Peace & Justice Award to Free Gaza Movement
Dedicated to the memory of citizen activist, Gertrude Welch, this award honors individuals who have made significant contributions to peace and justice locally and globally. The San Jose Peace and Justice Center is awarding the Gertrude Welch Peace and Justice Award to the pioneers of the Free Gaza Movement -- Greta Berlin, Paul Larudee and Kathy Sheetz.
The award ceremony will take place Saturday, January 30, 2010 at 5:30-6:30 pm, at the home of Barby and Vic Ulmer, who were among the original founders of the San Jose Peace Center over 52 years ago. The address is 13004 Paseo Presada (corner of Paseo Lado), Saratoga.
Since that August day in 2008 the world peace community has continued breaking the siege against Gaza. More boats have sailed to Gaza. Vehicle and truck caravans have made trips carrying much needed aid to Gaza. All of this has followed in the wake from the Free Gaza Movement’s initial boat trip.
On August 23, 2008, an event of historical importance took place in Gaza. The siege of Gaza was broken by a group of human rights workers, aid workers and journalists. This group, known as the Free Gaza Movement, sailed on two boats from Cyprus to Gaza. Upon arriving to the Port of Gaza they successfully broke the blockade of the Gaza Strip imposed by Israel. This group sailed over 350 kilometers through choppy seas. They made the journey despite threats that the Israeli government would use force to stop them. They arrived in Gaza to the cheers and joyful tears of thousands of Palestinians who came out to the beaches to welcome them. Two small boats, 43 determined human rights workers, one simple message: "The world has not forgotten the people of this land. Today, we are all from Gaza."
Please join our peace and justice community in celebrating the historic accomplishment of these courageous activists. The award ceremony will be followed by a dinner/reception. After dinner there will be a fund-raiser in which I will speak on "The siege of Gaza and why Gaza is a key to peace between Israelis and Palestinians." Donna and Darlene Wallach who were passengers on the first Free Gaza Movement boats, Greta Berlin and Paul Larudee will also speak about their experiences and plans for future trips to Gaza.
Recipients of the First Annual Gertrude Welch Peace and Justice Award
Greta Berlin has been an advocate for justice for the Palestinians since the 1960s, starting in Chicago. After the l967 war she and her Palestinian husband co-founded and ran one of the first NGOs for Palestine called PalAid International. Over five years, the organization raised millions of dollars in medical aid. In 2003, she volunteered with the ISM, working in several villages in the occupied West bank as well as manning their media office, then returned to work with the ISM in 2005 and 2007.
In 2006, she co-founded the Free Gaza Movement and in August 2008 was on board the SS Free Gaza, the first boat with internationals to reach this besieged strip of the Mediterranean in many decades.
She coordinated three more successful voyages to Gaza between October 22 and December 23, 2008, heading up the land and media crews in Cyprus, sending more than 50 human rights workers to Gaza on board the SS Dignity. Greta was in charge of the land crew for the voyage of the SS Spirit of Humanity in June 2009 when the boat was hijacked by the Israeli Navy, its passengers kidnapped and thrown into an Israeli prison.
Paul Larudee, Ph.D.
Dr. Paul Larudee is a San Francisco Bay Area human rights advocate for justice in Palestine and Israel. He has a Ph.D. in linguistics from Georgetown University and has spent 14 years in Arab countries as a contracted U.S. government advisor, Fulbright-Hays exchange lecturer, teacher, training administrator and graduate student.
Paul has visited the Palestinian region many times since 1965, including four times with the International Solidarity Movement, a Palestinian-led movement that applies non-violent principles to resist Israeli human rights violations. He helped organize non-violent resistance in Lebanon during the 2006 Israeli invasion.
He is one of the founders of the Free Gaza Movement, whose boats, on August 23, 2008, became the first in decades to enter Gaza by sea, breaking the Israeli naval blockade. He is a founder of the Free Palestine Movement, which also seeks to challenge Israel’s blockade and denial of access to all of Palestine by sea, air and land.
Kathy Sheetz is a human rights activist, a nurse and a specialist in sustainable development. Since the late 1980s she has worked in Haiti in clinics and agricultural programs. She started a program at Duke University taking medical and divinity students to Haiti.
Due to the frequent kidnappings in Haiti, she could not return and instead put her attention towards the Palestinian struggle. She worked on the Free Gaza Movement steering committee towards a plan to send boats to Gaza, she eventually signed up herself and sailed on one of the Free Gaza boats which broke the siege on August 23, 2008. She tried unsuccessfully to enter Gaza in December 2008, June of 2009 and December 2009. However, with this last trip in particular, she witnessed a strong international movement come together, culminating in the historic Cairo Declaration.