Challenging the Gaza blockade

18 Aug

Mike Treen, (R) veteran human rights defender and National Director, Unite Union, reports back on the Freedom Flotilla to a packed-out audience in Wellington last night. [Photo: Wellington Palestine]

By Wellington Palestine, 18 August 2018

When weighing up how to spend a Friday night in the capital city, during the wonderful Wellington on a Plate food festival,  I guess that listening to a veteran trade union leader talking about his recent trip to the Mediterranean might not rate highly. Unless, of course, the trade union leader in question is Mike Treen (National Director of Unite Union) and the Mediterranean trip, his participation in the international Freedom Flotilla to challenge the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza. Last Friday night 50 Wellingtonians decided that was exactly the place they wanted to be, and they were not disappointed.

Mike Treen is a long standing supporter of Palestinian human rights and, in partnership with Kia Ora Gaza, was the New Zealand representative in this international, humanitarian mission. Before embarking on the Flotilla, when interviewed by Nadia Abu-Shanab of Wellington Palestine, Mike said that:

“The blockade of Gaza will end one day. I hope that we will be the ones to do it. It would be an enormous privilege to see the people of Gaza with my own eyes and hand over these boats to be used by their fishers. I fear that I won’t be so lucky and the Israeli military will stop these ships as they have done many times before. But if they do, we will use their piracy on international waters to expose the inhumanity of the blockade before the people of the world.”

In fact, on the 29th of July, as Mike and 22 fellow activists on board the Al Awda (The Return) approached the shores of Gaza, they were boarded illegally by Israeli naval forces. Along with other activists, Mike was beaten, tasered, robbed, detained and, later, deported. He returned to Aotearoa undaunted, and with ‘…a few stories to tell!’.

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Israeli police spray “skunk water” at anti-draft protesters

18 Aug

VIDEO:  Israel Versus Judaism, 17 August, 2018

Israeli police spraying disgusting “Skunk water” in the face of Anti-Draft Protesters (“Skunk water” is a liquid that smells like raw sewage and was designed by chemists to nauseate people for days after exposure) at anti-Draft protest in Bnei Brak, [a city near Tel Aviv] on Monday, 6 August, 2018 over the recent arrest of Nissan Rada, a religious Jewish boy who refused to serve in the Israeli army.

Religious Jews have been resisting recent efforts by the Israeli government to draft them, due to their firm belief that that the Zionist philosophy and its movement is contrary to the foundations of the Jewish religion, which include the belief that Jews are forbidden to wage wars against any nation. Police were seen dragging the protesters brutally and dispersing the crowd with horses and water cannons, spraying colored water at high pressure directly on the crowd. Dozens of people were reportedly arrested, and many were wounded and hospitalized. A similar protest took place in Jerusalem on Thursday, Aug. 2 when 46 people were arrested and the police used similar tactics.

[IVJ exposes Israeli oppression of religious Jewish people who conscientiously object to serve in the IDF, or protest its regime.]

Gaza: Israeli forces kill two Palestinians, wound 270

18 Aug

Two Palestinian nonviolent protesters were killed today by Zionist occupation snipers and 270 others were injured during the Great Return March 17 August 2018 [Ahmed Hijazi]

Information from Palestine Chronicle, 17 August, 2018

Two Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces [yesterday] near the fence separating Gaza from Israel, according to health officials.

Karim Abu Fatayer, 30, died after being shot in the head by an Israeli sniper.

Sa’di Akram Muammar, 26, was killed east of Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip.

The number of wounded protesters has risen to 270.

Since protests began on March 30, Israeli forces have killed at least 166 Palestinians in the besieged coastal enclave.

More than 18,000 Palestinians have been injured by Israeli forces during the marches. (Middle East Monitor).

UK playwrights condemn bombing of Gaza theatre

18 Aug

The ruins of the Said al-Mishal Cultural Centre, Gaza City. [Anadolu Agency/Getty Images]

By Oliver Holmes in Jerusalem, The Guardian, 17 August 2018

Leading playwrights and directors in Britain have severely criticised the bombing of a major cultural centre in the Gaza Strip by Israel’s air force, calling it a “devastating loss for the already isolated community”.

