Thursday, January 15, 2009

Free Gaza

I actually met Angela Godfrey-Goldstein a few years ago in Big Canoe. We talked about the conditions in Gaza and like every one else, I kept asking her, “What can we do?” About all I do is talk. But Angela has devoted much of her life to helping the world to understand the plight of the Palestinian people. Today, she is part of FREE GAZA, a volunteer group of concerned humanitarian leaders who began last August chartering unarmed ships to take medicines and food to Gaza. So far, they have made six such trips. These were the first international ships allowed into Gaza by Israel since 1967. Until December 30th, their efforts went without incident.
However, suddenly, at five a.m., 90 miles off the coast of Gaza and well within international waters, Angela said, Israeli gunboats rammed their boat three times and fired machine guns into the water stopping them from providing badly needed relief to the wounded in Gaza. On board the DIGNITY were 16 passengers, including surgeons with three tons of medical supplies, journalists, my friend Angela, and Cynthia McKinney, former congresswoman from Georgia. The attack left the DIGNITY taking on water and struggling to make its way to a port in Lebanon.

Israeli officials claimed that the attack was an accident. Very little of this incident was reported in the U.S. press. In fact, the only comment I remember hearing was, “Cynthia McKinney never misses an opportunity to make herself the center of controversy.” But I was thinking that McKinney was risking her life to bring relief to suffering people. I don’t care what you think about her politics, you have to admire her courage and compassion.

Today, as I write, another Free Gaza ship, the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY is making its way toward Gaza. The government of Israel has been notified of the route, schedule, and passenger list. The government of Israel knows that the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY's declared mission is to bring doctors, medicines and diplomats to the destitute citizens of Gaza.

Angela sent me a press report this week which included:

Fouad Ahidar, a Belgian parliamentarian sailing to Gaza aboard SPIRIT OF HUMANITY, responded to concerns Israel may attack the unarmed mercy ship: “I have five children very worried about me, but I told them, you can sit on your sofa and watch these atrocities on TV, or you can choose to take action to make them stop.’”

Mr. Ahidar’s children have reason to be concerned. Perhaps they remember another “accident,” when Israel attacked the USS LIBERTY, an unarmed intelligence gathering ship sailing in international waters. On June 5, 1967, at 2:00 pm, Israeli jets hit the LIBERTY with rockets, dropped napalm on the bridge and for 20 minutes strafed its decks with machine gun fire. When Captain McGonagal ordered, “Abandon ship, Israeli torpedo boats moved in and fired upon the life boats. All in all, the LIBERTY sustained 821 holes in her side, including a 40 foot hole in the hull, 34 sailors killed and 174 wounded. Israeli officials said that it was an “accident.”

Admiral Thomas Moorer, retired Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, said the attack was “absolutely deliberate.” Then he added, “The American people would be goddamn mad if they knew what goes on.” Twenty years later he still charged a cover-up. When asked why the attack? He said, “Well, I think the motive seems to be very apparent, namely the Israelis were preparing to attack in the Golan Heights and they did not want the United States Government to know that this attack was pending.”[1] When asked about the reason for the cover-up, Moorer was blunt, “President Johnson was worried about the reaction of Jewish voters.”

For the sake of those wounded in Gaza and those on board the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY who seek to help them, we can only hope that they do not become victims of another Israeli "accident.”

Thomas Are
January 15, 2009

[1] Paul Findley, They Dare to Speak Out. (Lawrence Hill Books, New York, 1989.) p.76, and Thomas Moorer, Interviewed at the Twentieth Anniversary Memorial Service and Reunion, Washington, D.C. Video, U.S.S. Liberty Survivors: Our Story, (Sligo Productions, 1991).

1 comment:

  1. Great to be with you. Keep up the great work !