Israeli activist lobbies for Palestinian rights

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

An Israeli activist banned from seeing his 92-year-old mother spent this weekend lobbying Capetonians to join the Freedom Flotilla to “break the siege on Gaza”.

Dror Feiler was born in Israel but five years ago was banned from re-entering it after joining activists from different countries to sail on a boat to the Gaza Strip.

Israeli military stopped the boat, named Freedom Flotilla, and killed a number of activists on it.

Two South Africans have already been confirmed to join the next Freedom Flotilla, which would comprise three boats, with a possible fourth joining.

One boat has already sailed from Sweden on May 10 and is en route to Gaza. The rest of the boats are set to leave a month from now.

Feiler was this weekend lobbying support for the campaign to deliver by sea medical and humanitarian aid to Gaza, which has come under heavy Israeli attack over the last few years.

Feiler visited a mosque, held a workshop with artists and activists, and addressed public meetings in the city this weekend.

Israeli activist Dror Feiler with Imam Ebrahim Gabriels at the Portlands mosque in Mitchell's Plain where he addressed a local congregation about the freedom flotilla planned to leave for the Gaza Strip in a month's time. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

Israeli activist Dror Feiler with Imam Ebrahim Gabriels at the Portlands mosque in Mitchell’s Plain where he addressed a local congregation about the freedom flotilla planned to leave for the Gaza Strip in a month’s time. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

In an interview with Weekend Argus, he said his “agitation tour” aimed to “unite people to fight for the rights of Palestinians”. The tour had already stopped in Durban and Johannesburg last week.

“South Africans are respected because of their success to abolish apartheid and go into reconciliation without ending in a bloodbath. This example should be emphasised by the whole world,” said Feiler.

“This solution is necessary in the Israel-Palestine context.”

Feiler said the Freedom Flotilla would go ahead despite previous attempts being blocked by Israeli military.

“All of us are non-violent and we were attacked by armed soldiers, many of them masked,” said Feiler.

“The intention of the flotilla is to reinstall international law and challenge the illegal siege. We are going with three boats. In a month’s time we will see if we end up in Gaza or in an Israeli jail.

“I have been arrested three times before. I was on the first boat when they (Israeli soldiers) murdered people. They broke my ribs and beat me.”

Feiler said while some might think it foolish to again go up against the Israeli army, the Freedom Flotilla organisers believed they “cannot just turn away”.

“People have died for this. It is our task to continue this mission,” he said.

On Friday, Feiler addressed the congregation at Al-Masjidur Rawbie, a mosque in Portlands, Mitchells Plain.

“On our flotilla, there are people of different faiths and also non-believers. It’s not a question of your religion, skin or nationality. It’s a question of human rights,” he told the congregation.

“Our politicians are very good at telling us at how important human rights is. But when it comes to the point when they have to implement it they choose to look away.”

Feiler said May 31 marked the fifth anniversary of the first Freedom Flotilla attempt and the organisers.

“We didn’t reach Gaza but we reached the hearts of 1,7 million people of Gaza who knew that we were ready to sacrifice our freedom to support them. Some even sacrificed their lives,” said Feiler.

“We showed them that Jews, Christians, Muslims and non-believers cared for them because what is happening to them is against human rights.”

He added: “I am banned from meeting my 92-year-old mother. I am banned until 2022. Maybe I won’t see my mother alive again.

“But this is nothing compared to the suffering that Palestinian people go through.”

Sheik Ebrahim Gabriels, who has been the imam at Al-Masjidur Rawbie for the past 26 years, said Feiler “reignited the spirit of the people of Cape Town”.

“It is important for the youth to see a Jew speak in our mosque. He has sacrificed for Palestine,” said Gabriels.

“He is more worried about the suffering of the people of Palestine than his life. It was brilliant to have him here.”

Gabriels said South Africans should “take the lead” in joining the Freedom Flotilla and “show the people of Gaza that we did not forget about them”.

Ismail Moolla, of the Johannesburg branch of the national Palestine Solidarity Alliance, said yesterday applications to go on the three boats have been closed. He said the still needed volunteers to promote the campaign.

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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