— Shane Croucher and Tom Farmery contributed to this report.

Once the Israeli forces finish murdering human rights activists aboard the Free Gaza flotilla, they can wash the blood from their hands in the international waters where this atrocity was committed.

The Free Gaza Movement (FGM), a group which aims to end the seige on Gaza, has sent boats containing humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip in a bid to break Israel’s illegal blockade on the area.

However, it appears that the Israel Defence Force has boarded their ships and killed activists, then escorting them to Israel.

Before this flotilla of six boats set sail, The Linc spoke to Huwaida Arraf, an American-Palestinian FGM activist who is currently on one of the boats.

“Our mission represents the will of international civil society that is tired of and deeply disappointed in the inaction of our governments. This is extremely significant. We are going to Gaza, bringing people and supplies that the people of Gaza need to rebuild their devastated infrastructure and society.

“We are going in defiance of Israel’s blockade, because this blockade is…inhuman and deadly. In other words, we are challenging the policies that leave Palestinians in need of humanitarian aid,” Arraf said.

The blockade on Gaza started in June 2007. This tight squeeze of the area prevents food, water, medical supplies, and even people from entering or leaving the Gaza strip. This is illegal in international law, says Arraf, who has taught human rights and humanitarian law at Jerusalem’s Al Quds University.

“Israel’s near hermetic closure of the Gaza Strip is a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Justice Richard Goldstone has stated that Israel’s policy seems to target the Palestinian population in Gaza as a whole, and that the ‘series of acts that deprive Palestinians in the Gaza Strip of their means of subsistence, employment, housing and water, that deny their freedom of movement and their right to leave and enter their own country, that limit their rights to access a court of law and an effective remedy, could lead a competent court to find that the crime of persecution, a crime against humanity, has been committed’.

“Yet, who is doing anything to stop or otherwise hold Israel accountable?”

Shortly before The Linc spoke to Arraf, she had been detained by Israeli forces, without food or water, and suffered physical and verbal abuse. How do events like this effect her motivation?

“Such experiences only strengthen my resolve to keep fighting for our basic human rights. I am under no illusion that just because we use nonviolent means of resistance to confront Israel’s colonial, apartheid policies, that it will be safe and/or easy. On the contrary, I believe that our form of resistance is more threatening to Israel because it presents an obstacle to Israel’s attempts to paint the Palestinian people as violent and their own policies as being about security. If we give in to Israel’s violent repression, it would be an admission that military might is stronger than right, and I don’t believe that.”

Arraf paints a bleak picture of the situation in Gaza: “If you’ve never been to Gaza or even in other areas of the occupied Palestinian territories, words are not going to be enough to describe not only the current conditions but the overall oppressiveness and insidiousness of the situation that has become people’s only reality. Gaza is like a maximum security prison. People can move around within the confines of the prison walls, but they can’t leave.

“Also, in many ways a prison affords people more rights because at least in many prisons around the world one is entitled to adequate food and health care. In Gaza, Israel severely limits what can enter the Gaza Strip and therefore the hospitals there do not have the equipment and medicines to provide many with the treatment that they need.

“When patients seek to leave Gaza to seek medical attention in other countries, they are put through a time-consuming process of applying to the Israeli authorities for permission. Many have been denied this permission and Gazans estimate that over 350 people have died over the past four years as a direct result of not being able to obtain the medicines and medical attention that they need.”

She says the unemployment rate in Gaza averages at around 40% and that 80% of the population is now food-aid dependent. Furthermore, according to World Health organisation standards, only between 5% and 10% of the water in Gaza is considered safe.

Optimistic that she would reach Gaza with this latest flotilla, that hope has now been crushed – but that won’t stop Arraf: “The important thing is, we won’t stop until the unlawful blockade is broken…until the occupation is defeated; and until freedom, human rights, and equal rights for all prevails.”