In a letter to the Guardian, 14 figures from UK theatre, including the director of the National Theatre, Rufus Norris, and dramatist Caryl Churchill, condemned the “total destruction” of the Said al-Mishal Culture Centre.

“We support our dear friends and colleagues who describe ‘their great rage and deep pain’ at the obliteration of this symbol of Palestinian culture and identity as they mourn the destruction of one of the few large venues for theatre and music performances in besieged Gaza,” the group said.

“Since its establishment in 2004, Al-Mishal served as a home for hundreds of plays, ceremonies, exhibits, musical performances and national ceremonies. It was the venue of choice for theatre companies in Gaza and a space for Gaza’s top musical acts.”

Most recently, the centre hosted a joint performance with artists in the UK. At Home in Gaza and London, which ran in June and July, attempted to connect people living under severe blockade with British audiences.

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Siege stops chemotherapy as Gaza hospitals face closure

17 Aug

Palestinians gather at the ruins of a five-story building housing the prominent Said al-Mishal cultural centre, destroyed by Israeli bombing on 9 August.[Mohammed Zaanoun APA]

Maureen Clare Murphy, The Electronic Intifada, 16 August 2018

Israel reopened Gaza’s sole commercial crossing on Wednesday, one month after shutting it down in an act of collective punishment inflicting millions of dollars of additional economic damage on the besieged territory’s long-suffering population.

Meanwhile a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel, mediated by Egypt and the United Nations, was approved by the Israeli government.

Hamas had been observing a unilateral ceasefire after Israel bombed more than 150 sites across Gaza last Wednesday and Thursday, killing a pregnant woman, her toddler daughter and a Palestinian fighter, as well as destroying a prominent cultural center.

Three Palestinians in Gaza were fatally wounded by Israel on Friday.

Details of the reported agreement are scant but the Israeli daily Haaretz states that they are based on the ceasefire that ended Israel’s brutal 51-day assault on Gaza in 2014.

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Gaza’s lifeline is the sea

17 Aug

VIDEO: The Electronic Intifada, 17 August 2018

Rashad al-Hissi has been fishing in the Gaza sea for 60 years. “We have inherited this profession from our fathers and grandfathers,” he told The Electronic Intifada. “I have a 12-year-old son, he goes to school. On Thursdays, he comes home early. He joins his siblings in the sea.”

Over the years, al-Hissi has seen fish populations decrease. With waste treatment out of commission in Gaza, raw sewage is being dumped into the Mediterranean. That has been catastrophic for Gaza’s fishers, who are restricted by the Israeli military to an area within six nautical miles from the shore. In July, Israeli authorities announced a reduction of the fishing zone from six to three nautical miles.

That was part of a series of devastating collective punishments that included shutting down Gaza’s only commercial goods crossing and stopping supplies of fuel and cooking gas. In January 2017, al-Hissi loaned his boat to his cousin Muhammad to fish in the Gaza sea. An Israeli navy vessel rammed the boat, capsizing it. The boat was never found and Muhammad is presumed dead. Israeli forces are currently holding more than 40 boats they have confiscated from their owners, according to the Palestinian fishers union in Gaza.

Video by Ruwaida Amer and Sanad Ltefa. See:…


Despite claims to expand fishing area, Israeli Forces detain 4 fishermen and seize 2 fishing boats sailing within 1 nautical mile from Gaza shore.

The Palestinian Centre For Human Rights (PCHR): On Thursday morning 16 August, 2018, Israeli gunboats chased Palestinian fishing boats sailing within 1 nautical mile, arrested 4 fishermen and detained a fishing boat.

These violations refute the Israeli authorities’ claims regarding easing the ongoing naval blockade and expanding the  fishing area to 9 nautical miles off the Gaza shore, which were announced on Tuesday 14 August 2018.

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The sea is our refuge

17 Aug

VIDEO: The Sea is our Refuge

We Are Not Numbers, 17 August 2018

During these hot, tense days in Gaza, the sea is the only refuge we have. Here, our reporter Rakan Abed El Rahman and master cameraman/editor Yousef Basam take you to the beach.

