by Ramzi Kysia
29 October 2008: This morning, I marched in Selma; I stood down tanks in Tiananmen Square, and I helped tear down the Berlin Wall. This morning I became a Freedom Rider.
Today's Freedom Riders are sailing small boats into the Gaza Strip in open defiance of the Israeli Occupation and blockade. This morning, I arrived in Gaza aboard the SS Dignity, part of a Free Gaza Movement delegation of twenty-seven doctors, lawyers, teachers, and human rights activists from across the world, including 1976 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire.
When I close my eyes, I can still see the Israeli warship that tried to intimidate us when we reached the twenty-mile line outside Gaza, and I can still see a thousand cheering people crowding around our ship when we finally reached port in Gaza City. Today, the proudest boast in the free world is, "Nam, Nehnu Nastatyeh!": "Yes, We Can!"
For over two years, Israel has maintained a brutal blockade of Gaza. Less than twenty percent of needed supplies are allowed in, forcing the closure of ninety-five percent of local industries and resulting in skyrocketing unemployment, poverty and childhood malnutrition rates. Eighty percent of families are now dependent on international food aid. An hour after we arrived, I watched a teenage boy dig through the garbage, looking for something he could use.
Our first voyage in August-the first of any international ship to Gaza in over forty years-showed that free travel is possible. This second shows it is repeatable and that the Siege of Gaza can be overcome through nonviolent resistance and direct action.
Today, the Free Gaza Movement has a simple message for the rest of the world: What are you waiting for?
Ramzi Kysia, a Muslim-American peace activist, has worked with CPT in Hebron and Iraq. CPTer Anne Montgomery was in the first group of activists who breeched the Israeli blockade of Gaza via the sea in August 2008.