29 October 2008: This morning, I marched in
Selma; I stood down tanks in Tiananmen Square, and I helped tear down
the Berlin Wall. This morning I became a Freedom Rider.
Today’s Freedom Riders are sailing small
boats into the Gaza Strip in open defiance of the Israeli Occupation
and blockade. This morning, I arrived in Gaza aboard the SS
Dignity, part of a Free Gaza Movement delegation of twenty-seven
doctors, lawyers, teachers, and human rights activists from across
the world, including 1976 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire.
When I close my eyes, I can still see the
Israeli warship that tried to intimidate us when we reached the
twenty-mile line outside Gaza, and I can still see a thousand
cheering people crowding around our ship when we finally reached port
in Gaza City. Today, the proudest boast in the free world is,
“Nam, Nehnu Nastatyeh!”: “Yes, We Can!”
For over two years, Israel has maintained a
brutal blockade of Gaza. Less than twenty percent of needed
supplies are allowed in, forcing the closure of ninety-five percent
of local industries and resulting in skyrocketing unemployment,
poverty and childhood malnutrition rates. Eighty percent of families
are now dependent on international food aid. An hour after we
arrived, I watched a teenage boy dig through the garbage, looking for
something he could use.
Our first voyage in August-the first of any
international ship to Gaza in over forty years-showed that free
travel is possible. This second shows it is repeatable and that
the Siege of Gaza can be overcome through nonviolent resistance and
Today, the Free Gaza Movement has a simple
message for the rest of the world: What are you waiting for?
Ramzi Kysia, a Muslim-American peace activist,
has worked with CPT in Hebron and Iraq. CPTer Anne Montgomery
was in the first group of activists who breeched the Israeli blockade
of Gaza via the sea in August 2008.