Wellington meeting Friday on Gaza Freedom Flotilla

15 Aug

..battered, tasered, shackled, robbed, imprisoned, and deported by Israel: Mike Treen ‘has a few stories to tell’.

Mike Treen, National Director of Unite Union, has just returned from his participation in the international Freedom Flotilla to break Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza.

Mike and 22 fellow activists, on board the Al Awda, were seized illegally by Israeli forces in international waters. Mike was beaten, tasered, robbed, detained and deported by Israeli forces. He has now returned to New Zealand undaunted, and says ‘I have a few stories to tell!’.

Please join us to hear Mike’s account of the Freedom Flotilla and show your solidarity with the people of Palestine.

6pm Friday 17 August

PSA House, 11 Aurora Tce, Wellington.

Entry free – donations welcome.

Hosted by Wellington Palestine and Unions Wellington

Facebook event:

Flotilla captain: government complicit in ‘slow genocide’

15 Aug

Freedom Flotilla captain accuses his government of complicity in a “slow genocide” in Palestine.

Video interview, TheRealNews, 15 August 2018

Human rights activist John Turnbull describes how Israel’s navy hijacked a peaceful vessel, the Freedom, in international waters and kidnapped its passengers and crew.

Mission accomplished: Why solidarity boats to Gaza succeed despite failing to break the siege

14 Aug

Crowds gather to meet the crew of the Freedom Flotilla ship, Al Awda, as they prepare to leave for Gaza

By Ramzy Baroud, Middle East Monitor, 14 August 2018

Mission accomplished: Why solidarity boats to Gaza succeed despite failing to break the siege

When Mike Treen, the national director of the Unite Union in New Zealand, arrived at the airport in the capital, Auckland, on 1 August, a group of people were anxiously waiting for him at the terminal with Palestinian flags and flowers. They hugged him, chanted for Palestinian freedom and performed the customary native Haka dance.

For them, Mike, as all of those who set sail aboard the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza last July, were heroes.

But the truth is Mike Treen and his comrades were not the only heroes for braving the sea with the aim of breaking the hermetic Israeli military blockade on the impoverished and isolated Gaza Strip. Without those who were present at the Auckland airport, upon Mike’s arrival, and without the thousands of supporters all across the world who have mobilised as a community – held numerous meetings, raised funds, created a powerful media discourse, and so on – Treen’s attempted trip to Gaza would not have been possible in the first place.

The first boats to successfully break the Gaza siege, in October 2008 were the “Free Gaza” and the “Liberty”. They carried 44 people from 17 countries. The activists wanted to push their countries to acknowledge the illegality of the Israeli blockade on Gaza and to, eventually, challenge the siege.

Freedom Flotilla activist: Israel soldiers beat us, stripped us, then robbed us

Their triumphant arrival in Gaza ten years ago, marked a historic moment for the international solidarity movement, a moment, perhaps, unparalleled. Since then, Israel has launched several massive and deadly wars on Gaza. The first war took place merely weeks after the arrival of the first boats, followed by another war in 2012 and, the deadliest of them all, in 2014. The siege grew tighter.

Also, since then, many attempts have been made at breaking the siege. Between 2008 and 2016, 31 boats have sailed to Gaza from many destination, all intercepted, their cargo seized and their passengers mistreated. The most tragic of these incidents was in May 2010 when the Israeli navy attacked the “Mavi Marmara” ship – which sailed alongside other boats – killing ten activists and wounding many more.

Even then, the stream of solidarity boats continued to arrive, not only unhindered by the fear of Israeli retribution, but also stronger in their resolve. Palestinians consider the killed activists as “martyrs” to be added to their own growing list of martyrs.

However, none of the boats made it to Gaza; so why keep on trying?

Ramzy Baroud (R) with Mike Treen (L) and Roger Fowler on Auckland rally. (Photo: File)

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Demand immediate release of medical supplies for Gaza

14 Aug

Where are the bandages for Gaza brought by the Gaza Freedom Flotilla? Musician Roger Waters (above) responded with this tweet: ‘Now the “Most Moral Army in The World” is stealing bandages? Shame on you.’

