By Gerry Adams (from Leargas)
In the early hours of Saturday morning the Rachel Corrie was hijacked by Israeli forces. Its detention by the Israeli government brings to an end this particular phase in the international effort to break the illegal siege of Gaza.
The Flotilla was an heroic effort to highlight the imprisonment of one and a half million people by the Israeli state and the humanitarian crisis that the siege has created.
All of those involved in planning, assisting, procuring supplies, raising funding and taking part in the Flotilla are to be commended for their courageous actions.
The Irish contribution to the Freedom Flotilla was significant. People and organisations responded very positively and provided the aid that filled the holds of the Rachel Corrie.
And Irish public opinion, with the exception of some unionists, was clearly in support of the humanitarian aid workers and appalled by the violent response of the Israeli government.
But the campaign to end the illegal siege of Gaza, to end the illegal construction of settlements on Palestinian land, secure the demolition of the illegal separation wall and to achieve freedom and justice for the Palestinian people, will continue in the time ahead.
The Israeli government’s attack on the flotilla and the killing and wounding of aid workers has brought a new level of condemnation but the real challenge is to mobilise international opinion and political pressure so that the situation for Palestinians improves.
A report published a few weeks ago by the United Nations ‘Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs occupied Palestinian territory’ gives an insight into the extent of the hardships imposed on the Palestinian people of the west Band and Gaza strip by the Israeli government.
The report reveals that the situation in the Gaza strip ‘presents severe impediments to humanitarian operations.’ According to the UN the restrictions imposed by Israel in June 2007 have either prevented progress on planned humanitarian projects or created significant delays.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East - UNWRA - reported that 24 construction and infrastructure projects have been blocked. This includes 12,000 Palestinian homes destroyed or damaged by the Israeli assault last year and 100 schools. It also includes health facilities and sewage infrastructure.
A critical side affect of the Israeli government’s restrictions is the additional financial costs it imposes on the humanitarian community and the way in which its ability to respond to urgent humanitarian issues is severely limited.
So, there is a lot of solidarity work to be done in the time ahead.