Flotilla funds meeting flounders

September 20, 2010 by Henry Benjamin
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A public meeting to raise funds and support for the Kia Ora Gaza group’s flotilla campaign has ended in a debacle.

The meeting was sponsored by the Muslim Club at Hamilton’s Waikato University. The invitation  was accompanied by material stating that “Israel is the most powerful state in the Middle East and has being doing as it pleases. So we haven’t been able to do much while hundreds of children, women, men and the elderly get killed, raped and violated on a daily basis”. [The full text is below]

One non-Jewish student at the university described the statement as “hate-preaching”.

Hamilton-based Kirsty Walker published a counter Kia Ora Gaza leaflet entitled “Why I Cannot Support Kia Ora Gaza” in which outlines the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, the construction of shopping malls and luxury hotels in spite of a perceived shortage of building materials, the recent murder of four Israelis, the Hamas policy towards Israel and the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Her statement is also published below.

Four members of the Kia Ora Gaza group made the six hour drive from Wellington to Hamilton for the information and fund-raising meeting….and walked into a barrage of criticism.

At the emotionally-charged meeting they were told by Iraqi and Iranian students that they “were playing straight into Hamas’s hands.”

Californian Elaine Bliss has worked in the university’s geography department for 15 years and attended the meeting.

Elaine Bliss

She told J-Wire: “It is the first time I have seen a positive side to this type of meeting at which about 50 people attended. After a twenty minute presentation, the Kia Ora Gaza group threw the meeting open for questions. Middle Eastern students told them that the flotillas were making the situation worse for the Palestinians and that aid was being traded by Hamas for arms. When questioned, none of the group admitted to having ever visited Israel.”

She said that the group’s attitude was very arrogant. “They called for questions from ‘non-Zionists who had not been trained by Mossad’ and claimed to have received a list of necessary medical items directly from the people of Gaza”.

The four members of the Kia Ora Gaza group included one South-African born New Zealander who played the Israeli apartheid card to the meeting.

Bliss said that the meeting had been scheduled for two hours, but halfway through, the Kia Ora Gaza group requested a tea break from which they did not return.

Fundraising? Bliss said: “I saw three people at the meeting drop money into a bucket placed in the room for that purpose…no-one else gave that I am aware of.”

There were less than 10 Jewish attendees.

The current convoy has set sail from London on its way to Gaza with six New Zealanders on board.

The full text of the email produced is reproduced below

THE INVITATION

The Waikato University Muslim Club has organised a few events to raise awareness of the Gaza situation and fund-raise to support the Kia Ora Gaza crew.

We would like to invite you and your friends, family and contacts to come and listen to the unheard voices of the people of Palestine. Please forward this to all your Contacts.

Please check out the rest of the email for details. Refreshments will be provided. Hope to see you there!

KIA ORA GAZA’S STATEMENT

We bring you… Kia Ora Gaza!

How would you feel if you didn’t feel safe because of your neighbors? Would you consider shifting to a safer place? I thought so too! What if you were trapped in your house and your neighbors kept harassing you and none of the people around you bothered to help? Then you would definitely feel scared, bullied… well basically pretty STINK wouldn’t you!!!

Are you aware that the people of Palestine have been bullied by the state of Israel for over 40 years now? And most of the world didn’t bother to get involved. I mean, come on! Israel is the most powerful military state in the Middle East, and has been doing as it pleases. So we haven’t been able to do much while hundreds of children, women, men and the elderly get killed, raped and violated on a daily basis. They are driven out of their homes and left with nothing.

My question to you is: “Would you sit back and watch if your family and your neighbours were getting bombarded and shot on daily basis?” Well, I certainly hope not!

The people of Gaza in Palestine have been suffering the most. Gaza is under blockade by Israel and its treaty partner Egypt. That means Israel restricts Gaza’s imports of vital goods, especially  medical equipment and building supplies, while blocking virtually all Gaza’s exports and banning its people from crossing their border. The 1.5 million people of Gaza are in the world’s biggest prison camp. Currently 77.2 percent of Palestinians in Gaza either face hunger or are vulnerable to it [1].

Following the murderous hijack of the Freedom Flotilla on 31st May 2010, when nine civilian aid workers were shot to death by Israeli commandos on the open sea, there has been a sea change in world public opinion. Now the majority of people on all continents understand that the state of Israel has imprisoned all Palestinians in Gaza after stealing their homeland [2] .

New Zealanders have a proud history of standing up for social justice. Following this tradition, Kia Ora Gaza was publicly launched on 7th July 2010 to send six Kiwi volunteers, along with aid and vehicles, to join the international land-sea convoy to Gaza this September. It will be the biggest aid convoy since the Second World War, staffed by over 1,000 volunteers from scores of different countries. With that level of planetary support, there is every chance the Israeli siege of Gaza can be broken forever, or at least fatally weakened.

