The Free Gaza Movement was first concieved in 2006 by a small group of people mainly based in California but including others from around the world and other parts of the US. Many of these people had been banned from Palestine by the Israeli’s because of their peace activist work there and were now looking for another way to give effective assistance to the Palestinian People.
By 2008 this small group had grown to include people from many different countries and was ready to attempt to take boats to Gaza carrying a small amount of humanitarian aid but principly to break the inhuman siege which has been enforced by Israel on the people of Gaza since 2006. This siege was on top of years of occupation and severe restrictions on movement and trade with very little access to the outside world for the 1.5 million inhabitants of The Gaza Strip.
This first trip in August 2008 took 2 small boats ‘The Free Gaza’ and ‘The Liberty’ into Gaza Port, the first time since the Isreali invasion in 1967 that any ship had come from outside waters into Gaza. The greeting we received from the People of Gaza was overwhelming, they were beginning to think that the outside world had completely forgotton about them and the thanks we recieved was incredible with the people on board even being given honourary Palestinian Passports. An amazing honour and I know that I will treasure this for the rest of my life. This made us realize just how important what we had done was for the People of Gaza and made us even more determined to achieve our aim of creating a link to Gaza from the outside world which the Israeli’s don’t control, a link which not only brings in some Humanitarian Aid but also gives back to the people there some real contact with the outside world and allows the creation of links between civil organizations, communities and individuals with their counterparts in other countries.
We also left behind a handful of activists who restarted the International Solidarity Movement Gaza and have been working ever since with the Fishing and Farming communities as well as helping in the Ambulances during the 3 week Invasion which began at the end of December.
Between then and the end of December 2008 there were a further 4 trips on our new boat ‘The Dignity’ which brought in Medicine and Doctors with the collaboration of The European Campaign to Break the Siege and also a charity from Qatar which sent in medicine. They also took European and Arab Members of Parliament on fact finding missions, including a cross party group of 3 MSP’s Sandra White, Pauline MacNeill and Hugh O’Donnel. There was also a boat which took out students who had scholarships for outside Universities as well as visas etc for their countries of destination but were among the 15,000 students unable to leave Gaza to further their education. For more information on these trips please visit the Free Gaza Movement website.
At the end of December 2008, during Israels brutal invasion, The FGM tried to reach Gaza with urgent medical supplies when halfway there the Dignity was rammed by an Israeli Gunboat, by amazing luck none of the people on board were injured but the Dignity was severely damaged and had to limp to Lebanon for repairs. It managed to get back to Cyprus but then sank during a storm due to the amount of damage sustained, made worse during the storm.
Later in January there was another attempt, this time with our quickly bought replacement the ‘Spirit of Humanity’ this time the attempt had to be abandoned when she was confronted by the Israeli’s again around the halfway mark in bad weather.
Since then FGM has been regrouping and arranging for the next trip when the ‘Spirit of Humanity’ left Larnaca on the 29th of June. This time after being confronted at the half way mark then shadowed by the Israeli Navy all night ‘The Spirit’ was boarded by the Israeli’s just after it crossed into the Israeli ‘Blockade Zone’. Everyone on board was arrested then taken to Israel and deported after around a week in Jail. The humanitarian aid on board has disappeared.