“Our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians” – Nelson Mandela

This website is no longer live, but an archive you are welcome to use. Its main focus was live daily journaling from Gaza during and after Israel’s Operation Cast Lead, and it has been adapted into the book Gaza: Beneath the Bombs. The authors may well be available for talks etc… just leave a message, or have a look at the calendar of events. We would also love to see Gaza: Beneath the Bombs translated into other languages in paper or electronic format, with any profits going to a solidarity project, so get in touch if you can translate.

This archive is dedicated to Vik, and the Gaza friends who welcomed us home.

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June 30: Watching from a distance

You don’t need me to tell you what a battle is going on for this flotilla…and I am doing little but watch from amongst my textbooks and stethoscopes. I am sorry I have not given you my usual updates, but I know you will do perfectly well without me. I think I am just still at sea (ha) in many ways, and watching is all I can manage.

Speaking of which.

Al Jazeera made a documentary about Vik and ISM’s Gaza work, and Adie has just told me that you can watch it here, where you can also see the times it is on the telly this week, if you get Al Jazeera.

Vik had two dreams: to become a writer and to get back to Palestine after Israel refused him entry. He achieved both, and no matter how impossible it is for me to believe I will never share an evening of shisha and mojito with him again, I do actually see his life as complete.

As all our hearts follow the 2011 flotilla, named “Stay Human” in his memory, I want to give you my own translation of the first words Vik posted to his Italian blog after he and I and our comrades arrived to Gaza on our two little boats on August 23, 2008.

“History is us.
History is not cowardly governments
with their loyalty to whoever has the strongest military

History is made by ordinary people
everyday people, with family at home and a regular job
who are committed to peace as a great ideal
to the rights of all
to staying human.

History is us
who risked our lives
to bring utopia within reach
to offer a dream, a hope, to hundreds of thousands of people
Who cried with us
as we reached the port of Gaza

…Our message of peace
is a call to action
for other ordinary people like ourselves
not to hand over your lives
to whatever puppeteer is in charge this time round

But to take responsibility for the revolution
First, the inner revolution
to give love, to give empathy
It is this that will change the world

We have shown that peace is not an impossible utopia
Or perhaps we have shown that sometimes
utopia can be possible

Believe this
Stand firm against intimidation, fear, and despair
And simply remain human.”

– Vittorio Arrigoni

In the words of Vik’s mother, Egidia Beretta:

“This lost child of mine is more alive than ever before, like the grain that has fallen to the ground and died to bring forth a plentiful harvest. I see it and hear it already in the words of his friends, above all the younger among them, some closer, some from afar…we were a long way from Vittorio, but now we are closer than ever, with his living presence magnified at every passing hour, like a wind from Gaza, from his beloved Mediterranean, blowing fierily to deliver the message of his hope and of his love for those without a voice, for the weak and the oppressed, passing the baton.”

Aren’t we lucky to have a vision that is worth all we can give it – even our lives?

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Freedom Flotilla 2 is coming…

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Order your copy here…

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April 15: Farewell to our comrade and Gaza’s brother

Thank you Eva for writing what I can’t; a goodbye for Vik. Last night, my friend Kathleen drew this copyleft image. We always thought Vik had a bit of a Che look about him; he makes a good icon, doesn’t he. For some reason, my Skype contacts have a “call me!” message from Vik stuck permanently under “today” – which appears every day. This makes me laugh – even today – because he hated answering the phone above all things and would spend some time swearing at it before picking it up. I think I’ll leave the message there, just to give me the idea that somehow, if I really wanted to, I could.

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The final post…for a while

(But the book tour continues in the UK and Australia!)

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve finished the last 12 hour shifts of my first year of midwifery studies, begun attending the lectures for my second year, and facilitated an international FreeGaza meeting in Brussels in the middle. Also this year so far, I’ve done about 30 book events – and thank you so much to all the groups and people who’ve made those happen. I’ve been posting occasionally to this blog since I returned from Gaza, but I’ve decided it’s time to stop…I need to step up the attention to my degree (it’s getting harder, and I’m not getting smarter!), while keeping going with more book events in my spare moments.

In Palestine, and in Palestine solidarity, there’s so much going on, and I’m very aware this blog is in no way keeping up. The Jewish Boat to Gaza just got stopped by Israel; Ewa has just written about the Flotilla attack, while Adie is writing from Gaza about his work with some of the people you met via my blog, including Dr Mona and the Samouni family; Sarah my co-author is blogging from the West Bank for a few weeks; the Russell Tribunal is about to convene in London and needs your support, the UN Human Rights Commission enquiry into the flotilla attacks has reached some very strong conclusions and a summary of the report is here (but it doesn’t actually recommend anything…hmm…); and the Viva Palestina convoy is on the road again. And the FreeGaza boats will sail again soon…

Anyway, for me, the role of my own writing has been much less important since I left Gaza, and I would rather you went and read writing coming out of Palestine right now (look at my links page if you need some contacts to start you off.) I will continue to tell Gaza stories via my book – you can invite me along anywhere you need a random activist-author-midwife type person (so keep an eye on my events calendar which I will keep updating) and one day I will be back here writing again. I don’t really have the words I need to thank all of you – the readers who opened your hearts to my stories of Gaza, when that meant, and continues to mean, a lot of pain and sometimes horror. I hope what you’ve also found here is some of the courage, hope, and joy that my Gaza friends have shared with me.

Ken Loach on why he supports the Russell Tribunal:

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August 23 2010: Happy 2nd Birthday Free Gaza!

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Go Emily! Go Tristan!

Emily and her specialty arty eye wear

Resistance is the secret of joy. Alice Walker said it and – while she also said “everything we love can be saved” and I still feel mad at her for that cos however way you look at it that is heartbreakingly not true – sometimes, sometimes, I believe the one about resistance. It looks like Emily does too. Still attached to FreeGaza twitter texts, I have just followed a link to discover 21 year old Jewish-American Emily, whose eye the Israeli army removed with a tear gas cannister last month, singing the cheerfulest blues I’ve heard in a long time about the whole thing, on her own blog, Thirsty Pixels. Continue reading

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Gaza Freedom Flotilla: This is who we lost

Killed: Cengiz Akyüz, 41, with a surviving daughter

Lawrence of Cyberia has rounded some pictures and a handful of sentences about those who Israel killed when they attacked the Freedom Flotilla. This is who we lost. Lawrence also contrasted Israel’s pictures of “weapons” found on the Mavi Marmara with “Picture of weapons found during a cursory search of my kitchen and basement.” Sums it up perfectly.

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