Michael Coleman reports back after 4 months in Gaza
I have just returned to Australia after four months in the Gaza Strip working on the Gaza’s Ark Project (www.gazaark.org). During this time, I saw for myself and experienced some of the daily hardships that Palestinian people suffer, including salty and unclean water and a sea where you cannot safely swim due to pollution caused by the sewerage systems that are destroyed by the Israeli military. I sailed out with fishers and visited farmers who are harassed constantly by the Israeli Occupation Forces and saw for myself the conditions in which they struggle to maintain their livelihoods. I participated in the purchase of a 24 metre long fishing boat and the public launch of the Project in Gaza. I also met with potential suppliers of goods and produce, which we are now selling and which will be transported on Gaza’s Ark. I helped establish a local youth committee to support Gaza’s Ark and met with many organisations and individuals who have agreed to endorse Gaza’s Ark. For more details of my solidarity activities in Gaza, visit: http://occupiedterritories.wordpress.com/.
My time in Gaza increased my belief in the importance of the project. The high rate of unemployment in Gaza is a direct effect of Israel's illegal blockade and no amount of aid will change the despair of those currently unemployed. By attempting to establish a trade route between Gaza and the rest of the world, Gaza’s Ark provides a ray of hope to the Palestinians of Gaza for an economy independent of their occupying power. This is a vital step towards self-determination, a step the Oslo process of the 1990s – which was supposed to lead to a final peace in the region – has failed to deliver.
However Gaza’s Ark to me, and the Palestinians of Gaza, is much more than a trade mission. It is an act of solidarity which raises awareness of the situation the residents of Gaza currently face. Whilst the people of Gaza have a lack of export opportunities – just 2% of pre-blockade levels – the living conditions of the vast majority of the population are summed up by the UNRWA in its recent comprehensive report on the Palestinian enclave, which concluded that: "Gaza will no longer be ‘liveable’ by 2020 unless urgent action is taken to improve water supply, power, health and schooling".
With governments around the world ignoring Israel’s regular violations of international law, I feel it is important to show the Palestinian people through direct actions, that our governments do not speak for us on the issue of their human rights. History has shown us that on issues of social justice, people lead and governments follow. To get the people to lead, though, they need to know the facts and not the myths.
Gaza’s Ark can only continue and progress with your support. You can help fund the refurbishment process, or you can purchase Palestinian products that will be exported aboard the Ark. And let's be honest, how often in this modern world do you get a chance to purchase a share in hope!
Thank you kindly for your time.
Michael Coleman aka ‘the Kayaktivist’
on behalf of Free Gaza Australia and member of Gaza’s Ark Steering Committee
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