We, the women of WILPF, Israel Section, are outraged by the tragic actions of the Israeli navy in the early morning hours of Monday. May 31,2010.  Our armed forces hijacked unarmed, civilian vessels in international waters – an act of piracy. They boarded the first one by force, killing 10 passengers and wounding numerous others in the process. All of this was to stop the boats from breaking the illegal Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The Gaza Strip has been under siege by land, sea and air, enforced by the Israeli armed forces since 2006 when the Hamas party gained control in the area through democratic elections. Israel objects to Hamas control, claiming that it is a terrorist organization. After those elections Israel categorically refused to negotiate with the Hamas government, convinced the USA and EU to also boycott Hamas, and imposed the siege hoping in that way to topple Hamas from power. As this tactic did not succeed, Israel embarked on a cruel military bombardment and invasion into the Gaza Strip in December, 2008. In the 22 days of military action against the civilian population 1,420 Gazans were killed,(most of them civilians) 446 of them children, 5,320 people were injured, 1,855 of them children, and approximately 20,000 homes were completely or partially destroyed. Schools, hospitals, the sewage processing plant and the central electric generator were all heavily damaged in the bombardment. Israel’s siege of the Gaza Strip has not allowed the population there to rebuild and, at the same time, they suffer severe deprivation – 3/4 of the damage has not been repaired and 60% of the families are dependent on the UN food program in order to eat.

If the aim of Israel’s policy was to weaken Hamas and loosen its control, it has failed. And Israel is not alone in its failure; the entire international community is complicit in this policy that is morally appalling and politically self-defeating. There is a need for a comprehensive review and re-examination of the entire issue. Neither Israel nor the international community has taken into consideration that the Hamas leaders have signed on to the comprehensive  peace plan, offered first by Saudi Arabia in 2002, and endorsed by the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference. The time has come to negotiate with Hamas. After the tragic events of May, 31, it is imperative on the international community, especially the USA and the EU, to revamp their policies toward Israel. The Israeli peace camp is active, but we cannot go it alone; we must have the help of our sisters and allies all over the world. We must convince governments that it is in the interests of the entire world to bring about a comprehensive peace for our region. The sooner, the better.