Freedom Flotilla Coalition statement, 13 August, 2018

The Freedom Flotilla Coalition continues to strongly demand the immediate release of the 114* boxes of medical supplies for the health services of Gaza that were carried on the Al Awda and Freedom boats of the 2018 Freedom Flotilla to Gaza, recently hijacked by Israeli forces. As Swedish Foreign Affairs Minister Margot Wallström has stated, the cargo must be released, according to international law. [See earlier post: ]

As we reminded the Israeli Government in our August 9, 2018 statement, international law requires the delivery of medical supplies. Article 23 of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (Geneva Convention IV, 1949) says that “Each High Contracting Party shall allow the free passage of all consignments of medical and hospital stores … intended only for civilians of another High Contracting Party, even if the latter is its adversary.”

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Why does Israel keep destroying cultural heritage sites in Gaza?

14 Aug

By Celine Hagbard, Gaza City, International Middle East Media Centre, 11 August 2018

On Thursday August 9th, the Israeli airforce dropped ten missiles on a building in Gaza City, turning the five-story building into rubble. Was this a Hamas training centre, or somehow associated with the Palestinian armed resistance? No. Like the building targeted by Israeli forces two weeks earlier, when two teen boys were killed taking a selfie, this was a cultural centre aimed at preserving the history and culture of the Palestinian people of Gaza.

The Said Al-Mashal Foundation for Arts and Culture was a place where cultural heritage was preserved and maintained. The Palestinian traditional dance known as dabke was taught and practiced there, poets would gather to share their latest works, and musicians would come together for jam sessions and performances. [See earlier post:…-no-end-in-sight/ ]

Two weeks earlier, the Israeli airforce dropped another bomb on the Arts and Crafts Museum in Gaza City.

Why is Israel so focused on destroying Palestinian cultural artifacts, museums, arts and crafts? Is it because resistance fighters are hidden inside these centers? That is a laughable claim that is easily disproved by looking at the evidence – no fighters, weapons or rockets in the rubble that remains of what had been beautiful and well-loved cultural centres.

Nor is it true that these centers were somehow ‘collateral damage’, and the bombs were targeting some other, nearby place. No, Israeli forces directly targeted these centres – and in fact, after the fact, declared the strikes a ‘success’ and claimed that they hit their targets directly.

No, the reality is that the centres that preserve the Palestinian people’s identity, culture and history are somehow seen as a threat to Israel, and Israeli authorities have implemented a policy that such centres must be destroyed.

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Israel kills third paramedic during Gaza protests

13 Aug

The colleagues of Abdallah al-Qatati mourn outside a Khan Younis hospital after the volunteer medic was shot and killed by an Israeli sniper while on duty during Great March of Return protests on 10 August.[Ashraf Amra APA]

Maureen Clare,Electronic Intifada,10 August 2018

Israel kills medic during Gaza protests

Two Palestinians lost their lives on Friday as Israel used lethal force against Great March of Return protests along Gaza’s eastern perimeter.

One of those killed, Abdallah al-Qatati, 22, was a volunteer medic on duty at the time of his fatal injury in eastern Rafah, southern Gaza.

Al-Qatati is the third Palestinian medic to be killed by Israeli forces during Great March of Return protests beginning in late March.

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Mike Treen is coming to Christchurch & Wellington

12 Aug

Just back from the international Freedom Flotilla determined to break Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza – hijacked, kidnapped, battered, bruised, tasered, shackled, imprisoned, and deported by Israeli forces, union leader Mike Treen says:  ‘I have a few stories to tell!’

On Monday 13 August at 7:30pm Mike will address a public meeting in at Christchurch’s ‘Cardboard Cathedral’ in Latimer Square. Not to be missed! Free entry – donations welcome.

Unite Union leader & veteran human rights defender, Mike Treen, spoke to a packed-out event in Auckland last week, describing the brutality experienced by the recent Freedom Gaza Flotilla at the hands of the lawless Israeli military. He received a standing ovation from the gathering for his role “on behalf of New Zealand” among the 22 people seized illegally during the hijacking of the Al Awda by the Israelis in international waters – an outrageous crime of piracy that continues to be ignored by world leaders and our own government, just like they continue to ignore Israel’s harsh colonial occupation of Palestine.

Events in Hamilton and Whangarei are planned to follow Mike’s Christchurch talk [TBC]. If you would like to host a meeting with Mike in your town, send an email to with proposed dates.



Friday 17 August at 6pm at PSA House,

11 Aurora Terrace, Wellington.

Free entry – donations welcome.

Facebook event:

Hosted by Wellington Palestine and Unions Wellington


Freedom Flotilla demands the immediate release of humanitarian cargo

10 Aug

Some of the Freedom Flotilla participants with part of the consignment of 116 boxes of much-needed medical supplies ready to be loaded onto the Al Awda before the boats departed Sicily for Gaza. Where is it now?

Israeli naval forces hijacked the Freedom Flotilla boats in international waters recently and illegally forced the boats from their course to Gaza, to be impounded in Ashdod port, in southern Israel. The passengers and crew were imprisoned and most of their equipment and belongings stolen. Many were violently beaten, lied to, denied basic rights, abused, handcuffed, and some were tasered. All have since been deported. The flotilla was carrying 116 boxes of much-needed medical supplies for Gaza. The Israeli authorities promised to transfer this cargo to the MyCare centre in Gaza City to be distributed to health services. To date none have arrived. This raises further serious issues of international law and conventions flagrantly ignored by Israel. Here is a statement from the Freedom Flotilla Coalition:

Freedom Flotilla Coalition press release, 9 August 2018

The Freedom Flotilla Coalition demands the immediate release of the 116 boxes of medical supplies for the health services of Gaza that were carried on the Al Awda and Freedom boats of the 2018 Freedom Flotilla to Gaza, recently seized by Israeli forces. As Swedish Foreign Affairs Minister Margot Wallström has stated, the ship’s cargo must be released, according to international law.

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Israel drops 140 bombs on Gaza with ‘No end in sight’

10 Aug

The Al-Mishal Community Centre & theatre, Gaza City:



Gaza City’s popular Al-Mishal Cultural Centre demolished in Israeli airstrike

VIDEO REPORT: Ruptly, 10 August 2018

Rockets unleashed by Israeli F16 aircrafts demolished the Al-Mishal Cultural Centre in the west of Gaza city on Thursday. Drones targeted the building with two warning rockets before eight F16 rockets levelled the building, reducing it to rubble. Palestinians later assembled close to attack site with ambulances rushing in to carry the wounded away. According to Palestinian medical sources, a total of seven were left injured in the densely-populated area.

Israeli military official: “No end in sight” for current escalation in Gaza; 140 bombs dropped overnight

IMEMC News, Gaza City, 10 August 2018

Despite the killing of a pregnant woman and her baby by an Israeli airstrike on their home, Israeli officials issued a statement later that night saying that they planned to continue the current escalation in Gaza with no end in sight.

The Israeli military, one of the most powerful armies on the planet, launched a full-scale military assault on the besieged coastal Strip Wednesday night, dropping at least 140 bombs, according to the Israeli military spokesperson. The Palestinian population of Gaza, which includes more than one million children in its total population of two million, has no military.

The ad hoc resistance groups that sprung up in recent years in Gaza to counter the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian land fired dozens of shells across the Israeli-militarized border in response. Israelis living in the town of Sderot, constructed provocatively close to the Gaza-Israel border, rushed to underground shelters. Nine were lightly injured.

In addition to the mother, daughter (pictured below) and unborn baby that were killed Wednesday, Israeli forces also wounded more than a dozen Palestinians by dropping bombs from drones and planes. Several were wounded seriously and taken to intensive care units at the hospital.

This is one-and-a-half-year-old Bayan. Little Bayan and her nine-month pregnant mom were killed in last night’s Israeli shelling. They are not numbers.

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Sweden issues demands – but will Peters say anything?

9 Aug

The stark contrast of two governments to the illegal hijacking of flotilla boats & their citizens

Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Margot Wallström

Kia Ora Gaza wrote an open letter to our Foreign Affairs minister, Winston Peters, on 31 July, calling on him to demand that Israel immediately release the flotilla boat and people they unlawfully hijacked and detained in international waters (including New Zealander Mike Treen), end their inhumane blockade, and allow the flotilla safe and unhindered passage to Gaza. Since then, all those illegally detained have been deported home, but the boats remain confiscated in an Israeli port and the fate of the cargo of medical supplies intended to be gifted to Gaza’s health service, is unknown.

To date no reply has been received to our open letter.

See our open letter to Winston Peters here –

In stark contrast to the total silence of our New Zealand government, the Swedish Foreign Affairs minister, Margot Wallstrom, has written to the Israeli authorities, in response to a similar open letter penned by our flotilla partners, the Ship to Gaza Sweden campaign.

Wallstrom’s letter correctly declared that Israel’s capture of the Swedish-flagged flotilla boat, the Freedom, “constitutes a breach of international law” and her letter also “demanded that the ship, its cargo and the persons who were aboard be released.”

The Swedish Ship to Gaza campaign now wants to know what their government is doing to enforce these demands and steps to end the blockade of Gaza. Kia Ora Gaza wants to know when our government is going to make a stand over Israel’s flagrant breaches of international laws.

Press release, Ship to Gaza Sweden, 9 August 2018

Ship to Gaza [Sweden] has now received an answer to the open letter that we, through our chairman Jeanette Escanilla, sent to the Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Margot Wallström on 5 August.

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Israel bombs Gaza again as hospitals run out of fuel

9 Aug

A fireball explodes over Gaza City during Israeli bombing last night. [Mahmoud Ajour APA images]

By Maureen Clare Murphy, The Electronic Intifada, August 2018

Israel pummeled the occupied Gaza Strip in more than a dozen strikes [last night] amid warnings from a United Nations official that hospitals in Gaza were about to run out of emergency fuel.

Ashraf Shannon reports for PressTV earlier today.

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Ambassador: ‘Israel’s actions against Flotilla are piracy’

9 Aug

Dr. Swee Chai Ang, a consultant orthopedic surgeon and the founder of Medical Aid for Palestinians (L), Palestinian Ambassador to the UK, Manuel Hassassian (C) and Journalist Iain Diez (R), on 7 August, 2018 [Jehan Alfarra/Middle East Monitor]

Middle East Monitor, 9 August, 2018

Palestine ambassador to UK: Israel’s actions against Flotilla are piracy

The mission of Palestine to the UK hosted a press conference yesterday with two international activists who were on board the Gaza-bound 2018 Freedom Flotilla. The two boats making up the flotilla, one Swedish and another Norwegian, made their way to the Gaza Strip in an attempt to break the siege imposed on the territory since 2007.

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Dr Swee: Standing up for justice for Palestine

9 Aug

Eyewitness testimony of UK-backed Israeli forces attacking the Freedom Flotilla

VIDEO INTERVIEW: goingundergroundRT, 9 August 2018

Dr. Swee Ang, who has just returned to safety after sailing with the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, tells us about her fight for justice in Palestine.


Freedom Flotilla update 9 August 2018

All Freedom Flotilla participants have been safely deported home

All of the remaining participants who were hijacked and illegally detained by Israeli Occupation Forces after they attacked the Swedish sailing vessel Freedom (part of the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza), in international waters, sailing under a Swedish flag have now been deported from Israel and have arrived to safety. [All participants on the lead flotilla boat, Al Awda, that was violently hijacked by Israeli commandos on 29 July, were deported home last week, including New Zealand’s Mike Treen. See earlier posts. Ed]

Speaking in an exclusive interview with PressTVUK, journalist Ian Diez reveals that the ‘Freedom’ yacht had been “kidnapped” by Israeli forces armed with “machine guns” whilst still in international waters and the crew taken against their will to Israel. Ian was one of two journalists who accompanied ten activists on the humanitarian aid mission aiming to break the illegal Israeli siege of Gaza. Broadcast 9 August 2018

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