Refaat Alareer included in his foreword to the book a tribute to US Boats to Gaza. He wrote:
In 2011, one part of the outpouring of global solidarity activism was the project that a group of US citizens launched, to fill a whole boat with letters written to the people of Gaza by people from around the world who cared about their fate, and then to sail in to Gaza’s sea-lapped shore. They named their boat after the title of a book written (before his election) by President Barack Obama: “The Audacity of Hope.”
Long before the boat could reach Gaza, the government of Greece, under great pressure from Israel, moved in and stopped it completing its mission. But the spirit in which this book has been created and published is a spirit of reciprocity and appreciation of all the efforts made by people outside Gaza (including many very caring and well-known writers), to break through the personal isolation in which Israel has sought to keep us caged. (page 25, Gaza Writes Back, edited by Refaat Alareer)
Following in the footsteps of Ray McGovern, Jeffery Sachs, Max Blumenthal and Randy Credico , Col. Ann Wright was asked to speak Monday, Dec. 11, at the U.N. Security Council on weapons being supplied to conflict areas and their role in preventing resolution of those conflicts. She prepared a statement that focused on the current Israeli assault on Gaza, but two hours before the meeting she was informed that since the meeting was on Ukraine, if she spoke about Gaza instead, the president of the council would cut her off and she would lose the opportunity to speak. She quickly amended her statement to focus more on Ukraine, and you can hear the remarks as she gave them in the video below. We are publishing her statement as originally written.–The editors of Peace & Planet News
On the Issue of Weapons Supplied into Conflict Areas and their Detrimental Effect on the
Prospects for the Settlement of Conflicts
By Ann Wright, U.S. Army Colonel (retired) & Diplomat (resigned)
I am pleased to address you on the issue of weapons supplied into conflict areas and their detrimental effect on the prospects for settlement of conflicts.
I served 29 years in the U.S. Army and Army Reserves and retired as a Colonel. While in the U.S. Army, I taught the Law of Land Warfare and the Geneva Conventions at the JFK Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. I was in the U.S. Army during the U.S. wars on Viet Nam, Laos, Cambodia, Grenada, Panama and the U.S. Central American wars in El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua.
I was also a U.S. diplomat for 16 years and served in U.S. Embassies in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia. I was on the small team that reopened the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan in December 2001. At the last four Embassies, I was the Deputy Chief of Mission.
In Somalia, I was seconded to the United Nations Mission in Somalia, UNOSOM, in 1993-1994 as the head of the Justice Division with the mission of reconstituting the Somali police, judicial and prison systems.
But, I resigned from the U.S. government twenty years ago in March 2003 in opposition to the U.S. war on Iraq, a war that, to its credit, the U.N. Security Council refused to authorize.
I recount my personal history to underscore my thorough familiarity with conflicts in various regions, and to share my view of the futility of relying on military action instead of diplomacy for conflict resolution.
As a retired U.S. Army Colonel and former U.S. diplomat, I speak on my own behalf now as a concerned U.S. citizen who as a taxpayer pays for the weapons my country uses and sells to fuel wars that kill innocent civilians.
On the topic of today, there is no doubt that weapons supplied into conflict areas have a detrimental effect on the prospects for settlement of conflicts. In fact, the continued supply of weapons will prolong any conflict.
The important question is, how do you get conflicts to end?
I will begin with a reminder that the process for ending wars begins with a ceasefire. The process can be very long and thousands of people – millions even – can be killed before there is an agreement on a ceasefire.
For example, during the Korean war from 1950-1953, talks between parties to the conflict began in 1951 and finally concluded, after 575 meetings, with an armistice in 1953. During that war, over 4 million Koreans from the North and South, military and civilian, 500,000 Chinese military, 35,000 U.S. military and tens of thousands in the U.N military command were killed.
