Issued by the Coalition for a Free Palestine
31 May 2010
The undermentioned civil society organisations, including the Palestine solidarity movement in South Africa, the South African Council of Churches, and the Muslim Judicial Council, are outraged by the massacre committed by Israeli forces this morning, in flagrant violation of international maritime law.
At 04:30 this morning, in international waters, Israeli navy commandos invaded an international humanitarian aid boat, Mavi Marmara, which was part of an aid flotilla travelling to the Gaza Strip. The troops fired on unarmed civilians, killing at least 19 civilians and injuring dozens more. The attack was a direct violation of international law and reflects the Israelis' arrogant and flagrant disregard for law and human rights. Israel's actions are not only a breach of international law, but a violation of all that is decent, an act of murder and terrorism.
The convoy of ships was carrying 750 people from 40 different countries including 35 international politicians, members of parliament, former diplomats, human rights activists, aid workers and journalists and was destined for the Gaza port of Rafah later this afternoon. The flotilla carried essential aid material, such as medication, construction material, toys, workbooks, chocolate and pasta to Gaza. The entry of all these materials into Gaza has been banned by Israel. It is widely accepted that Israel's imposition of the four-year long siege on the Gaza strip is a crime against humanity. This view is supported by the recent UN Report by South African Judge, Richard Goldstone. According to the UN, Israel's Operation Cast Lead in January 2009 damaged or destroyed at least 11,000 houses, 105 factories, 20 hospitals and clinics, and 159 schools, universities, play schools and technical institutions. Further, 1,400 people were killed, some 51,800 were displaced, and 20,000 remain homeless to this day because Israel will not allow construction material into the besieged territory.
By sailing directly to Gaza, outside of Israeli waters, the flotilla was attempting to break the siege which is in violation of Article 33 of the Geneva Convention which clearly states that collective punishment is a crime against humanity.
We reject with contempt the propagandist Israeli claim that the passengers of the ship, part of AN "armada of hate" as Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister called it, was carrying supporters of "global jihad, al-Qaeda". These are lies meant to divert attention from the fact that Israeli soldiers opened fire on unarmed civilians in international waters.
South Africans will from today be joining the call to demonstrate support for the courageous women and men on the flotilla and to mourn the loss of those murdered on their humanitarian aid mission. We demand that, until Israel acts in accordance with international law, releases all political prisoners, and lifts the siege on Gaza, the South African government:
* immediately recalls the South African ambassador to Tel Aviv;
* expels the Israeli ambassador back to Israel;
* sever all diplomatic relations with Israel;
* support the international campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions against the Apartheid Israeli state; and
* works tirelessly in international fora to ensure that the inhuman and illegal siege on Gaza be lifted.
For more information, please call:
Salim Vally (Palestine Solidarity Committee): 082 802 5936
Igsaan Hendricks (Muslim Judicial Council): 083 384 6973
Naazim Adam (Palestine Solidarity Alliance): 082 336 6711
This statement is endorsed by:
South African Council of Churches
South African Communist Party
Muslim Judicial Council
Muslim Youth Movement
South African Municipal Workers' Union
Palestine Solidarity Committee
Palestine Solidarity Group
Palestine Solidarity Alliance