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Freedom Flotilla Coalition prepares for 2023 Actions

After the global pandemic pause, the Freedom Flotilla Coalition has initiated plans to again sail to challenge the illegal, immoral and inhumane blockade of Gaza. Freedom Flotilla Coalition campaign members, including US Boats to Gaza, recently met in London (Nov. 2022). Member campaigns from Norway, Malaysia, US, Sweden, Canada, France, New Zealand and the International Committee for Breaking the Siege of Gaza attended. We also met with British and international Palestinian rights solidarity organizations to discuss plans to reactivate and expand our work. Our goals remain full human rights for all Palestinians, and in particular, freedom of movement within historic Palestine and the honoring of the international Right of Return.

In light of the increasingly racist and extreme political situation in apartheid Israel and the increasingly brutal repression in occupied Palestine, we are reaching out to other parts of the solidarity movement to work together towards our common goals. This work includes amplifying Palestinian voices, especially those from Gaza, and supporting our civil society partners, like the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, which represents farmers and fishers in Gaza. The UAWC, along with other Palestinian civil society organizations, has been unjustly smeared and designated by the Israeli occupation blatantly incorrectly as a terrorist organization in an attempt to undermine their important role in documenting human rights violations and building resilience in Palestine. While some of our partner organizations are actively involved with important programs addressing the most urgent needs of Palestinian children traumatized by the blockade and murderous Israeli attacks on Gaza, we recognize that a lasting solution requires an end to the blockade.

Human rights organizations, civil society groups, and other solidarity movements are under attack in Palestine and around the world. Our response must reflect and amplify the urgent pleas from our civil society partners to end the blockade of Gaza. At the same time, we also work to end the media blockade by exposing the brutal reality of occupation and apartheid that most media ignore.

As our predecessors in the Free Gaza Movement said when they began these challenging voyages in 2008, we sail until Gaza and Palestine are free!

2022 Houston Palestinian Festival

US Boats to Gaza and the Freedom Flotilla had a booth at the 2022 Houston Palestinian Festival where visitors were updated on the Freedom Flotilla’s work and actions. The Houston Palestinian Festival is the largest in the United States. Younger visitors enjoyed making paper boats and decorating them as we have artists decorate our boats.

A new freedom flotilla to break the blockade on Gaza!
2022 Palestinian Festival booth tents

Barbara Briggs-Letson

Barbara Briggs-Letson

Gaza Freedom Flotilla supporter and participant, 88-year-old Barbara Briggs-Letson passed on August 17 with her family and friends by her side. Barbara had a long history with the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. She was a key ground crew member in 2011 with the US Boat to Gaza Audacity of Hope in Athens. In 2016, she was on the ground crew for the Women’s Boat to Gaza in Barcelona. In 2018, she traveled for two months visiting 20 ports as ground crew for Al Awda and was the nurse on the leg of the voyage from La Rochelle, France, to Gijón, Spain.

Barbara was a longtime supporter of Palestinian rights. She had been to Gaza in 2009 as a part of a CODEPINK delegation for International Women’s Day, in another delegation in May/June 2009 (see Barbara at minute 4:30 of this video), in 2012 as a part of an emergency delegation after another Israeli attack on Gaza and in 2014 as part of an international delegation of 100 women whom Egyptian authorities refused entry into Gaza. She wrote:

“I have visited in both Gaza and Palestine/Israel and thus, have glimpsed life there. It is not human. To nonviolently change this reality is something worth working for, working hard for. At 55 I went to nursing school and once I had my RN and training as a lay midwife, went with my husband, to volunteer for four years in the countryside of Guatemala, then Honduras. Life was/is hard there, but nothing like Gaza. I feel the injustice and pain in my gut.”

From a visit to Gaza in 2012, Barbara wrote:

“When I visited Gaza,, I walked into the port as the sun rose and fishermen returned from a night of fishing. I was curious and a curiosity. We did not exchange words and I wandered,
stopping at boats, looking at their catch. One boat with two or three quiet men, a few spaces down the harbor, another boat. Each had a box maybe 18”x18” and each box held enough small fish to leave spaces between them as they lay in the bottom of those boxes. It was a night’s work yet not even a meal. That memory is the reason I’m on the Al Awda today. Gaza was not and is not a human place.”

When not working with US Boats to Gaza and the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, Barbara protested Israeli and US assassin drones. She joined protests at Creech Drone Base, Nevada; Beale Air Force Base, California; and on delegations to Pakistan and Germany. Barbara created a book of the names of children killed by US assassin drones. The pages of the book unfolded to circle a room with the names of the children in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen that US assassin drones had killed. The book was used in meetings with members of the German Parliament to urge members to vote against weaponizing that country’s drones.

Barcelona before departure
Barbara and US Boats to Gaza friends in Barcelona

For a CODEPINK: Women for Peace delegation to Iran in 2019, Barbara created a book of the names of those on the commercial airliner Iranian Air flight 655 who perished on July 3, 1988, when the US naval destroyer Vincennes shot down the aircraft as it left Iran on a scheduled flight on a scheduled route, killing all 290 onboard, for which the US has never apologized. Barbara presented the book to the Foreign Minister of Iran, who asked that it be kept at the Tehran Peace Museum. Barbara gave the book with the names written in Farsi to Tehran Peace Museum Director Taghipour and the Peace Education Department’s Yalda Khosravi. The book still resides at the Peace Museum in Tehran as a testament to the importance of citizen-to-citizen diplomacy.

In 2022, in Barbara’s last six months, she continued her busy activist life on delegations to Tucson, Arizona, for the “All the Walls Must Fall” conference linking struggles on the Mexican border and in Palestine; to Washington, DC, for the Poor People’s Campaign (be sure to watch the excellent video); and to Guantánamo, Cuba, for the conference on the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases.

We will miss Barbara’s smile, spirit, love, and stand for justice and humanity!

¡Barbara Briggs-Letson—PRESENTE!

Remembering Gail Miller

Remembering Our Gail Miller…

Gail Miller, a brave sailor who attempted to break the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza as part of the 2016 Women’s Boat to Gaza, and a member of the US Boats to Gaza steering committee,  passed away on April 15, 2022.  Gail has been and remains an inspiration for so many – a steady hand on the tiller pointing us towards justice, freedom, equality – all with love.

What friends are saying in remembrance of Gail:

Gail Miller ¡PRESENTE!

The world is no longer the same place. Today and onward, a shining space once occupied by a unique , generous and fierce person, Gail Miller, will be filled with the presence of memory and the power of love… today we have lost a great and powerful woman, a fighter and healer,

Gail Women boat to Gaza
Gail with “Stay Human” on her shirt.

a dear friend to so very many, a loving mother, a grandmother and matriarch to a great clan, a loving partner to her dear Billy and an organizer of intimate, abundant gatherings that allowed for political action to be planned or shared, a courageous activist and comrade who inspired and instigated and labored toward a world where justice would be a lived experience and for which we would always fight.

Gail Miller knew and clearly voiced and manifested the deeply held belief that justice is only realized in liberation for all and liberation is realized in the struggle for justice and it comes over a long arch of time and not all at once and never, ever to be taken for granted but practiced.Gail Miller Women Boat to Gaza
Gail knew, to struggle well together we needed to break bread and to share food together and she often provided for us abundantly.

I worked closely with Gail to send a U.S. BOAT TO GAZA and she was dedicated, in solidarity, to the liberation struggle in Palestine because she knew none of us are free until Palestine is free.

REST IN POWER dear Gail, dear friend. We carry on in your great memory.

– Laurie Arbeiter

I remember laughing with Gail and Lisa under a tree in some country because Gail in cabinLisa had to prop up the terrible non-violence training that some other project had organized and how the three of us knew that it takes a woman to get the job done…Gail knew how to read people and could identify problems quickly and calmly. I will always remember that about her because that’s what I try to do in my own world.  I have met the strongest women I know through the flotilla.

– Wendy Goldsmith

I am so sad to see this news. She was a wonderful woman, full of passion for Palestine. When she left Barcelona on the boat sailing to Gaza, she was beaming, one of the most excited passengers on the boat. I remember waving at her as the boat slid past the docks. She had the biggest grin on her face I’d ever seen.

There will be a hole left that will be hard for any of us to fill.

“Good night, sweet princess. And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”

– Greta Berlin

Barcelona before departure
Women Boat to Gaza members prior to departure in Barcelona 2016

 


Gail Miller and the “Audacity of Hope” on Democracy Now (July 6, 2011)

2011 Audacity of Hope w Gail Miller

Gail Miller Women Boat to Gaza

Holding Our Ground: Resisting Colonialism and Environmental Destruction

Join us Sunday April 3 at noon ET to hear about indigenous peoples in British Columbia and Palestine and how history, culture and needs of the iColonization and Environmental destructionndigenous people take a back seat to the land’s resources for colonizers.  More information at: https://mideastcrisis2.blogspot.com/2022/03/zoom-panel-on-holding-our-ground.html.

Register at: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZUucOqgpz4rHN2qPEXaBBHd6xzC38A8N3ug

Event co-sponsored by: Jewish Voice for Peace – Hudson Valley, Middle East Crisis Respons, NYC Veterans for Peace, US Boats to Gaza, Women in Black – New Paltz.

Join us at All The Walls Must Fall March 25-28, 2022

All the Walls Must Fall

 Please join us in “All The Walls Must Fall Conference”    https://www.allthewallsmustfall.com/

on March 25-28, 2022, to explore the realities, the struggles, and the vision we must mobilize around, so that walls indeed fall, connecting our lives and similarities despite the thousands of miles of distance.

From the US/Mexico border to the borders around Palestine – walls and militarization, dispossession of lands and cultural genocide, brutality and murder, mass detentions and lack of rights, forced migration and criminalization, environmental damage – these and other shared abuses, have all defined these experiences.

