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Activists challenge Israel's Gaza blockade

By Ashahed M. Muhammad
Assistant Editor | Last updated: Jul 13, 2009 - 3:00:54 AM

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Spirit of Humanity Relief Boat
CHICAGO ( - British Member of Parliament George Galloway spoke at DePaul University in Chicago on June 27 as part of his “Viva Palestina: Lifeline from the U.S. to Gaza Tour.”

Mr. Galloway has spoken in several states over the past three months with the goal of raising funds and recruiting volunteers to deliver desperately needed medical aid to the people of Gaza still living under seige, suffering from the aftermath of Israel's brutal bombardment at the beginning of the year.

“The only way to break the siege is to continue breaking it, and if we continue to break it, then there is no siege,” Mr. Galloway told the crowd.

During “Operation Cast Lead,” the Israeli Defense Force killed over 1,400 people, many of whom were civilians, women and children. According to human rights organizations, thousands more lost limbs or were otherwise maimed by white phosphorous bombs and other weapons used by Israel during the onslaught. The IDF also bombed schools, mosques and a United Nations building.

In March, Mr. Galloway led the first Viva Palestina aid convoy to Gaza which reportedly took over 100 vehicles, medical supplies and aid to Gaza from the United Kingdom.

The group Pastors for Peace serves as the fiscal sponsor of the current effort which, if successful will be the largest grassroots medical relief effort for Gaza in U.S. history. The caravan departed from the U.S. on July 4, arrived in Cairo, Egypt, then to the Rafah crossing and into Gaza, returning to the U.S. sometime after July 13.

Meanwhile, former U.S. Representative and 2008 Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney has been released after being held by Israeli authorities for six days after she and human rights activists aboard the Free Gaza Movement's “Spirit of Humanity” relief boat were taken into custody by Israel's naval forces in international waters on June 29.

At Final Call press time, Ms. McKinney and the 20 other human rights activists were released from Givon prison in Ramla, Israel and headed back to their respective countries.

According to a statement posted at the Green Party's website, Cynthia McKinney delivered the following statement by phone:

“We were in international waters on a boat delivering humanitarian aid to people in Gaza when the Israeli Navy ships surrounded us and illegally threatened us, dismantled our navigation equipment, boarded and confiscated the ship. All of us on board were then taken off the ship and into custody, and brought into Israel and imprisoned.”

Along with Ms. McKinney, Nobel laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire was among the human rights activists who were detained by Israeli authorities.

It was the second time that Israel seized a relief boat carrying McKinney. Late last year, she was among 16 people aboard a medical supply boat that was rammed by an Israeli naval ship as it tried to enter coastal waters around Gaza.