By Elias F. Harb
Elias Harb interviews one of the leading voices in the movement to bring freedom to the people of Gaza.
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
Elias Harb:Can you tell us what motivated you to the Palestinian Cause and the Free Gaza Movement and when was the movement founded?
Greta Berlin: I married a 1948 Palestinian refugee from Safad and have two Palestinian/American children. I've been part of justice for Palestine since 1967. Once you go and see what has happened to the Palestinians (I call them the final victims of WWII, because they have paid the price for what Europe did to the Jews), it is impossible to leave. I am no longer married, my children are grown, I am still working for justice.
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: How many times have the Free Gaza movement tried to break the Israeli siege and have you succeeded in getting any boasts into Gaza so far?
GB: The Freedom Flotilla was our 9th voyage. We successfully entered Gaza five times. This attempt was the fourth time we were stopped. If you look on our website under http://www.freegaza.org/en/boat-trips/passenger-lists, you will find the stories and passengers there.
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??
GB: Israel has no right to stop us under international law UNLESS it wants to admit that it occupies Gaza. Since Israel says it no longer occupies Gaza and Gaza is free, they have no right to stop us. In addition, the blockade is collective punishment against a civilian population that is WAY out of line. International law, Amnesty International and the International Red Cross have all said the same thing. Israel's blockade is illegal. The illegal entity in the neighborhood is Israel, not us.