Freedom Flotilla Coalition Statement in Tunis, March 31, 2013.
The international Freedom Flotilla Coalition, representing civil society solidarity organizations and individual activists from different countries, attended the World Social Forum in Tunis where we spread our call for direct non-violent action against the inhuman and illegal blockade of Gaza and in support of full freedom of movement for all Palestinians.
We were delighted to meet with great interest from World Social Forum participants and many Tunisians for our current Gaza’s Ark campaign, which challenges the blockade from the inside out by rebuilding a boat to sail from the only Mediterranean port closed to navigation with a cargo of Palestinian products for export. These export products will be purchased by solidarity organizations and businesses willing to assume the commercial risk of the voyage in order to support some Palestinians in Gaza with an opportunity to overcome Israel’s stranglehold on their ability to earn a living through their own work. In addition to Palestinian products from the Gaza Strip, we call for the export of products from all of Palestine via the port of Gaza, in defiant rejection of the occupier’s separation policies which try to divide the occupied Palestinian territories.
The Freedom Flotilla Coalition is also announcing our new campaign to increase solidarity with the fishermen of Gaza, who face a further illegal reduction of their fishing waters (from 6 to just 3 nautical miles) in recent weeks, just a few after the small gains made following the November 2012 cease-fire. It is utterly unacceptable that Palestinian fishing boats still face shooting and violent seizure from the Israeli navy for fishing in their own waters. The Palestinian fishing fleet must have access to no less than the full 20 nautical mile fishing zone they are guaranteed under the Oslo accords, and beyond that, to fishing in international waters, as do as all other coastal nations in the world.
We call for the immediate and safe return of all boats seized by the Israeli occupation navy: both the dozens of Palestinian fishing boats that have been stolen and the different international vessels from solidarity voyages sequestered over a number years. We demand that all these boats be returned without delay to their rightful owners, in the locations where they were seized and in the same condition they were seized, and that Israel pay compensation to owners for any damage incurred as well as for the lost use of their property.
The Freedom Flotilla’s strategy of direct action against the blockade includes legal follow-up in our countries to demand public accountability from those responsible for these Israeli crimes against civilians. Legal proceedings against Israeli crimes are already underway in Turkey and Spain and are being prepared in other countries as well.
Our attendance at the Forum in Tunis allowed us not only to present our work and campaigns to other World Social Forum participants (including participating in the convergent assembly that led to the final declaration on Palestine), it also put us in touch with new supporters from the world over. We are particularly pleased to have met many new Tunisians supporters at the Forum and at the Land Day march for Palestine on the final day, and we looking forward to forging new partnerships for our campaigns in Tunisia and in other countries.
The blockade of Gaza will not be lifted by empty ‘apologies’ between governments about ‘incidents’: a real, concrete and lasting solution requires direct action against the blockade by grassroots civil-society organizations in solidarity with Palestinians.