with Gaza, heavy restrictions remain in place.

Israel controls Gaza’s sea and air borders and denies travel through Israel to the West Bank. Men aged 18 to 40 are not allowed free movement to Egypt and importations of many basic goods and building materials are still blocked.

Michael points out the economy in the West Bank and Gaza has been slowly strangled since the occupation started in 1967

“Gaza was the economic centre of the territories and over the last five years the blockade has resulted in 80 per cent of Gazans relying on the UN for basic needs such as food, shelter and medical care. Imagine that being in Sydney?” Michael said.

“It is encouraging that the Rafah Crossing is opened but by itself that will not restore normal life to Gaza, and that’s what we are trying to achieve.

“The Palestinian people have human rights like everyone else in the world that need to be respected. A life is a life no matter which side of the separation wall it lives on.”

Aside from the unconditional support Israel receives from the United States, Michael believes the mainstream media has a lot to answer for in its depiction of the conflict.

“There’s a whole lot more non-violent resistance going on that is never reported,” Michael said.

“The first Intifada wasn’t until 1987, and it did start peacefully. The refugees happened in 1948, so that’s 39 years of non-violence waiting on government institutions to do something. I look on the Palestinians as incredibly peaceful people.”

“Every rocket that flies across the border is reported in great detail, but every time Israel incurs into Gaza and kidnaps people, it goes completely unreported, yet that happens on a daily basis.”


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