For our planet’s situation today, on behalf of the millions of concerned citizens worldwide who have been demonstrating over the past two years for a CEASEFIRE in Ukraine, and for the past two and one-half months for a CEASEFIRE in Gaza, I say:
STOP THE KILLINGS! CEASEFIRE NOW! NEGOTIATE !
In the 70 days of the Israeli-Gaza conflict, over 18,000 Palestinians in Gaza have already been killed, 7,000 children and 4,000 women. An estimated 6,000 are still under the rubble of their homes. 43,000 have been wounded. Over 260 Palestinians have been killed and 3,365 wounded during this period in the West Bank and thousands have been arrested and subjected to humiliating and degrading treatment.
The Israeli military has reported that 1,147 civilians in Israel and 418 Israeli soldiers have been killed in the horrific October 7 Hamas attack and the subsequent Israeli ground invasion of Gaza. We now know that the Israeli military knew of the pending attack and did not defend against it.
There has been only one six-day temporary ceasefire in the fighting, to allow for the release of hostages and release of Palestinian young detainees who were jailed without charges or trial.
This temporary ceasefire allowed for a very short time for a minuscule amount of medical, relief and food supplies to come into the Gaza ghetto for the 2.3 million who have been ordered by Israel into one-third of the area of the Gaza in forced displacement. WHO (World Health Organization) reports that Palestinians are starving.
Only 10 percent of the food to feed 2.3 million has been allowed into Gaza by Israel. Israel is again starving the people of Gaza as they did in 2006 when they infamously put “Gaza on a diet” and only allowed into Gaza food of a limited caloric value.
Food items such as pasta, flour, yeast, rice, salt, sugar, chickpeas, lentils, beans, olives, canned tuna and powdered milk were restricted or prohibited.
Sanitary items such as soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, diapers, baby wipes, detergent and dish-washing liquid were also restricted or prohibited.
A 2012 joint report by Save the Children and UK-based Medical Aid for Palestinians revealed that 10% of children under the age of 5 experienced stunted growth due to prolonged malnutrition due to the Israeli blockade and siege on Gaza.
The same study revealed that 58.6% of Gaza’s school children were anemic, as were more than 68% of children aged nine to 12 months and nearly 37% of pregnant women.
There is no safe place left for Palestinians in Gaza from the massive U.S. supplied to Israeli bombs, rockets and other munitions.
The targeting of the general population of Gaza and level of destruction of medical, academic, residential and commercial areas under the guise of eliminating Hamas is a textbook case of genocide and it must end now.
U.N. Secretary General Guterres invoked Article 99 and has warned: “Amid constant bombardment by the Israeli Defense Forces and without shelter or essentials to survive, I expect public order to completely break down soon, rendering even limited humanitarian assistance impossible.” He also warned of possible epidemics.
Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Blinken said there is a “gap between … the intent to protect civilians, and the actual results that we’re seeing on the ground” in Gaza. Yet, three days ago, on Friday, December 8, in this very room, the U.S. vetoed a U.N. security council resolution for a humanitarian pause/ceasefire in the fighting in Gaza which would have protected civilians. This veto was indefensible and wrong.
The U.S. veto of the Ceasefire in Gaza is a moral failure and a dangerous move that ensures continuation of the Israeli genocide of Palestinians in Gaza.
That U.S. veto does not reflect the view of the U.S. citizenry who want the killing in Gaza to end. The Biden administration is on thin ice with the American public for its support and protections of the Israeli genocide of Palestinians in Gaza.
The U.S. speaks of its shared values with Israel.
U.S. values do not include the bombing, shelling, destruction of hospitals, schools, universities, residential areas, water supplies, electrical networks, sewage networks, degrading behavior towards those who are still alive, and making return of 75% of Gazans to their homes purposely impossible—the genocide in the Gaza Ghetto.
U.S. values do not include [13,981 120mm high-explosive] tank shells worth $106 million to be immediately sent to Israel for shelling Palestinians civilians, bypassing any congressional oversight.
