May 31, 2010 -- The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) is outraged at the murder by Israeli commandos' of at least 20 people -- and injuries to a further 60 -- as a result of their armed attack on a convoy of ships carrying aid to the people of Gaza last night.
COSATU sends its condolences to the families and friends of those who lost their lives and calls upon the people of the world to condemn this act of Israeli state-sponsored piracy.
The six-ship flotilla, with 750 Palestine solidarity activists from around the world on board and carrying 10,000 tonnes of aid for the people of Gaza, left Cyprus on Sunday and had been due to arrive in Gaza today.
Then, when it was about 64 km out to sea, in international waters, Israeli armed forces boarded the largest vessel and fought with those on board. The activists say Israeli troops came on board shooting. Israel is now reported to be towing the boats to the port of Ashdod and says it will deport the passengers from there.
The ships were bringing the people of Gaza 10,000 tonnes of badly needed concrete, toys, workbooks, chocolate, pasta and substantial medical supplies. It was acting in accordance with international law.
COSATU fully supports the call on the international community to pressure their governments to condemn this brutal deed and hold Israel accountable for the murder of foreign civilians at sea and illegal piracy of civilian vessels carrying humanitarian aid.
The federation welcomes the decision by the government of Spain and Sweden to withdraw their ambassadors from Israel and calls upon the South African government to follow their lead.
The flotilla was an international response to the plight of the people of Gaza, following Israel's closure of the border. Amnesty International in their Annual Human Rights Report concluded that the siege has "deepened the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Mass unemployment, extreme poverty, food insecurity and food price rises caused by shortages left four out of five Gazans dependent on humanitarian aid. The scope of the blockade and statements made by Israeli officials about its purpose showed that it was being imposed as a form of collective punishment of Gazans, a flagrant violation of international law."
The United Nations has continuously stated that only a fraction of the required aid is entering Gaza due to what it calls "the medieval siege". John Ging, the director of UNRWA in Gaza, has specifically expressed the need for the flotilla to enter Gaza.
The European Union's new foreign affairs minister, Catherine Ashton, has just reiterated its call for, "an immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons to and from Gaza".
COSATU also calls for greater support for the international boycott, divestment and sanction campaign against Israel, which is proving again to be violent and ruthless in attacking and murdering those who stand in its way. We urge all South Africans to refuse to buy or handle any goods from Israel or have any dealings with Israeli businesses.
COSATU reaffirms its support of the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to national sovereignty and the same human rights as any other people. We demand the immediate end to the Israeli siege and the illegal occupation of the sovereign territory which has been violently seized from the Palestinian nation.
Issued by Patrick Craven (national spokesperson), Congress of South African Trade Unions.