GUEST BLOG: Lois Griffiths – Who Were Those Women?



Poor Israel! A fearsome warship (well, small sailing boat really) was approaching her shores (well, the shores of Palestine under international law really). On board were dangerous terrorists armed to the teeth with all sorts of dangerous weapons. ( well, peace women actually who had, as the whole world including Israel knew,  no weapons, well they did have a guitar) But they must have had some evil intent (well, to meet Gaza Palestinians, especially the women and to hug the children. To let people know they they weren’t forgotten. Maybe even sing the song one of the women wrote while at sea)

Brave Israel! The Israelis refused to be cowed. No way! Three warships intercepted the Zaytouna and forced it into Israel.

The Zaytouna was intercepted  55 km  from Gaza, 20 km outside Israel’s so-called ‘security zone’ of 32 km.

So  the Women’s Boat to Gaza was intercepted in international waters even by Israel’s declaration. Isn’t that against international law? ( Don’t be silly , international law is only for unimportant countries.)

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Well then who were the 13 women on board the Zaytouna? And why did they take part ? (Probably terrorists, or to be kind, misguided, ignorant, politically naive, with no understanding of the reality of today’s world. )

Let’s meet some of the women.

  • Australian  Madeleine Habib, the Captain of the Zaytouna.  Madeleine combined her  love of the sea and her passion for environmental and social activism, by being the Captain of the   Médecins Sans Frontières’ refugee rescue boat Dignity , in the Mediterranean. “My father was from Egypt so I have travelled extensively throughout the Middle East. I first visited Palestine in 1989 and was struck by the disparities that existed there. Now it is my opportunity to speak up for the people of Palestine and to demand an end to the blockade.”
  • Mairead Maguire , Nobel Peace Laureate from Northern Ireland . Mairead  was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976 for her effort in bringing about  a peaceful resolution to The Troubles. “To this day this collective punishment by Israeli Government policies goes on. Why has it lasted so long? The Palestinians have been most cruelly punished by Israeli policies of occupation, war and destruction.  They say that ‘silence’ is golden, but regarding the plight of Gazans and Palestinians the ‘silence’ of the world, especially concerning their little children, shows a lack of moral and ethical leadership from the international Community.”
  • American Ann Wright.  Ann is a former US Army colonel and a former US diplomat. “We as international women stand in solidarity with the women of Gaza who have been under intense pressure as the leaders of their families, as the Israeli brutal military assaults happen. It’s the women who hold families together and we’re proud to have a Women’s Boat to Gaza in solidarity.”
  • Dr Fauziah Hasan, Malaysian medical doctor. “This humanitarian mission involves women only, just to show that there is a united voice in ending the blockade of Gaza, beyond gender, race, religion and geographical boundaries. It is purely a humanitarian mission to ensure freedom is given to all, for as Nelson Mandela once said: “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.” “To the people of Gaza, you are always in our prayers.”
  • NZ Green MP Marama Davidson.  “As an indigenous woman myself, I want to stand alongside the women of Gaza and to draw attention to the ongoing humanitarian crisis there. Women around the world bear a disproportionate burden in caring for people and keeping communities together in times of hardship, and the women of Palestine are no different. Women’s role in navigating oppression and working for peace and justice has long been under-valued.”
  •  Jeannette Escanilla Diaz , Swedish MP
    “To have the possibility to join the Women’s Boat to Gaza is important in order to once again, with action, show  international solidarity with Gaza, which is so important for the people of Gaza. It is mainly women and children who are the victims of the siege. I sincerely hope that this time we will succeed. To break the siege is probably the most important step to stop the Israelis’ continuing oppression of the Palestinians.”

Also on board  were:  Algerian MP Samira Douaifia,South African Olympic athlete and university student rights activist Leigh Ann Naidoo, Spanish professional photographer Sandra Barrialoro, Al Jazeera journalists British Mena Harballou and Russian Hoda Rakhme, and  crew membersSwede  Emma Ringqvist and Norwegian Synne Sofia Reksten.

But there was only one boat. So only 13 women volunteered. ( Two boats set out but one broke down, leaving many women upset, in tears even. The problem is not finding women to volunteer but finding the funds. The US gives Israel billions to expand its war machine but nothing to peace people. )

Anyway the whole effort was futile wasn’t it. Nothing was accomplished. Our newspapers ignored the whole thing. They had more important stories to write about. (Ann Wright reported that “especially on the last three days, our satellite phones rang virtually continuously with interviews with media from all over the world. Our participants described why each felt it was important to be on the voyage. The exception to media coverage of the Women’s Boat to Gaza was the U.S. media that did not call for interviews and gave very little information to the citizens of the country that most supports Israel and its policies that oppress and imprison Palestinians.” It’s true that NZ papers were more interested in the escapades of an All Black in a toilet than in an historic and courageous undertaking by a NZ MP. Maybe this says something about how  NZ media perceives its role.)

 Was the effort futile? Not to  Gazans themselves, who  say they are heartened knowing that there are people of conscience around the world who have not forgotten them.  The effort showed the world, showed everyone with their eyes open, with any sense of humanity, that the siege is cruel and must be broken. Now it’s up to us to pressure our media and our polical leaders.  


Lois and Martin are retired teachers who met and married in Malawi, Africa. They share an interest in international environment and justice issues. They are specially concerned about the plight of the Palestinians, having been to the Middle East and made friends with Palestinians and Israeli human rights activists too.


  1. These dangerous women are carrying out a fine tradition that has its roots going back more than a century….
    Every one of these fabulous “dangerous” women speaks for me, in a way that our Government can only dream of (in their nightmares).
    I salute their courage, compassion, and their determination to demonstrate solidarity and support for the people of occupied Gaza.
    These Dangerous Women.

  2. sounds like sour grapes Lois, bad publicity instead of good publicity, a PR disaster! incidently…what was the ‘aid’ they were supposed to be delivering? there was none on the boat!…ship of fools indeed and a political stunt that will stunt the green mp’s career for sure, and quite right too.

    • Im Right , whoever you are. The women weren’t taking aid. They were taking themselves, showing solidarity, friendship, support. That’s what humans do, they socialize.
      The Palestinians don’t want ‘charity’, they want freedom, including the right to have visitors and the right to visit, to travel.

  3. Great article! These “dangerous” women are truly inspirational and a credit to the country they represent.

  4. TIME magazine’s Person of the Year for 2011 was the protester. Without protest and challenge,injustices would go unnoticed and leave many people the poorer.

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