Somehow the U.S. government, the President, White House, State Department, Congress seem to have forgotten that everyone has the right to “Self-Defense.”
Israel is not the only country that can use that term.
Palestinians have the right of self-defense against 75 years of occupation, blockade, siege, quarantine, theft of lands, bombing of homes, hospitals, universities, schools, imprisonment without charges.
My remarks are not anti-semitic. They are honest assessments of the actions of the State of Israel and my own government, the United States.
This is not anti-semitism; it’s the description of the criminal actions that Israel and the United States are perpetrating on the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.
Today, the United States is providing weapons to two major conflicts: the one between Israel and Gaza, and the one between Russia and Ukraine.
The U.S. provides $3.8 billion annually to the Israeli government for Israeli military use.
Now, the Biden administration has asked the U.S. congress to approve another $14 billion with virtually no restriction on their use against the people in Gaza
On December 7, 2023, only four days ago, in a press conference with the new UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron, Secretary of State Tony Blinken said that over the last two years, the United States has provided $70 billion to support Ukraine and European allies have provided more than $110 billion. Biden said, “If you look at the investments that we’ve made in Ukraine’s defense
to deal with this aggression, 90 percent of the security assistance we’ve provided has actually been spent here in the United States with our manufacturers, with our production, and that’s produced more American jobs, more growth in our own economy. So this has also been a win-win that we need to continue,” Blinken said.
This is not a “win-win” for civilians in conflict areas.
The win-win is for the military industrial complex and the politicians and retired government officials who receive senior positions in the weapons industry after their retirements!
In closing, I will read part of a poem that describes how some parents in Gaza have resorted to writing their children’s names on their legs to help identify them should either they, the parents, or the children be killed in Israeli bombing.
It was written for the children of Gaza but is applicable to children in all conflict areas:
Write My Name on My Leg, Mama.
By Zeina Azzam
Write my name on my leg, Mama
Use the black permanent marker
with the ink that doesn’t bleed
if it gets wet…
Write my name on my leg, Mama
and on the legs of my sisters and brothers.
This way we will belong together
This way we will be known as your children.
Write my name on my leg, Mama
When the bomb hits our house
When the walls crush our skulls and bones
our legs will tell our story, how
there was nowhere for us to run.
On behalf of the people of the world who want to live in peace and safety, I say again:
Ann Wright is a 29-year U.S. Army/Army Reserves veteran, a retired U.S. Army colonel and retired U.S. State Department official, known for her outspoken opposition to the Iraq War. She is a member of the Veterans For Peace Advisory Board. She received the State Department Award for Heroism in 1997, after helping to evacuate several thousand people during the civil war in Sierra Leone. She is most noted for having been one of three State Department officials to publicly resign in direct protest of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Wright was also a passenger on the Challenger 1, which along with the Mavi Marmara, was part of the 2010 Gaza flotilla. She served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia. In December 2001 she was on the small team that reopened the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. She is the co-author of the book Dissent: Voices of Conscience. She has written frequently on rape in the military.
Join the International Campaign to Send Ships With Medical and Relief Assistance to Gaza
November 25, 2023
The horrific 49-day Israeli attack on the civilian population of Gaza continues with over 15,000 Palestinians dead, including more than 6,150 children, and more than 36,000 wounded in the Gaza Strip. Virtually all of the 2.3 million residents of Gaza have been forced into the southern half of the tiny enclave. Two-hundred and twenty-six Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Israeli attacks have put 27 of 35 hospitals across Gaza out of operation, according to the World Health Organization.
Bakeries, grain mills, agricultural land, water and sanitation facilities have been destroyed by Israeli attacks.
There will be an opportunity for a limited number of passengers to be on the ships. We encourage members of the medical professions to be on board. To apply to be a passenger please fill out this form or email us and we will contact you.
If you would like to be known as a participant in “Save Gaza” but can’t be on the boats, consider donating the amount of a round-trip ticket to Istanbul ($1000) and we will place your name on a plaque that will sail on one of the boats.
