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.”


  1. It is good that you are doing this work, but where is the Israeli perspective on this? Maybe you didn't have enough time yet, but you can't just quote a Hamas source and some left wing activists with the same perspective and call it journalism

  2. Thank you, Ashley, for a thoughtful and timely posting providing a perspective infrequently heard in the US. We will be well supplied with Israeli perspectives on this incident through major media channels. Having someone on the ground in Gaza at least reporting the "other side" lets us make up our own minds. Cotton Fite

  3. Anon # 1 - You're a moron, she lives in Gaza. End the siege and interviews with Israelis supporting Gazans will be possible. Hell, don't massacre people on boats headed there and then Israelis will be available in Gaza for interviews (there are Israelis on the boats, btw)

    Do you not understand what the siege is...or is your comment just cynical hasbara to discredit this excellent coverage from INSIDE of Gaza.

  4. Anon #2... comments like yours are innecesary. End the siege? you think its just that simple right? Why doesnt anyone question why Egypt doesnt end its blockade ( if your well informed, Egypt also has a blockade on their border with Gaza).
    secondly.. massacre people? you are definitely not well informed and should do your research before putting out comments like that. There was no massacre... explain to me something:
    There was a woman in the flotilla who had taken her 2 year old baby on board. Who, in their right mind, would bring a 2 year old to the shore of Gaza when there is a blockade? Knowing the dangers that exist? They were setting up Israel.
    Why did a "peacefull" flotilla have weapons in it? and why did they deny a search?
    Israel told them they could unload in Ashdod port, but they refused.
    If it was a peacefull humanitarian flotilla, they would have not have a problem being searched. Obviously they had weapons on board that they were taking into Gaza.
    Research before putting out ignorant comments.

  5. Thanks Anonymous 3....I couldn't have said it better.

    Anonymous 1

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