James Godfrey, one of the organisers of Free Gaza Australia and a media spokesperson for the FFC, said that the evening in Leichhardt will “give information to people about the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza and the efforts by civil society across the world – including in Italy – to challenge it”.
“For many years boats have been trying to break the blockade and many of them have left port in Italy before heading to Palestine,” Godfrey continued.
“Just last year two boats left from Palermo and headed to Gaza.”
The Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip commenced in 2007.
Gaza’s population is largely made up of Palestinian refugees who were evicted from their lands in 1948.
The ongoing land, air and sea blockade means that there is no freedom of movement for the Palestinian refugees who inhabit the area.
Severe restrictions on freedom have been maintained for more than 12 years, to catastrophic effect.
Most people are unable to leave for health, education or any reason, and the areas in which Palestinians can fish for food in the Mediterranean are very limited.
In 2012, the United Nations predicted that Gaza will become uninhabitable by 2020.
Godfrey said that children and minors make up more than half of the Gaza population of over 2 million people.
“The ongoing blockade has robbed them of their childhood, their rights to safety, education and health and their prospects for a decent future,” he added.
Godfrey said that the Australian government is complicit in this blockade.
“Australia chairs the United Nations Human Rights Council, and so far has failed to do anything to attempt to challenge the blockade,” he said.
“It has been complicit in allowing it to be maintained,” he added, explaining that ongoing attacks are continually made on Palestinian people attempting to carry out their fishing business in territorial waters.
In 2018, the FFC organised a flotilla of boats which attempted to break the blockade.
“The two boats which went there were both attacked in international waters,” Godfrey said.
He described a violent encounter whereby FFC representatives were detained, beaten and strip-searched.
But he said it’s nothing compared to what Palestinian fisherman are forced to undergo every day.
“For us it’s a dangerous business that we participate in, but it’s an obligation for us to act when we know what we do and we hold the passports that we hold,” he added.
Thursday’s event in Leichhardt will provide information on various maritime efforts made over the last 11 years to challenge the blockade, including a talk by Michael Coleman, who sailed to Gaza in 2011 and 2012 and lived in Gaza for six months.
There will also be stories recounted from Italian cities such as La Spezia, Napoli, Palermo and Cagliari.
The evening, which will be co-hosted by Italian organisation FILEF, will also provide information on the next flotilla, which is expected to depart in 2020 and which seeks to liberate the children and youth impacted by the effects of the embargo.
Long-time FILEF committee member, Claudio Marcello, said that the Italian organisation is founded on a basis of progressive politics, and maintains a strong presence in political areas concerned with human rights and environment.
“At FILEF, we want to continue to be present and give a contribution in the Australian progressive political climate,” Marcello said.
FILEF is a non-profit progressive community organisation, established in Australia in 1972 after being founded by Carlo Levi in Italy in 1967.
Its key objective is to promote a multicultural Australia that recognises the value of backgrounds and cultures of all Australians, while acting for a more democratic, fair, and environmentally sustainable society.
FILEF collaborates regularly with human rights organisations, such as Amnesty International and the Refugee Action Coalition.
It hosts monthly talks and evenings of cinema on the last Thursday of every month, in the meeting room at the Leichhardt Library, in the Italian Forum, from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm.