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Exclusive Intifada Interview with Greta Berlin -Free Gaza MovementElias F. Harb for Salem-News.com
Elias Harb interviews one of the leading voices in the movement to bring freedom to the people of Gaza.
(MEXICO CITY) - Greta Berlin (France/US, English) has been an advocate for justice for the Palestinians since the early 60s. She is the mother of two Palestinian/American children whose father was born and raised in Safad, Palestine and is a 1948 refugee. She has an MFA in Theatre and a bachelor’s in English and, when she’s not working with the Palestinians, has spent the past 32 years teaching engineers and scientists how to design and deliver presentations. In 2003, she volunteered with the ISM, working in several villages in the occupied West bank as well as manning their media office, then returned to work again in 2003, 05 and 07.
She is one of the founders of the Free Gaza Movement and was on board the FREE GAZA, the first boat with internationals to reach this besieged strip of the Mediterranean in 41 years. She then helped run three more successful voyages to Gaza between October 22 and December 23, 2008 working on the land crew and media in Cyprus, sending more than 50 human rights workers to Gaza on board the DIGNITY. She is available to speak in Europe or the U.S.
In the pre-dawn hours of Monday, May 31, showing a terrifying disregard for human life, Israeli naval forces surrounded and boarded ships sailing to bring humanitarian aid to the blockaded Gaza Strip. On the largest ship, the Mavi Marmara, Israeli commandos opened fire on civilian passengers, killing at least 9 passengers and wounding dozens more. The final death toll is yet to be determined.
Elias Harb interviews Greta Berlin Co-founder of the Free Gaza Movement
The movement was founded in September/October 2006. A group of us were trying to figure out how to bring to the attention of the world what was happening in Gaza. One of the people working for justice for Palestine, Michael Shaik, emailed us and said, “OK. I have been thinking about this for a long time but am aware that I’m better at ideas than practicalities, so I’ll outline what I’d envisaged and let the rest of you do the sanity check. My plan was this: – Charter a big boat to sail from New York. Make it clear that its purpose is to “Break the Siege of Gaza” (that can be the slogan of the campaign). It is very important that the boat have a big send off with speeches by important people that will get it as much publicity as possible.” That kernel of an idea is what started the movement (of course, in a much smaller set of boats).
EH: Israel declares that it had the legal right to confront the flotilla from reaching Gaza. Do you think there is any justification in that stance??
EH: Are there still passengers still held in Ashdod detention camp, and any updates on whereabouts of the missing passengers?
GB: Silly man. What do you expect from a man who is the head of a country founded on terrorism? Israelis think everyone is a terrorist, because that’s how they got their country originally. The only guns on board those six boats belonged to Israel. As far as the Free Gaza movement is concerned, we are a civilian organization that works with other civilians in Gaza such as PNGO and Al Aksa Hospital. Our cargo was designated for NGOs in Gaza and all cargo was inspected by maritime experts before it left port.
GB: Yes, and we are working on filing suits over the next few weeks.
EH: Israel seized all cameras and communication equipment from flotilla passengers. Do you know of plans for getting personal property appropriated back from Israel?
GB: We have demanded all equipment and tapes be returned. They stole the equipment, ruined our cameras, shot several journalists who were trying to film the assault (killing one of them). We estimate that Israel stole over a million dollars of computers, cameras and phones. We also insist that our boats be returned. Israel still has our boat from last July when they hijacked it, kidnapped our passengers and hauled them into Israel for a week.
EH: Israel has announced it has eased the blockade on Gaza, Has the humanitarian Crises improved in Gaza, can you update on?
GB: Well, if you want ketchup and chocolate, then the blockade has been eased. If you want to rebuild your society, it has not. The people of Gaza want their freedom, not handouts from the international community. What right do they have to collectively punish a population of 1.5 million Palestinians for resisting occupation and for voting in one of the fairest elections held in the Middle East?
EH: It seems pro-Israeli lobbies have succeeded in pressuring most members of U.S. Congress to declare that Israeli had a right to defend itself, despite the massacre of innocent civilians and violations of International law. Do human rights activists have an objective to get around the pro-Israeli support in Congress?
GB: We work on it all of the time. We had people show up at Brad Sherman’s meeting in a Temple (he’s the one who wants to arrest all of us). We had people show up in Congress dressed in prison garb ready to be arrested, people like Col. Ann Wright, Ramzi Kysia, Medea Benjamin. It will take a long time for Congress to shake itself loose from Zionist (both Christian and Jewish) influence.
EH: I read in witness Gaza.com that there is a Libyan boat headed for Gaza, do you have any new information on that Boat. Also are there any plans for a new flotilla in the near future?
Special thanks to Elias F. Harb and his crew at: Intifada-Palestine.com
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