Gaza’s women flotilla ‘challenging Israel’s blockade'(2)

6//11/ 16 Al Jazeera Staff

As the flotilla approaches Gaza shores, one crew member reflects on the journey. Wendy Goldsmith, a Canadian member on board the all-female flotilla currently making its way to the besieged Gaza Strip, provided the below update to Al Jazeera’s Laura Burdon Manley. – I am on board the Zaytouna, but not as a crew member. I was expecting to be crew on the Amal II for the first two legs from Barcelona to Ajaccio and from Ajaccio to Messina, but ultimately the Amal II suffered engine trouble and could not sail.
My role is as an organiser and the flotilla is expected to reach Gaza early on Wednesday October 5. We all hope that we will break the blockade and celebrate on the shores of Gaza, but in reality, we know that our ships will probably be intercepted by Israeli forces and we will be illegally detained.
As we made our way to Sicily aboard the Zaytouna, amid rolling waves and blue skies, a school of dolphins cheerfully keeps us company. Today marks a sharp contrast to our first leg of the trip, from Barcelona to the French island community of Ajaccio.
High winds and massive waves kept us all hunkered down below, wondering when the seasickness would end. The waves were quite high at times, sparking fear among some of the women. Most of us took medicine to help reduce the sickness, but a few still have not got their sea legs.
The 13 women participating on this leg of the journey hail from a variety of countries: Norway, Sweden, Australia, Egypt, Tunisia, Malaysia, Israel, the United States and Canada.
As we sail, we are enjoying the time to learn about each other – to understand why we have come together, and what this mission means to each of us. Although we come from very diverse backgrounds and experiences, the great equalizer is our desire for justice, peace and freedom for Gaza.
We all hope that we will break the blockade and celebrate on the shores of Gaza, but in reality, we know that our ships will probably be intercepted by Israeli forces and we will be illegally detained
My favourite time is during the night watch. One of us must stay up with a crew member during the sleeping hours to help keep watch. It is during these intimate midnight hours that the most profound sharing occurs.
With just ourselves, our souls and the endless dark sea, no one can hide from the truth. Through this experience, we have made profound bonds and gained a deep sense of connectivity, despite our differences.
Everything takes three times more effort and infinite patience on little Zaytouna. I am learning about my threshold for living in a small space with little privacy, managing difficult emotions that range from fear to frustration at not being able to stand up without flying into a door, the stove, or a shipmate.
I often think of my three children, all teenagers, who reluctantly gave me their blessing to join this mission. I am very proud of them because they have taken the time to understand the importance of this project.

My oldest daughter, 19-year-old Maryemma, tucked a letter into my luggage telling me that she was proud of me and that she supported what I was doing. It is so important for me to have my children’s blessing. They have safe, happy, privileged lives, which allows me to do this work.
‘Our minds always turn to the resilience of the women in Gaza’ – Laura Burdon-Manley; Al Jazeera
They understand that people suffer all over the world, and that by saying nothing, we are all complicit in crimes against humanity.
We cook together in our tiny kitchen, sharing recipes and traditions. When the Zaytouna bumps up against a wave and our dishes go flying, we cannot help but laugh and start again. We all know that where we are going, there are many more hardships than this.
Explained: The Gaza blockade
We know that on pr evious missions, such as the Mavi Marmara, peaceful activists were killed and badly injured. We know that there are many risks.
At night, under the full moon, we sing songs, share stories about peaceful resistance, and talk about our families. Laughter is a welcome companion. We recognise how blessed we are to be able to make this journey.
During our many conversations, our minds always turn to the resilience of the women in Gaza, who are raising their families in what has been described as the world’s largest open-air prison.
We have set our course to challenge Israel’s illegal blockade and to bring messages of hope to Gaza.

Read More; Women’s flotilla to Gaza is more than mere symbolism

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/10/gaza-women-flotilla-challenging-israel-blockade-161005054451009.html Source: Al Jazeera News

Israel Blockade

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White House rails against Israel’s settlement project in West Bank (3)

6/10/16; AFP in Washington

Obama administration warns that decision jeopardizes the already distant prospect of Middle East peace as well as Israel’s own security – At last week’s funeral for former president Shimon Peres, Obama pointedly spoke about the ‘unfinished business of peace’.
The White House has accused Israel of a betrayal of trust, in an unusually sharp rebuke over its plans to build hundreds of new settlement homes deep in the West Bank.
Days after Obama approved a $38bn Israeli military aid package and attended former president Shimon Peres’s funeral in Jerusalem, the White House railed at the construction of 300 housing units on land “far closer to Jordan than Israel”.
Shimon Peres funeral: Obama evokes ‘unfinished business’ of peace talks
Warning that the decision jeopardizes the already distant prospect of Middle East peace as well as Israel’s own security, press secretary Josh Earnest said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s word had been called into question.
“We did receive public assurances from the Israeli government that contradict this announcement,” he said. “I guess when we’re talking about how good friends treat one another, that’s a source of serious concern as well.”
The sharper-than-normal comments come as the White House weighs a last-ditch effort to get the peace process back on its feet before Obama leaves office in January.
While serious talks seem unlikely, US officials are weighing the possibility of a major speech outlining the parameters for peace. Peace efforts have been comatose since a US-led initiative collapsed in April 2014.
A sharper tone over settlements now could help put Israel on notice that future ties are at risk and give Washington more credibility with Palestinians and their Arab allies.
In a similarly strong-worded statement, the state department said building the units “is another step toward cementing a one-state reality of perpetual occupation.”
The plan not only undermines hopes for peace with the Palestinians but “is fundamentally inconsistent with Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state”, spokesman Mark Toner argued.
Washington has long opposed Israel’s policy of building Jewish settlements on land in the West Bank that would be claimed by the Palestinians in any negotiated “two state” peace deal.
US officials have adopted a more forceful tone with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in recent weeks, accusing it of recklessly accelerating the program despite international concern.
The Middle East Quartet – a contact group comprising the United States, Russia, European Union and United Nations – issued a report in July calling on Israel to halt settlement building.
But the practice has only accelerated since then, Washington says, with new housing blocks being approved, local administrative boundaries moved and illegal settlements retroactively approved.
Washington has condemned a recent deadly wave of Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians and police, urging Palestinian leaders to refrain from incitement or provocative language.
Obama and Netanyahu have had an extremely difficult relationship during the last eight years.
The White House was apoplectic when the Israeli leader agreed to address the Republican-controlled Congress to lobby against Obama’s signature nuclear deal with Iran.
There were fresh tensions when Netanyahu – seeking re-election at the time – said that Palestinians would never get their own state on his watch.
Some considered that pandering to right-wing voters, others said it was Netanyahu showing his true colors.
At last week’s funeral for former president Shimon Peres, Obama pointedly spoke about the “unfinished business of peace”. “He believed that the Zionist idea would be best protected when Palestinians, too, had a state of their own,” he said of the late elder statesman. “Of course, we gather here in the knowledge that Shimon never saw his dream of peace fulfilled.”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/05/white-house-criticizes-israel-settlement-west-bank

Israel, USA, Palestine

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