Thursday, June 25, 2009

UPDATE 1x. Message from Cynthia McKinney in Cyprus

The Israelis are hopping mad. And they're flexing their muscles in all the ugly places. They can't ram us again without sparking an international uproar, so they're trying to stop us from leaving the port at all. The Limasol, Cyprus Port Authority which controls the port of Larnaca also, sent their inspector to Larnaca with a letter saying that the boat failed inspection, only thing, the letter was written BEFORE he even arrived in Larnaca to do the inspection! Reuters is doing the story at this very moment saying that we were prevented from leaving due to Cypriot authorities. We just learned from a Cyprus government source that pressure is being applied by Israel to deny us departure credentials. It appears, then, that Israel is putting us into contortions because they don't want us to take cement into Gaza. After white phosphorus, depleted uranium, DIME, cluster bombs, F16s, death, destruction, and mayhem. All of *this* over a few bags of cement. Can you believe???

1. Read the Haaretz article here, showing Israeli concern about us taking cement to Gaza
2. Hear the interview with Don Debar on the contortions we're being put through by Cyprus Port Authority
3. Read the Reuters article here (interesting that the story broke in Israel and not Cyprus!!)
4. Individuals have already started to contact the Cyprus UN Mission and their DC Embassy to inquire why they are arbitrarily not allowing the Spirit of Humanity and the Free Gaza to set sail.

1. Here is the Ha'aretz article:

2. Hear Greta Berlin and I explain what is happening with the purposeful delay of our departure

3. Read the Reuters article:

 12:54 25Jun09 -Cyprus halts aid boats bound for Gaza Strip

LARNACA, Cyprus, June 25 (Reuters) - Cyprus stopped two

boats planning to carry aid to the Gaza Strip in defiance of an

Israeli blockade from leaving port on Thursday, officials said.

The U.S.-based Free Gaza Movement had been planning to take

33 activists to Gaza with medical supplies and cement, a

material that Israel does not allow into the Palestinian

territory devastated by a short war that ended early this year.

The Free Gaza Movement started sending regular aid voyages

from Cyprus to Gaza in August 2008, but one of its boats was

involved in a collision with an Israeli vessel in December, and

was turned back on another mission in January.

Cypriot shipping officials cited inspection requirements for

stopping the two vessels, a small ferry and a sailing boat, from

leaving port two hours before their scheduled departure.

Both vessels had travelled to Gaza before.

"One of the ships was only recently registered in Cyprus and

under Cyprus law it has to undergo inspection before being given

permission to sail," said Serghios Serghiou, head of Cyprus's

Department of Merchant Shipping. "(The second) ... did not apply

for any inspections before sailing."

Israel tightened a blockade on Gaza in 2007 after the

Islamist group Hamas took control of the enclave, a tiny sliver

of territory home to some 1.5 million people.

Israel bans imports of cement, steel or other building

supplies to Gaza, saying militants could use them for military

purposes. One of the vessels was to carry 15 tonnes of cement.

Israeli forces bombed then invaded Gaza in late December

2008 with a declared aim of ending cross-border rocket attacks

from the Hamas-ruled territory.

The war damaged infrastructure and hurt an economy already

hobbled by years of isolation.

(Writing by Michele Kambas, editing by Lin Noueihed)


Subject: Public Advisory - We did not leave Cyprus today


(25 June 2009, LARNACA) - This is not the statement we in the Free Gaza Movement intended to release today. We had hoped to announce that our two ships, the Free Gaza and the Spirit of Humanity, departed from Larnaca Port on a 30-hour voyage to besieged Gaza, carrying human rights activists who have travelled to Cyprus from all across the world for this journey, 3 tons of medical supplies, and 15 tons of badly needed concrete and reconstruction supplies.

Nobel peace laureate Mairead Maguire, returning for her second trip to Gaza aboard one of our ships, said “[The people of Gaza] must know that we have not and will not forget them.”

That was our hope, but that is not what happened.

Instead, our ships were not given permission to leave today due to concerns about our welfare and safety. Our friends in Cyprus tell us that the voyage to Gaza is too dangerous, and they are worried we will be harmed at sea.

Cyprus has been a wonderful home for the Free Gaza Movement over these last 10 months. Cypriots know first hand the terrible consequences of occupation. They too know what it is to suffer from violence, injustice, and exile. Since our first voyage to break through the siege of Gaza, the Cypriot authorities have been extremely helpful and understanding of our goals and intentions.

The journey to Gaza is dangerous. The Israeli navy rammed our flagship, the Dignity, when we attempted to deliver medical supplies to Gaza during their vicious assault in December/January. Israel has previously threatened to open fire on our unarmed ships, rather than allow us to deliver humanitarian and reconstruction supplies to the people of Gaza.

The risks we take on these trips are tiny compared to the risks imposed every day upon the people of Gaza.

The purpose of nonviolent direct action and civil resistance is to take risks - to put ourselves “in the way” of injustice. We take these risks well aware of what the possible consequences may be. We do so because the consequences of doing nothing are so much worse. Anytime we allow ourselves to be bullied, every time we pass by an evil and ignore it - we lower our standards and allow our world to be made that much harsher and unjust for us all.

In addition to the concerns expressed by our Cypriot friends today, the American consulate in Nicosia warned us not to go to Gaza, stating that:

“…[T]he Israeli Foreign Ministry informed U.S. officials at the American Embassy in Tel Aviv that Israel still considers Gaza an area of conflict and that any Free Gaza boats attempting to sail to the Gaza Strip will “not be permitted” to reach its destination.”

Former U.S. Congresswoman & presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney responded to this warning by pointing out that, “The White House says that cement and medical supplies should get into Gaza and that's exactly what we are attempting to take to Gaza.”

“Instead of quoting Israel policy to us,” McKinney continued, “…the U.S. should send a message to Israel reiterating the reported White House position that the blockade of Gaza should be eased, that medical supplies and building materials, including cement, should be allowed in. The Free Gaza boats should be allowed to reach their destination, traveling from Cyprus territorial waters, through international waters, and straight into Gaza territorial waters.”

“The State Department has chosen to advise us to take the Israeli notification seriously. Our question is, ‘Can we take President Obama seriously?’ Will he stand by his own words and allow us to provide relief for Gaza or will he back down?”

Tomorrow we will deliver a waiver, signed by all going to Gaza, that we absolve Cyprus of all responsibility for our safety. We would like to tell our friends here in Cyprus that though we understand and appreciate their concerns, we will not back down to Israel’s threats and intimidation.