Break the siege of Gaza!

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TWO boats carrying humanitarian aid breached the Israeli siege of the Palestinian people in Gaza when they arrived at the main port of Gaza City on Saturday.

The vessels, Liberty and Free Gaza, set out from Larnaca in Cyprus on Friday and were manned by 44 volunteers from 17 countries. One of the ships had ‘End the Occupation!’ painted on it in huge letters.

Those aboard the boats wanted to highlight the plight of the 1.5 million people who have endured the 14-month-long blockade imposed by the Zionist military regime, which has led to poverty and malnutrition. Among other things, the boats were carrying 200 hearing aids for children and 5,000 balloons.

Israel had warned those on the boats not to approach Gaza and jammed their radio communications, preventing them linking up with a third boat carrying reporters from the southern Israeli port of Ashdod.

Twenty Palestinian fishing boats, that went out to meet Liberty and Free Gaza, were turned back by Israeli gunships firing warning shots.

As the ships approached the territorial waters of the Palestinian territory, Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Aviv Shiron signalled a change of course saying: ‘We know who the passengers are and what they are bringing with them and so we have no problem with letting them through.’

However, he added: ‘This decision was about these boats. We will see what happens with any future boats.’

Thousands of Palestinians turned out to greet the arrival of the two boats. The crowds chanted: ‘God is great!’ and ‘No, no to the siege!’

Riad al-Faraj, from the International Committee to Break the Siege in Gaza, one of the groups which helped organise the voyage, said: ‘This is a great victory in breaking the siege and the beginning of what we hope will be more and more boats.’

Prime Minister Ismail Haniyah, a leading member of Hamas and the head of the administration in Gaza, went to the port to greet the people who had broken the siege. He said: ‘We call for more activities to break the unfair siege imposed on our people.’

Abubakr Nofal, a Hamas spokesman said the voyage by the boats was a ‘strong message to the Arab people and to Arab leaders’. He called on them to put pressure on the US and Israel to lift the blockade.

The 230-mile voyage in rough seas by the 44 aid workers and peace protesters must be applauded for breaching the siege. However, to destroy Israel’s blockade requires more than protest actions by passionate, well-meaning individuals and protest groups.

They have demonstrated what needs to be done to end the siege by those who have bigger ships and the military might to protect them.

The United Nations, dominated by imperialist states like the US and Britain which sponsor Israel and back its military actions, is not going to address the crisis in Gaza.

The Arab peoples and their governments have a fraternal responsibility to break the siege and ensure that the men, women and children of Gaza are not starved to death as they defiantly fight to end the Israeli occupation.

The Egyptian government is complicit in the blockade of Gaza, overseeing the Rafah crossing. The Egyptian people must demand that President Hosni Mubarak’s government opens the Rafah border to allow free movement of people, goods and services.

The Arab peoples must demand their governments charter ships to follow in the wake of Liberty and Free Gaza to provide food and essential supplies to the Palestinians.

Above all, the working-class movements in the US and Britain have a major responsibility for ending the siege of Gaza. Their governments are the main sponsors of the Zionist entity.

Without US dollars and British diplomatic support, Israel could not maintain its occupation and the siege of Gaza for more than a few days.

Most trade unions, which meet at the conference of the Trades Union Congress next month, are on record supporting the Palestinian people in the struggle for their homeland. They must implement this policy.

The trade unions must act to get rid of the Brown government, that gives uncritical support to Israel and justifies its atrocities, and replace it with a workers’ government that will supply aid to Gaza and support the struggle for a Palestinian state, with its capital in Jerusalem.