The Friends House in Manoa hosted a gathering of peace-and-justice advocates at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, August 1. Ann Wright, retired U.S. Army colonel and State Department officer who is a U.S. and international leader in the pursuit of peace and dignity for all human beings, addressed the group. (Ann became a Hawaii resident in 2000. When not traveling in furtherance of many progressive causes, she maintains close solidarity with a number of statewide organizations and persons whose particular passion is to effect a just and lasting solution to the tragedy embroiling Jews, Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land even as that tragedy entangles the United States in economic, diplomatic, legal, and moral dilemmas.) She gave background and current status of the most recent attempt by activists supporting the legitimate rights and aspirations of the people of Palestine as they seek freedom from oppression by Israel.

Specifically, Ms. Wright toils to end the multi-year crippling, inhumane and illegal blockade, by land, sea and air, of the deliberately immiserated Palestinians of the Gaza Strip. In addition to the valiant resistance to Israel’s illegal 45-year occupation by all Palestinians, the overwhelming character of which resistance is nonviolent in nature, several attempts from 2008 onward have been undertaken to break the blockade of Gaza – whereby Israel, the occupier, cruelly restricts the orderly and essential flow of imports and exports – from the sea by international activists.

These attempts have been met by Israeli arrogance, ramming of small cargo-carrying boats in international waters, and, in the most egregious case, the hi-jacking and murder of nine people, including one American, and wounding of 50-plus others of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in May 2010. (Ann Wright was a participating member of the Flotilla.)

Ms. Wright briefed the Friends House attendees about “Gaza’s Ark”: the current effort to continue to challenge Israel’s (with full official U.S. complicity) blockade of Gaza. Because “outside-in” approaches to end Israel’s state terrorism have been met with belligerence and life-taking violence by Israeli forces, a creative “inside-out” plan is taking shape.

To wit, funds are being raised to purchase a seagoing vessel in Gaza; make it fully seaworthy using Gazan labor and materials; load the vessel with handcrafts and other goods made by men and women of Gaza; sail the vessel from Gaza into international waters (thus, “inside-out”); and deliver the goods, which will have been pre-ordered and pre-paid by humanitarian-minded citizens all over the world, to a port abiding by international law and commercial convention.

At that point, final delivery of the goods to purchasers will be accomplished. Ms. Wright emphasized that, like other attempts to break the blockade of Gaza, this is a global, determinedly nonviolent, venture: the U.S., Canada, Australia, Europe, the Middle East, etc., will have a stake in it.

Ms. Wright and her fellow organizers expect to have operational funds in place by autumn this year and to bring the project to actualization in mid-2013. Following her presentation, donations of funds for Gaza’s Ark were made and snacks were enjoyed by the assembled group.

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About the author: Robert H. Stiver is a retired federal civil servant who is fully engaged in peace-and-justice issues on behalf of the Christians and Muslims of Palestine. In his background is U.S. Army service, during which he was required to study the Arabic language and culture for one year, 1964-5. That experience set the tone for his life; he currently is co-producer of “Holy Land Peace,” offering video takes on the Palestine-Israel tragedy which appear regularly on ‘Olelo Community Television.