Photo credit: Donna Miles. Marama Davidson talks about the women’s boat to Gaza during an event sponsored by Christchurch Progressive Network (CPN). Listening in the background is CPN convener, John Minto.
On Monday night, clad in a traditional Palestinian dress, which was presented to her by a Palestinian woman, Green MP Marama Davidson addressed a packed audience at Workers’ Educational Association in Christchurch.
Last September, Marama joined 12 remarkable women on a mission to break the Israeli illegal and inhumane blockade of Gaza.
Starting in Messina in Italy, Marama’s 9-day journey aboard Zaytouna-Oliva took her very close to the Palestinian shores, but as was predicted, the Israeli forces intercepted the women’s boat and forced it to change course.
After spending a night in detention, all 13 women were deported from Israel back to their respective countries.
I listened to Marama’s fascinating and detailed account of her journey and here is what I took away from it:
- “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”
Photo credit: Donna Miles
Long-time pro-Palestinian activists Martin and Lois Griffiths with MP Marama Davidson.
These are the words of Dr. Martin Luther King whose famous quote on injustice includes the reminder that “we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
When asked to join the women’s boat to Gaza, it took Marama all of 5 seconds to say yes. “Then I told my family”, she said.
Marama explained that she saw it as her mission in life to stand up to injustice anywhere. She said their mission was to show solidarity with Palestinians and in particular with Palestinian women because she recognized that occupation and war impacted women differently. Women living in conflict zones often faced the hard burden of keeping families together after displacement, and were responsible for providing food, clothing and shelter for their children.
- “The meaning of life is us”
Well-known New Zealand artist Dick Frizzell painted these words on his famous artwork titled “THE ANSWER”.
What Frizzell is saying (I think) is that a life with meaning is one filled with meaningful relationships with others.
Marama talked much about the affinity and closeness she felt with the other women and how their shared mission brought them together.
Reading the bios of the participants, it is clear what these women have in common: they all have dedicated their lives to helping others.
One of my favourite photos from Marama’s journey was one that showed the women sitting together shelling eggs. It was such a joyful photo of cooperation and shared sense of purpose – another clue to the true meaning of life and happiness.
- Don’t underestimate activist grandmothers
When three big Israeli warships surrounded Zaytouna-Oliva, the women threw all their electronic devices overboard to protect their contacts. The women also got rid of all their cooking knives to avoid them being misconstrued as weapons.
Members of Israeli Navy who took over the boat, spent hours searching the women and the boat before redirecting it to the Israeli port of Ashdad.
So, where did Marama’s photo of the Zodiac boats approaching Zaytouna-Oliva come from?
All Marama was prepared to say was grandmother, Dr. Fauziah Hasan, a Malaysian physician and a fellow of the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (UK), managed to smuggle out a sim card!
- The remarkable extent of Israel’s power
When Marama was deported from Israel, she was escorted to her seat on the plane without any information as to which airline she was flying with or even where she was going to. Airline crewmembers were instructed not to speak to her. It was only when she landed in Korea that Marama realized where she was.
Same thing happened on the second leg of her journey to Auckland. Once again, no one was allowed to communicate with her.
It was only when she landed in Auckland that she realized she was finally back home.
The ability to instruct foreign crewmembers shows the remarkable extent and reach of Israel’s power.
Contrast that with the power and influence of Palestinians.
Never assume that this is a conflict between equal powers. This is a conflict between a superpower and a downtrodden nation.
- Hope is everything
Just after Christmas I was taken to the cinema, against my will I might add, to watch the new Star Wars movie. The chairs very comfortable so I managed to have several short but delicious naps during the movie.
Although the majority of dialogues were remarkably boring, there was one line that caught my attention. No, I am not talking about “I’m one with the Force. The Force is with me” although I thought that was a good line to show how those with faith feel empowered by their strong convictions.
I am talking about the line where someone says “rebellions are built on hope.”
Marama Davidson said one of the things that Palestinians found hard to bear was the feeling that they were being ignored by the international community.
International support and attention gave Palestinians hope and hope is what resistance is built on.
Women’s boat to Gaza brought Palestinians hope.
We can help in our own small way too by supporting Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, BDS, and by pressuring our government to urge Israel to comply with international law.