GAZA: "Nam, Nehnu Nastatyeh!" is Arabic for "Yes, We Can!"

4 November 2008
GAZA: "Nam, Nehnu Nastatyeh!" is Arabic for "Yes, We Can!"

by Ramzi Kysia

[Note: the following article has been edited for length.  People may see the full version at  Kysia, a Muslim-American peace activist, has worked with the Christian Peacemaker Teams in Hebron and Iraq.  CPTer Anne Montgomery was with the first group of activists who broke through the Israeli blockade on Gaza, via the sea, in August 2008.]

29 October 2008
This morning, I walked to the Indian Ocean and made salt in defiance of the British Occupation of India.  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 Mairead Maguire—the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

When I close my eyes, I still hear the crash of ocean waves, and taste salt from the sea spray.  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 refused to be intimidated and finally reached port in Gaza City.  Today, the proudest boast in the free world is truly, "Nam, Nehnu Nastatyeh!" - "Yes, We Can!"

After watching the Dignity’s arrival, Fida Qishta, the local coordinator for the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) in the Gaza Strip, said " Now more groups must come, not only by sea but also the crossings at Erez and Rafah must be opened as well.  This second breaking of the siege means a lot, actually.  It's the second time in two months that people have come to Gaza without Israel’s permission, and that tells us that Gaza will be free."

For over two years, Israel has maintained a brutal blockade of Gaza.  Less than twenty percent of needed supplies are allowed in.  This has forced ninety-five percent of local industries to shut down, resulting in massively increased unemployment and poverty rates.  Childhood malnutrition has skyrocketed, and eighty percent of families are now dependent on international food aid.  An hour after we arrived, I watched a teenage boy digging through the garbage, looking for something he could use.

Human rights activist Caoimhe Butterly also sailed aboard the Dignity.  According to Butterly, "My feelings are bittersweet.  Although we're overjoyed at reaching Gaza a second time, that joy is tempered by the fact that the conscience of the world has been reduced to a small boat and twenty-seven seasick activists.  This mission is a reminder of not only the efficacy of non-violent direct action, but also of the deafening silence of the international community."

Our first voyage in August, the first voyage of any international ship to Gaza in over forty years, showed that it was possible to freely travel.  This second voyage shows that it is repeatable, and this sets a precedent: the Siege of Gaza can be overcome through non-violent resistance and direct action.

Today, the Free Gaza Movement has a simple message for the rest of the world: What are you waiting for?