Kia Ora Gaza has a donations target of $100,000. “We are well on the way to reaching this target,” says Kia Ora Gaza co-organiser Grant Morgan. “But we must continue our fund-raising drive until the end of September so that our six-member Kiwi Team have the money they need to do a good job for the people of Gaza.” [3]

Waikato University Muslim Club will hold events on Campus on 8th September to raise awareness about Gaza and to support Kia Ora Gaza. Please refer to the poster for event details. We invite everyone to attend these awareness-raising events and to contribute towards our fellow Kiwis traveling to the other side of the world to help the suffering people of Gaza.

Kirsty Walker’s statement:

WHY I CANNOT SUPPORT KIA ORA GAZA

By vilifying Israel, Kia Ora Gaza, like George Galloway’s Viva Palestina, effectively lends support to the Hamas regime in Gaza, despite this regime’s stated aim of destroying a neighbouring sovereign state, it’s use of terror against Israelis and Palestinians who do not support its political agenda and its misuse of international aid that was intended for the benefit of all the people of Gaza.

I remember the past

In a hope for peace, Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, displacing entire Israeli settler communities.  They left intact the infrastructure the settlers had built and donated entire horticultural business complexes to the Palestinian people to help establish the new Palestinian economy. Within weeks of the Israeli withdrawal, these businesses had been looted and destroyed and the infrastructure broken down. When Hamas consolidated its control of the new Gaza government, the focus for Gaza’s future became the destruction of the Jewish state, rather than the establishment of a prosperous Palestinian state in Gaza.  Hamas’ active support for thousands of rocket attacks against Israeli towns and refusal to end these attacks led to the Cast Lead operation.  Hamas’ policy of using civilians as ‘human shields’ through out this conflict led to the loss of thousands of lives and the destruction of large sections of Gaza city.

I don’t support Hamas propaganda

A lot is said about a lack of building supplies in Gaza, yet there were enough building materials available in Gaza to construct a recently opened shopping mall, an Olympic swimming pool complex and a luxury hotel.  If building materials are so scarce in Gaza, why were these materials not used to build hospitals and homes?

Israel contributes aid to Gaza and allows more goods through its “blockade” every week than was contained on the entire Gaza flotilla.  If Hamas used these goods to provide for daily needs of the Palestinian people, rather than focusing its efforts on attempting to destroy Israel, there would be no humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

I don’t support murderers

Hamas’ charter condones the use of terror to achieve its aims.  On 31 August, as Middle East peace talks were opening, Hamas operatives murdered four Israelis, including a husband and his pregnant wife and two others, as they drove long a shared Arab-Israeli road in the West Bank.  3000 Palestinians in Gaza gathered to hand out candy and celebrate the ‘success’ of this murderous ‘operation’.

I don’t support a racist regime

Like New Zealand, Israel gives equal status under law to its all its citizens, regardless of their ethnicity.  Hamas, which controls Gaza, is committed to the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state and the establishment of an Islamic state in its place.  Jews would not be afforded equal rights with Arab Muslims in such a state.  If Hamas is to be believed, Jews would not even be allowed to live in such a state.

I don’t support kidnappers

Hamas operatives kidnapped Israeli Gilad Shalit from within Israel in June 2006 and continue to hold him captive in a secret location.  Hamas has never allowed Gilad Shalit to have any visits from Red Cross or any other international humanitarian agency.  He has not been allowed to have any contact with his family or anyone else from the outside world.  This is inhumane.  Although the Rd Cross offer help to Palestinians in Jerusalem, they have given none to Gilad Shalit.

Charity begins at home

There are numerous aid organisations already established and working in Gaza.  The UN is already on site in Gaza to administer the distribution of international aid to the people of Gaza.  Supplies flow freely into Gaza through its border with Israel, and also through the smuggling tunnels on the Gaza-Egyptian border. Many of the “essential” humanitarian supplies that the Gaza flotilla brought to Gaza were rejected by the Hamas leadership, and did not reach the Palestinian people in Gaza.  It is a hugely inefficient and wasteful use of money and resources to send activists from New Zealand half way across the world to make a political statement against Israel and to ‘deliver’ goods that may be rejected or merely added to the stockpile of aid already in UN’s Gaza storehouses.  It would be better to give help to the flood victims of Pakistan or the earthquake stricken people of Haiti … or perhaps even to the Canterbury earthquake victims.

Kirsty Walker

Kirikiriroa / Hamilton

Aotearoa / New Zealand


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