Former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney returned home today after 6 days being held by the government of Israel while attempting with 21 colleagues to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza on the vessel, the Spirit of Humanity.
“Don’t sign Miss Cynthia don’t sign!” So chanted a boisterous group of Palestinian teens and pre-teens in Beirut’s Shatila Refugee Camp demonstrating support for the Freegaza Humanity boat abductees on the 4thof July.
The students understood that those illegally arrested while in International waters had been offered a “get out of Jail Free” pass if they confessed in writing to violating Israel’s territorial waters.
The Spirit of Humanity boat, trying to bring emergency humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza, was the topic of a lively discussion during a Sabra Shatila Foundation summer school civics lesson on “International law and the Question of Palestine”. The students were interested in the plight of some of their relatives and countryman in Palestine and the continuing siege of Gaza. Some had just finished their Baccalaureate exams and were wondering how they could continue their education given the severe impediments the government of Lebanon places on Palestinian civil rights, and their post exam relief seemed to energize them for the discussion.
A couple of the students had met Cynthia during her recent visits to Lebanon. When they learned that as a Congresswoman, she had introduced articles of impeachment against Bush, was a consistent anti-war voter during her twelve years in Congress, and that no member in Congress had achieved a more consistent, principled, voting record of issues of civil and human rights, including Palestinian rights, they really connected with the subject of the Freegaza aid boat, the Spirit of Humanity and her travails. “Those supporters of Palestine should not accept a false confession and should stay in Jail if necessary. They are patriots” was a commonly expressed sentiment.
The students understood that in refusing to sign the Israeli government prepared “acknowledgement/confession” the Freegaza group acted consistent with International Law. They learned that territorial waters, as defined by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is a belt of coastal waters extending at most twelve nautical miles from the baseline (usually the mean low-water mark) of a coastal state. The territorial sea is regarded as the sovereign territory of the state, although foreign ships (both military and civilian) are allowed innocent passage through it. They learned from media reports that in any case the Humanity was in International waters and that consequently Israel had no right to molest it.
The class adjourned sharing a general consensus that the Spirit of Humanity, enjoyed and will continue to enjoy on every subsequent humanitarian voyage, these freedoms as well as other internationally lawful uses of the sea within contiguous zones, exclusive economic zones, and on the high seas. Needless to report, were it possible for them, the whole class would like to be on the next Freegaza boat.