All The Walls Must Fall group

Members of US Boats to Gaza at the “All the Walls Must Fall” action.

All The Walls Must Fall 1

US Boats to Gaza Ambulance in Service in Gaza

Ambulance and Gaza patient

US Boats to Gaza ambulance

We are excited to see the ambulance US Boats to Gaza purchased with other Freedom Flotilla Coalition members and coordinated by member Kia Ora Gaza from New Zealand!  Thank you to Miles of Smiles whose people were responsible for making this extremely complex process of getting vans converted into ambulances and transported to and allowed into Gaza.  And thank you to all who donated to US Boats to Gaza to make this dream become a reality!

More information in The Palestine Chronicle.

 

Ambulances Arrive in Gaza!

Congratulations to Miles of Smiles and MEDICs Worldwide on such a monumental task of outfitting 37 ambulances and getting them across the Sinai, through the Rafah border crossing…and finally into Gaza!!!

We are so glad our US Boats to Gaza and other FFC national campaigns were a part of this!!

Thank you to all who contributed to this important effort!

 

Following are some pictures of the ambulances as they arrived.

Unloading the 27 ambulances on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing.
The ambulances enter Gaza.
The 1st ambulance passes through the Gaza border control.
The ‘Peace Train’ of ambulances head to their respective health care providers to serve the pressing needs of the people in the Gaza Strip.
WANN accepting certificate
We Are Not Numbers accepting the certificate of thanks for the Freedom Flotilla Coalition.
Certificate of thanks
Certificate of thanks to the Freedom Flotilla Coalition

Gaza Freedom Flotilla ambulance

US Boats to Gaza ambulance

A Little Perspective

With the recent uproar over the US Border Patrol treatment of Haitian refugees on the US-Mexico border, US Boats to Gaza deemed it appropriate to highlight how much worse the treatment is on the separation fence between Israel and Gaza.  As Americans who support the Israeli military with over $3.8 billion per year, we are unfortunately complicit in not only the abuse but also the murder of innocent civilians.  We decided to create a short video clip with a lot of help from our Canadian Freedom Flotilla Coalition partner to help Americans understand what we are supporting and protecting.  Here is the video clip:

 

Contact Congress to Reject Criminalization of Civil Society Orgs

Israeli Defense Ministry’s military order issued October 19th designates six Palestinian civil society organizations as “terrorist” groups,” effectively outlawing their work.  The organizations are…
These are groups that have been working for decades to protect and advance Palestinian rights for children, women, prisoners, farmers and more. They are groups that many of us and our friends have worked with through the years. Al Haq, for example, has an internship program named for Rachel Corrie, and our friends Cindy and Craig Corrie have visited their office in Ramallah when they launched this.
Twenty-three Israeli human and legal rights organizations have called the Israeli government action a “Draconian measure against human rights.” Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have called this an “appalling and unjust decision” and “an attack by the Israeli government on the international human rights movement.” They further say that how we, as part of the international community, respond will be a true test of our resolve to protect human rights defenders.
It’s critical that we act now! Representative Betty McCollum (MN) introduced a House Resolution condemning the Israeli government action, and calling for a response from the State Department.  The original House cosponsors are Rep. Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Rep. Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03), Rep. Andre Carson (IN-03), Rep. Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Rep. Marie Newman (IL-03), Rep. Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Rep. Cori Bush (MO-01), and Rep. Chuy Garcia (IL-04).
It’s critical that many of us contact our representatives in the U.S. House and ask (demand) that they sign on to this resolution.  We recommend that you call your House member’s DC or district office and/or email to them through their websites.  Alternatively, you may respond in a message through JVP-Action.
The information you may want and need about Rep. McCollum’s resolution and about the organizations targeted by Israel can be found in this press release from Rep. McCollum’s office and in the newly introduced resolution itself.  Also, read Rep. McCollum’s statement  issued when the resolution was introduced today.
  • Tell your Representative to cosponsor the House Resolution introduced by Rep. McCollum “Condemning the repressive designation by the Government of Israel of six prominent Palestinian human rights and civil society groups as terrorist organizations.”
  • Tell your Representative how you feel about the Israeli government’s action against these Palestinian organizations.
  • Tell your representative to reject Israel’s criminalization of Palestinian civil society organizations as “terrorists” and to pressure Israel to revoke the designation.
  • Leave your contact info and ask for a response from your representative.
While there’s no similar measure in the U.S. Senate, there’s still a need for our Washington Senators to hear from us on this matter.  So please find the time to call and/or email their offices, too, telling them that they must reject Israel’s criminalization of Palestinian civil society organizations as “terrorists” and must pressure Israel to revoke the designation.
 
Please let WAPR know if you have questions: Email: WAPalestinianRights@gmail.com
It’s also heartening and helpful if you shoot them an email to let them know you’ve taken action and about any response you receive.
Thank you!