Letters for Gaza

Greece stopped 200 letters from University students along with a Gaza flotilla.

by Rania Abuisnaineh

Less than two months ago, as finals week was drawing near, scores of University of Minnesota students lined up in Coffman Union to create cards they hoped would one day reach the hands of Gazans thousands of miles away.

These cards undertook a long journey. The hands of students âÄî those from the Disabled Student Cultural Center and La Raza Student Cultural Center, as well as others simply passing by âÄî created them. The 210 cards then made their way to New York and California, joining thousands of other letters on the American flotilla to Gaza. From there, they headed towards the ports of Greece, where the journey would continue, all the way âÄúTo Gaza with Love,âÄù as the project is coined.

Amina Maameri, president of the UniversityâÄôs Students for Justice in Palestine, could only imagine the happiness these sentimental messages would offer the Gazans. But when the Greek coastal guard âÄî fearing for the âÄúsafetyâÄù of passengers âÄî banned humanitarian flotillas from sailing to a besieged Gaza last Friday, Maameri greeted this news with a heavy heart.

She recalled a memory from the SJP event when several tall, stout football players from the Black Student Union huddled around a pile of markers, construction paper and glittery star confetti to partake in the event.

On the card, they penned the words âÄúTo the children of Gaza from the men of the Gopher football teamâÄù and âÄúGo Gophers!âÄù next to a drawing of the UniversityâÄôs furry mascot.

The students may not be peace activists devoted to the Palestinian cause, nor are they from Palestinian families touched by the horrors of occupation. In fact, some of the students told Maameri they had little knowledge about IsraelâÄôs unjustified four-year siege and blockade of the Gaza Strip. Seeing them creating personal messages in hope of alleviating someoneâÄôs suffering is a sign of student empowerment.

âÄú[Students] will think, âÄòWhat IâÄôm going to write will make a difference in someoneâÄôs life,âÄôâÄù Maameri said. âÄúAnd for that, they feel a direct connection.âÄù

Weeks have passed, and the cards are now under the supervision of 50 peace activists aboard âÄúThe Audacity of Hope,âÄù the American flotilla Greece recently halted. Plastered daringly on this flotilla are the words âÄúIs it Poseidon or Netanyahu?âÄù âÄî criticizing the damages Israel inflicted on last yearâÄôs Freedom Flotillas, which left nine peace activists dead and 50 others injured.

By filing lawsuits against new activists and urging international insurance companies to refuse coverage to the humanitarian flotillas, Israel is challenging anyone who dares question its criminal policies.

âÄúItâÄôs like [Israel] is putting up a sign for everyone else: âÄòHey, international activists, sit where you are and stay in your countries because if you come here, this will happen to you too,âÄôâÄù Maameri said.

Sending cards will not reverse IsraelâÄôs illegal occupation of Palestinian land âÄî an occupation that has for 63 years continued unabated. However, it will make the 1.6 million inhabitants of Gaza know that people all over the world have not forgotten their suffering.

âÄúWhen they get the cards,âÄù Maameri said, âÄúthey feel a connection with someone on the other side of the world who wrote this letter to them. It makes them feel special.âÄù

âÄúThe Audacity of HopeâÄù is carrying more than aid supplies; beneath the first aid kits, food rations and medicine packages are 210 letters created by our own University students. Let the Gazan families to whom they were written receive them.