A letter from one about to go to Gaza on ‘The Audacity of Hope’
By: Gale Khourey Toensing
I'm honored and delighted to report that I'll be a passenger on the U.S. Boat to Gaza -- The Audacity of Hope -- which will be part of the international Freedom Flotilla whose goal is to break Israel's illegal blockade of the tiny Mediterrean coastal enclave where 1.5 million people live in an oppressive open air prison imposed by their neighboring state.
Among the passengers will be Alice Walker, African American Pulitzer prize-winning author of The Color Purple; former U.S. Ambassador Col. Ann Wright, who resigned from the State Department in 2003 to protest the U.S. invasion of Iraq; and the amazing Hedy Epstein, an 86-year-old Holocaust survivor. I can't wait to meet them and all of the other passengers. Alice Walker compared the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza to the Freedom Rides of the 1960's civil rights movement when people in the northeast boarded buses and headed to the American south to challenge segregation. The Freedom Flotilla to Gaza, Alice Walker said, "is the Freedom Ride of this era."
Part of the reason why I'm a passenger on The Audacity of Hope is because the Israeli blockade of Gaza is unconditionally and immorally supported by the U.S. government -- and our tax dollars. It's important for Americans to speak out against "injustice anywhere," because, as Martin Luther King Jr. said, it's "a threat to justice everywhere." If our government won't defend Palestinians' human rights because of some misperceived benefit of its alliance with Israel or -- more likely -- because politicans are afraid of being targeted for non-election by the powerful Israeli lobby, then civilians of conscience must speak out.
But I'm also going to Gaza to remind the world that Palestinians are the indigenous people of Palestine and as such they have inherent rights of sovereignty and self determination under international law and the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Israel voted to adopt at the U.N. General Assembly on September 13, 2007. Israel's control over the West Bank and Gaza currently prevents Palestine from asserting and exercising sovereignty over its land, resources and borders, including its border on the Mediterrean coast. By sailing to Gaza's seaport there, passengers on The Audacity of Hope are telling the world that we recognize Palestinian sovereignty and its right to receive visitors from abroad, and we are willing to risk Israel's promise of aggression toward us in order to assert it.
In less than three weeks, I'll fly to Athens to meet up with around 60 other U.S. citizens who are dedicated to promoting human rights, national rights and civil rights for the Palestinian people, who have been living under Israeli military occupation since 1967 -- an occupation that is deemed illegal by international law, the United Nations, and dozens of human rights organizations around the world. We'll meet up with more than a dozen boats from more than a dozen countries carrying more than 1,000 passengers bringing messages of support and solidarity to the people of Gaza. Israel has mounted an hysterical public relations campaign to stop the flotilla, claiming that its pasengers are "Islamic terrorists" or they will be "smuggling arms" or that the flotilla poses a threat to its "national security." None of it is true. We are unarmed, we're fully committed to non-violence and international law, and our cargo will be open to international inspection.
But the only cargo The Audacity of Hope will carry to the children, women and men of Gaza will be hope -- very audacious hope indeed in the form of thousands of letters, postcards, emails, drawings and other expressions of love, humanity and solidarity. That's where I hope (there's that word again!) you come in. Please join our letter writing campaign. It's called To Gaza with Love and you can find a video about it featuring Alice Walker, actress Kathleen Chalfant, and others, and instructions about where to send your messages at http://ustogaza.org/. You can also sign up to receive email action alerts during The Audacity of Hope be part of our journey to meet and greet the people of Gaza.
With all good wishes and hope for peace in our only world,
About the author: Gale Courey Toensing, a Canaan, Conn., resident, is the editor of widely read The Corner Report.
She received a Master of Fine Arts in Writing from Vermont College, Norwich University in 1999, winning the national New Writers Introductory Award for her poem “Personal Belongings,” which was published in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Arizona State University’s literary magazine.
She has been writing for Indian Country Today newspaper for years., She worked for12 years as a general-assignment correspondent for the daily Waterbury [Conn.] Republican American and as a free-lance writer, designer and editor. At the daily, she won the Housatonic Valley Association’s Environmental Reporting Award in 1998, and the Connecticut Greenways Award for environmental reporting in 2001.
She is particularly interested in the global struggles of indigenous peoples for their lands and self determination.