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Honouring and mourning Mary Hughes Thompson

Mary Hughes Thompson & Vittorio Arrigoni, 2008
Mary Hughes Thompson & Vittorio Arrigoni, 2008

The Freedom Flotilla Coalition mourns the passing and celebrates the life of the great Palestinian activist Mary Hughes Thompson. Mary was one of the co-founders of the Free Gaza Movement that created, coordinated and organized the only boats that have broken the 53 year Israeli naval blockade of Gaza. In 2008, Free Gaza boats made five voyages filled with Palestinian activists from around the world sailed into Gaza to be met with tens of thousands of Palestinians. Later the same boats sailed out of Gaza carrying Palestinians who needed medical attention and students who had international scholarships. Mary was an organizer for the 2010 Freedom Flotilla which the Israeli Occupation Forces lethally attacked, killing ten on the Mavi Marmara, wounding over 50 and beating up delegates on the other five boats. She was to have been a passenger on one of the boats, but ended up working in the Free Gaza office in Cyprus handling media questions from the UK, Australia and Aotearoa/New Zealand.

She herself had been robbed and beaten by Israeli settlers during a 2003 trip to pick olives in the West Bank. She continued her work in occupied Palestine with trips to the West Bank through the 2000s with the Christian Peacekeepers Team, the International Solidarity Movement twice and Women In Black.

In 2009 Mary went to Cairo, Egypt with the Gaza Freedom March in an attempt to go into Gaza in solidarity, one year after the brutal 27-day Israeli attack on Gaza. In 2011, Mary was on the Tahrir, Canadian Boat to Gaza and in 2019 was a part of the Catalina Freedom Flotilla for Gaza. She was on the book tour for the book about the only boats that have been able to break the blockade of Gaza and sail into Gaza, Freedom Sailors.

In May 2020, Mary was a panelist with other of the original organizers of the Free Gaza Movement boats in a webinar about the extraordinary work of the Free Gaza Movement in which they spoke of the challenges of organizing the first boats into Gaza.

One of Mary’s last messages to her friends all over the world was “Please don’t be too sad for me. I’ve really had a life filled with so many blessings and so many beautiful friends. So many things I wish I’d done, promises I don’t have time to keep, friends I can’t hug one last time. Please don’t cry for me. I’m filled with gratitude for you. I love every one of you more than you could possibly know. Mary”.

Please consider making a donation in Mary’s memory through Middle East Children’s Alliance to build a playground in Gaza.

Mary Hughes Thompson with Hedy Epstein, Gaza Freedom March (Cairo, 2009)
Mary Hughes Thompson with Hedy Epstein, Gaza Freedom March (Cairo, 2009)
Mary Hughes Thompson, on board the Tarhir (Canadian Boat to Gaza), 2011.
GAZA BOAT – 06/27/11 – Mary Hughes Thompson, 77, is a participant in the Canadian boat to Gaza, part of Freedom Flotilla II. She helped found the Free Gaza Movement. JIM RANKIN/TORONTO STAR
Mary Hughes Thompson, 2011
AGIOS NIKOLAOS, Greece – 07/04/11 – The Canadian boat made a run for open water this evening. Mary Hughes Thompson is shown during the boarding by Greek soldiers of the Tahrir, the Canadian boat participating in Freedom Flotilla II to Gaza. JIM RANKIN/TORONTO STAR