The Freedom Flotilla 2023 took to the seas again in a 58-foot converted Norwegian fishing boat called Handala! Halted by COVID for a few years, the Gaza Freedom Flotilla sailed this summer in northern Europe. With port visits in Norway, the UK, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and Sweden the Freedom Flotilla Coalition did educational events with local Palestinian solidarity organizers. In 2024, Handala will sail to Gaza with educational port visits in Europe and the Mediterranean with a final push to Gaza to break the illegal Israeli blockade!
Handala has handled the sea well, coming across the North Sea in high seas from Oslo to Scotland in mid-June. A 200-year old broken bridge in the Caledonian Canal in the Scottish Highlands halted her progress for several days, but the crew was warmly welcomed by all who passed the locks! Unfortunately, the delay caused cancellation of stops in Glasgow, Dublin and Waterford, but Freedom Flotilla members and local Palestine Solidarity groups held wonderful and well-attended events in the other stops.
One silver lining from being stuck at Laggan Locks in Scotland, was meeting a captain from Inverness, more than an hour away. He is a member of a Palestinian solidarity group and was thrilled to meet us. By great fortune, when he learned Handala needed a captain for an upcoming leg of our trip he introduced us to one! He was both an excellent captain and engineer!
So many have supported the journey along the way. A doctor in Fort William, Scotland graciously brought us multiple dinners and groceries. He has done medical training in Gaza, the West Bank, and Rwanda. A merchant along the canal gave crew members free dinners when he learned about Handala and our efforts to break Israel’s illegal blockade.
Four Scottish border police officers came aboard in the middle of Scotland, divided us, interrogated the crew and inspected the boat. A local told us that in all the years he had worked there he’d never seen the border police come. It turned out to be a great way to attract local attention and solidarity!
Throughout the UK, local Palestine Solidarity Campaigns (PSCs) have been great. We were greeted in Liverpool by the local PSC who had organized events where local officials, firefighters, union organizers, and others spoke about their solidarity work for Palestine. We also had an event at the oldest mosque in Britain where Alex McDonald from Houston, a US Boats to Gaza steering committee member spoke after prayers; later we were part of a panel in an event at a local church. The outreach in Liverpool was excellent!
Cardiff PSC also welcomed us as we approached the lock. Seeing banners and Palestinian solidarity signs in both English and Welsh was impressive! As soon as Handala docked, a local TV station interviewed captain Clive Haswell in Welsh and later he had an English radio interview on BBC. Good exposure for the campaign!
Cardiff organized a demonstration downtown in response to the violent attack on the Jenin refugee camp by more than a thousand Israeli troops. We marched with their solidarity group through the town to the BBC offices to deliver a letter condemning their biased coverage of the Israeli/Palestinian situation.
There have been further stops in Bristol and Southampton England as well as Rotterdam, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Halmstad, Gothenburg, and Oslo.
US Boats to Gaza was well represented in the flotilla’s crew. Alex McDonald and Tighe Barry sailed with Handala from Oslo, through Scotland. Alex continued to Cardiff and Bristol. Ann Wright was part of the ground crew in Liverpool. Kit Kittredge and Keith Meyers represented the Freedom Flotilla at the events in Waterford, Ireland. All US Boats to Gaza volunteers paid their own expenses and we have incredible gratitude for their efforts.
Thank you for your continuing support in raising awareness of the situation in Gaza, and in holding our governments accountable for their complicity in the violations of Palestinian human rights! We join together globally to let Palestinians know that they are not forgotten or alone!
Handala, the Freedom Flotilla Coalition’s 2023-4 boat has been sailing throughout northern Europe since April. She officially left on her journey on June 16, 2023 after introductory stops at ports throughout Norway. She then sailed across the North Sea to Scotland and down the Caledonial Canal.
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!
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.
“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.
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.
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,
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 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 Lisa 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.”
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!
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: