What is Gaza’s Ark?
Gaza’s Ark is a joint initiative by Palestinians in Gaza, including the Palestine Sailing Federation and the Fishermen’s Solidarity Campaign, and international solidarity activists and organizations. In this initiative, a boat will be refurbished by Palestinian shipbuilders in Gaza and stocked with Palestinian goods and products, then sail through international waters with both Palestinians and internationals on board. The goal is to challenge the ongoing, illegal Israeli blockade and focus worldwide attention on the situation in Gaza and the complicity of the governments that support it or look the other way.
Why is Gaza’s Ark needed?
Restrictions by the Israeli government on the freedom of movement for Palestinians in Gaza have been increasing for decades; trade restrictions have been imposed by Israel upon Gaza since 2001, with a near total ban on exports since 2007. Goods are only allowed in and out of Gaza through one, severely limited gate on its border with Israel; its airport is no longer functioning and cannot be rebuilt; and ships – including fishing boats – are banned beyond three nautical miles from the Gaza shore (the only Mediterranean port closed to shipping). Together, these restrictions have converted a once-productive economy into a dependent society in which 80% of the population relies on UN handouts to live.
What do you hope Gaza's Ark will actually accomplish, given that Israel has used violence to stop other boats from leaving or entering the port of Gaza?
National governments and international organizations have refused to hold Israel accountable. It is up to civil society to take action on its own. Every step of the way as a boat is purchased in Gaza, refurbished and stocked, we will reach out to international media, human rights organizations, businesses, trade unions and other key civil society stakeholders to raise awareness, educate and mobilize them to action through public endorsements, letters to the editor, social media campaigns, etc. It will take massive, sustained public pressure to push international bodies and governments around the world to force an end to the Israeli blockade. Gaza’s Ark will help create that pressure.
How is Gaza’s Ark different from the flotillas that tried to sail to Gaza?
This new initiative is quite different in many ways:
- Gaza's Ark will attempt to break the “other side” of the Israeli blockade, which prevents the Palestinians of Gaza from sailing from their shores to fish or export — both needed to support a productive economy. In contrast, the emphasis of the flotillas was on bringing internationals and emergency aid into Gaza.
- Gaza’s Ark will be built in Gaza by Palestinian hands and expertise (with international assistance when requested), and will carry Palestinian products for buyers who sign contracts in advance. The entire initiative is focused on building hope by showcasing skills within Gaza and bringing visibility to the restrictions that prevent the population from sustaining a viable economy.
- Gaza's Ark also will contribute to revitalizing the dwindling shipbuilding industry in Gaza and help ensure the transmission of this disappearing expertise (another effect of the blockade) to younger generations.
- Although the initiative will help in a very limited manner to alleviate Gaza’s unemployment crisis by paying wages to the boat builders, Gaza's Ark is not an aid project. It is a peaceful action to challenge the blockade, which Israel unilaterally and unreasonably enforces on Gaza.
What organizations are involved in Gaza's Ark? Are the organizers of Gaza’s Ark the same as those who were behind the Freedom Flotillas?
In addition to the Palestine Sailing Federation and the Fishermen’s Solidarity Campaign, some of the organizations and individuals working on Gaza's Ark, such as Free Gaza Australia, Canadian Boat to Gaza and Americans from the organizing committees for the US Boat to Gaza, have a successful track record in fundraising and mobilizing public support to challenge the blockade of Gaza. The international coalition that spearheaded the Freedom Flotillas is still alive and operational as a support organization for Palestine. After the most recent (Freedom Waves) sailing to Gaza in November 2011 by the Canadian boat Tahrir and the Irish boat, Saoirse – both captured at sea by the Israeli navy – coalition members are developing other projects that also will challenge the Israeli blockade of Gaza, including Gaza’s Ark.
At this time, the most active Gaza's Ark teams engaged in fundraising, public education and organizing are located in Canada, the United States, Australia and Palestine. See contact information for each of these teams here. If there is no team in your country, contact us about getting involved!
Why is the initiative called Gaza’s ‘Ark’? Is this a Biblical or Qur’anic reference?
We do not intend to make any associations with any faith in particular. An ark is literally defined as a large floating vessel designed to keep its passengers and cargo safe. For us, the name is appropriate because through this initiative, we hope to build a revitalized feeling of hope for a better future among Gaza’s people, as well as do our small part to assure that their future is a safe one as well. This is a vessel that embodies hope that: The Palestinians of the Gaza Strip can soon live in peace without the threat of the Israeli blockade; Their children will not have to live in fear anymore; All Palestinians can live in dignity; The international community will awake to the plight of the1.6 million people in Gaza; No more flotillas will be necessary because the Israeli blockade of Gaza will end and the economy of Gaza can once again flourish.
