Ten years ago the global campaign to end the illegal blockade of Gaza took a dramatic turn when the Israeli forces stole urgently needed medical supplies. A lengthy court battle and the courageous actions of the Freedom Flotilla Gaza have won some justice. Palestinian activists, former Greens MP Sylvia Hale (left of banner) and Vivienne Porzsolt (right of banner), were part of the action.

This is an anniversary worth celebrating. Ten years ago Palestinian activists and Greens NSW members, former state MP Sylvia Hale, and Vivienne Porzsolt, were in the Middle East on the front line of Palestinian solidarity actions. Last week their trip was back in the headlines following a successful court challenge to illegal Israeli activity at the time. 

But first we will start with Sylvia and Vivienne’s trip in November 2011. They joined the second Flotilla to Gaza with the intent to break the Israeli maritime blockade of Gaza and deliver urgently needed medical aid. This was a courageous action as the previous year ten international activists were killed when Israeli commandos attacked and boarded the MV Marvi Marmara, the lead ship of the first Freedom Flotilla. That ship had also attempted to deliver humanitarian aid to blockaded Gaza. Worldwide protests erupted at the blatantly illegal Israeli attack that also resulted in some participants, including several Australians, being wounded. 

The second Gaza Flotilla – funded by grassroots donations from Canada, Australia, Belgium and Denmark – carried a cargo of some $30,000 in medical aid. Although the Flotilla was blocked from delivering the medical aid, Sylvia and Vivienne were not to be deterred from continuing their Palestine solidarity actions. They decided to join the “Welcome to Palestine” campaign, coincidentally being mounted at the same time on the West Bank. 

International supporters were invited to join the cultural festival without using the usual subterfuge on entering Israel of saying they were tourists. Participants in the “Welcome to Palestine” action were to say upfront that they were visiting Palestine. Many would-be supporters were refused flights by the airlines in their home countries. Others were immediately detained on arrival at Ben Gurion Airport and quickly deported. 

When Sylvia and Vivienne arrived in Tel Aviv they were asked why they wanted to visit Israel. In response they loudly declared that they wanted to go to Palestine. They were promptly detained as illegal immigrants – a decision they challenged. They won their court case and so had the opportunity to spend several weeks on the West Bank involved in Palestine solidarity activities. Greens member Ken Davis, who at the time was in the Occupied Territories for his work with the Australian NGO Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA, joined them for some of this work. 

Last week the illegality of the Israeli seizure in 2011 of the second Flotilla and the medical aid supplies it was carrying, was recognised when a 10 year court case initiated by the NGO, Canadian Boat to Gaza, was settled. The Israeli government have to pay $185,647 (Canadian dollars) in compensation. Some of that money will fund ambulances for Gaza.

As the Israeli blockade of Gaza is still being enforced urgent support for the Gaza flotilla’s forthcoming actions is needed. You can donate to Gaza Freedom Flotilla Australia here.  

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