Monday, May 31, 2010
Gazans unite against flotilla 'massacre'
I woke up this morning to the sound of a blaring loud speaker, presumably from a mosque, alerting people that Israeli troops had “committed a massacre” aboard the flotilla. Various media outlets are reporting that at least nine activists (and possibly more) were killed when Israeli commandos boarded the largest boat and shot them. The Israeli Defense Forces said that the activists seized their guns and wielded clubs, knives, and molotov cocktails (crude grenades).
I hurried down to the harbor, got permission to enter from the police, and attended a Hamas-organized media conference. Many top Hamas leaders, including a female Hamas parliamentarian named Huda Naim, stood on stage alongside Khalid Al-Batsh, a leader of Islamic Jihad in Gaza. In speech after speech, they slammed Israel’s actions as an act of “state terrorism” and called on the international community to defend the activists and stop the siege. Palestinian flags, as well as flags of diverse countries, including Great Britain but not including Israel or the United States, were posted around the harbor. While Gazans commonly refer to Israelis as “the Jews,” none of the speakers at the press conference condemned “Jews” or “Israelis.” Instead, every speaker used the Arabic word “sahyooni,” which means Zionist.
In interviews I conducted earlier this week, leaders from Fatah and PFLP, a leftist minority party, said that they had been excluded from the Hamas-led efforts to organize the flotilla welcoming celebrations. No one from PFLP spoke at the press conference, but Ashraf Juma'a, a Fatah leader, gave a speech condemning Israel and expressing solidarity with the activists after Hamas officials had left the stage.
Following the press conference, a group of at least 400 PFLP demonstrators (pictured above) converged on the harbor carrying pictures of loved ones currently imprisoned by Israel. Shortly thereafter, thousands more demonstrators from diverse community organizations, universities and political factions—including Fatah— arrived. They chanted slogans condemning the “massacre” as well as slogans calling for Palestinian unity against the Israeli occupation and siege.
Many of the International Solidarity Movement activists living in Gaza gave interviews with the press, including Bianca Zimmit, an activist from Malta who was shot in her thigh by Israeli troops during a demonstration against the buffer zone last month. Here’s the link to a previous blog post I wrote about this incident and here’s the link to a blog post I wrote about a Palestinian demonstrator who was killed the week after Zimmit was shot.
“I’m surprised that Israel would go this far with internationals,” Zimmit said (pictured on right). “The reality is that they are doing this sort of thing every day with Palestinians—farmers and fishermen are killed every day....I don’t know why [Israeli citizens] would oppose these ships. Because they don’t understand what’s happening? Because they don’t understand the daily reality of the siege? The siege hurts the people, not the [Hamas] government. The poor people are bearing the brunt and are the hardest hit.”