Gaza: The Blockade Runners
Global Research Editor's Note
The following article by Julie Lévesque is Part I of a review of the lone humanitarian ship to Gaza, "The Spirit of Rachel Corrie" which reached Palestinian territorial waters before being brutally intercepted by The Israeli Navy.
The mission was organized by the Perdana Global Peace Foundation (PGPF) based in Kuala Lumpur.
For several years now Global Research has been actively collaborating with the PGPF in a broad initiative to criminalize war. It is in this context of continued collaboration that Global Research's Julie Lévesque participated in this important endeavor.
Contrary to the Freedom Flotilla, which was the object of active media debate and discussion, the planning of the "Spirit of Rachel Corrie" mission was not made public.
The Israeli authorities were taken totally by surprise. The Spirit of Rachel Corrie was within less than one kilometer of the Gazan coastline. The Israeli navy acted in a totally improvised fashion, firing at the crew and the passengers until the Spirit of Rachel Corrie retreated into Egyptian territorial waters.
In an act of tremendous courage and determination, the Spirit of Rachel Corrie led by PDGF's Matthias Chang challenged the legitimacy of the Israeli government. It managed "to put a hole" in the blockade of Gaza as well as deliver by land, its humanitarian cargo.
Part I of this report focusses on two courageous Irish activists, Derek and Jenny Graham, who played a central role in leading both last year's "Rachel Corrie" and this year's "Spirit of Rachel Corrie".
Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, July 18, 2011
At the end of April 2011, I was asked to be part of the Spirit of Rachel Corrie mission to Gaza organized by the Perdana Global Peace Foundation, a Malaysian non-governmental organization promoting world peace founded by former Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad.
It was the first attempt to break the siege after last year’s violent assault of the Mavi Marmara by Israeli commandos who murdered 9 activists.
So far this year, it is the only mission that reached Palestinian waters. It was forced to turn around at gunpoint by the Israeli navy. It then became stranded in Egyptian territorial waters off the port of El Arish for seven weeks. The cargo, UPVC sewage pipes to help restore the sewage system destroyed by the Israeli army, has now reached Gaza. The second part of this article will focus on the mission and its implications.
The Spirit of Rachel Corrie mission as well as the latest events surrounding the Freedom Flotilla II's failed attempt to break the illegal siege of Gaza has shed light on the importance of international activism dedicated to the Palestinian struggle.
The UN as well as most Western governments have supported the Israeli government, claiming that attempts to break the siege are "useless" and "provocative". The "international community" has caved in to Israeli demands to dissuade their nationals from engaging in such endeavors.
This raises a crucial question. International activism pertaining to Palestine must now actively challenge the so-called international community.
“Until you found something worth dying for, you’re not fit to be living.” -Martin Luther King
The Blockade Runners
They have been called the “Suicide boat people” and the “Peace pirates of the Mediterranean”. In 2008, husband and wife Derek and Jenny Graham traded their cozy, quiet life in Ireland for the Mediterranean high seas and the Israeli jails.
We met at the end of April in the green city of Kuala Lumpur (KL), Malaysia, where the couple was recruited as advisors to the Perdana Global Peace Foundation (PGPF) in the context of a project to break the illegal siege of Gaza. The latter conisted in coordinating the Spirit of Rachel Corrie Mission (SRC a.k.a MV Finch), a cargo ship carrying UPVC pipes to restore the sewage system in Gaza destroyed by the Israeli army.
“So, what do you guys do for a living?” I asked the Irish couple as we were having a typically Irish “cup’a tea” in their KL apartment. To this casual question Jenny Graham replied this unusual answer: “This is what we do!”
Wow. Who does that? Give up everything to fight someone else’s battle?
“When people ask me what I do for a living, I says I'm a blockade runner”, said former electrician Derek Graham with a crooked smile and a sense of pride. “This is what we live for, this is what drives us”, added Jenny. “We were very comfortable in Ireland, but I wasn't happy. I wasn’t healthy either. One night I told Derek I says 'This is nice. We have a house, two cars, two businesses. But I'm so bored. This is not for me'”.
Derek Graham, Jenny Graham and Alan Lonergan from Sedaka, The Ireland Palestine Alliance.
Alan was part of the land team for the Spirit of Rachel Corrie mission.
They took a globe, spun it and pointed randomly at a country: Cyprus. They sold their house and their businesses for a pittance and moved to the Mediterranean island, where they unexpectedly became full time pro-Palestinian activists.
“We were already pro-Palestinian, but it's in 2008 in Cyprus that we heard of boats going to Gaza. I had sailed all my life. I thought, ya I wanna do that.” Since then, Derek has challenged Israel's illegal blockade six times. He succeeded on three occasions.
“And here we are, running boats to Gaza and I've never been happier and healthier in my life”, added the tiny lady with sparkling blue eyes.
During their 9 month stay in Malaysia the couple was often asked why they were devoting their lives to the Palestinian cause. “A question that we’ve been asked repeatedly is: ‘You’re not Muslim, why do you do this?’ This is not a religious issue. It’s a humanitarian issue. That country is war-torn. These people have nothing! Most kids in Gaza don’t even have shoes”, Jenny explained.
Derek added: “Women have to cut diapers to make sanitary towels. How humiliating is that?”
Jenny went on: “Over there you have drones flying over your head constantly. If we get there you will see the desolation. The worst thing is that it is not a natural disaster, it's manmade. But the greatest thing is the welcome you get. It is such a warm welcome! Tons of people come to you, touch you and kids want to hold your hand. Gazans are so happy to see that there are still people in this world who care about them.”
Pro-Palestinian activism: Fighting and dying for justice
The Spirit of Rachel Corrie (SRC) was Jenny’s second attempt to break the siege. She was with her husband on the Rachel Corrie last year, along with Matthias Chang, leader of the SRC mission, as well as, among others, Denis Halliday former UN Assistant-Secretary General and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mairead Maguire.
“We were in international waters and were asked to turn around by the Israeli Navy. We refused. The Israelis boarded the ship screaming. They cannot talk, they can only scream to your face. They took Derek, put him on his knees and put a gun to his head. At that moment I thought I’d never see him again.
I was strip-searched. They wanted to hide me behind some sheet and I said: ‘No, I want everybody to see what you’re doing to me.’ And I took my clothes off in front of everyone. The soldiers were stunned.”
They all ended up in a detention center in Ashdod, Israel and were banned for ten years for "illegally" entering Israel.