What is Gaza's Ark position regarding Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and/or racism?
Gaza's Ark stands firmly against any expression of racism including anti-Semitism. We believe in full equality between human beings and reject all forms of discrimination and beliefs that lead to them. We oppose all racist or discriminatory ideologies equally, including one rarely spoken of: that which considers Palestinian Arabs lesser people than Israeli Jews, which many within the Israeli and international societies accept and condone.
When do you expect Gaza’s Ark to be ready to leave Gaza?
Our initial goal is to raise at least $300,000 US dollars to purchase and renovate a used boat that can be refurbished to meet the needs of Gaza’s Ark, and then pay for the renovations. The funds will provide materials and parts — which are in short supply due to the blockade. Support of international donors is urgently needed. Once the boat is purchased, we will get it ready to sail and arrange for contracts to purchase products to ship for export, later in 2013.
What goods are you trying to export from Gaza, who do you expect will buy them and what happens if the boat is confiscated?
We are consulting with producers and manufacturers in Gaza to compile a catalog of a diverse range of products that are representative of Palestinian items available for export. Prior to the imposition of the Israeli blockade, Gaza had a healthy export market, including garments, furniture and agricultural products. In addition, the Palestinians of Gaza are renowned for craft items such as embroidery.
At the same time, we will be working with businesses, organizations and individuals around the world who want to facilitate and encourage free and fair trade with the Palestinians of Gaza, and who would gladly purchase from them, if given the opportunity. Before Gaza's Ark sets sail, we will secure concrete trade deals between Palestinian producers in Gaza and international businesses and individual buyers. All Palestinian producers will be paid in full for their goods before we sail.
All purchasers buying goods to be carried on Gaza’s Ark will do so knowing that there is real risk that they will be confiscated by the Israeli military, and thus perhaps will not reach their markets. However, the risk will be worth the relationships they will build and the visibility the project will generate.
Where will Gaza's Ark sail if it is allowed to leave Gaza?
That has not yet been determined. We are keeping all of our options open at this point.
Will the Hamas government be involved in the project?
This is a citizen-to-citizen initiative. We are working through Palestinian civil society groups in Gaza. The citizens groups in Gaza will negotiate and liaise as necessary with the locally elected government to comply with government regulations to facilitate the project’s success. The local coordinating committee is independent of any political movement.
Who is on the Steering Committee for the Gaza’s Ark project?
A complete list of steering committee members, by country, is posted on this website.
How are decisions of the Gaza's Ark project taken?
Gaza's Ark's decisions, positions and policies are taken by the Gaza's Ark Steering Committee (sometimes referred to as the board) and are not dictated or controlled by any other organizations, groups or coalitions.
Since there is a chance that Gaza's Ark will not be able to sail to its destination, would the money spent for Gaza’s Ark be better used to send in aid?
No. Aid is only a palliative remedy and does not address the root cause of why the Palestinians of Gaza are in need: the Israeli blockade. Even more, we believe that aid provides a “cover” for the actions of the Israeli government against the people of Gaza, alleviating the consciences of international powers while leaving the blockade in place.
Most importantly, the Palestinians of Gaza themselves have told us they don’t want handouts. Rather, they want the right to be self-sufficient. We have chosen non-violent direct action that will capture the imagination of the greater public and create support for lifting the blockade. We have chosen to undertake non-violent action to draw the attention of public opinion and civil society to the great injustice that is the blockade.
How can I get involved in Gaza’s Ark?
What we need most right now is funds in order to purchase the boat in Gaza so it can be renovated. Please consider making an online donation now, via the links on this website, either as an individual or from your organization. You can donate in Australia, Canada, and the U.S. or via an international link (click here). If you pay taxes in the United States, your donation will be tax-exempt, through the fiscal sponsorship of Nonviolence International. A confirmation letter of your donation will be sent to the email address you list.
In addition, we are looking for individuals willing to organize a fundraiser, develop relationships with businesses and other organizations interested to purchasing Palestinian products via Gaza’s Ark, or have other skills to donate. Please contact us through the email address listed on this website for your country. We also are looking for individuals who would like to establish a Gaza’s Ark team in countries not yet represented– please contact us at info@GazaArk.org .
You will find answers to many questions about past boats to Gaza, humanitarian law and the blockade of Gaza here .
Will you be accepting volunteers who would like to be on Gaza's Ark?
That has not yet been decided, but those who have worked on the project will be given priority. Watch this website for updates.