Another fleet of boats will challenge the state of Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza and stranglehold on 1.8 million Palestinians who live there. Well-known personalities, labour leaders and Aboriginal people from Canada are planning to be on board, though full details of their participation are being kept under wraps.
The action defies both the Netanyahu and Harper governments.
A stern warning was issued by the Harper government earlier in 2015: “You are strongly advised against participating in any attempt to break the naval blockade. Canadian officials may not be able to provide you with consular assistance if you choose to participate in the flotilla. Participants may be detained by Israeli officials prior to their deportation. In cases of deportation, local authorities are not obliged to notify the Canadian embassy.”
Since the blockade began in 2006, a humanitarian disaster has almost destroyed the Gazan economy.
Devastated last summer by Israel’s bombardment, known as Operation Protective Edge, people in Gaza have experienced even greater deprivations. While the international community promised aid, almost nothing has been delivered and international media have moved on.
On May 10 the first boat of Freedom Flotilla III left Gothenburg, Sweden, starting its journey to Gaza.
It will be joined by other boats carrying public figures and ordinary citizens from 20 countries, including Dr. Moncif Marzouki, former president of Tunisia. Peace delegates are seeking open borders for the people who have been living behind the blockade for years.
Previous efforts on the part of Canadian civil society to challenge the blockade involved the boats the Tahrir (Canadian Boat to Gaza) and Gaza’s Ark.
In 2011, the Tahrir, which was carrying medical aid, and all those on board were seized by the Israeli Defense Forces in international waters. Last summer, Gaza’s Ark was shelled and destroyed by the Israeli Navy as it was under repair in dry dock at Gaza’s port after sustaining earlier damage by a sabotage operation. The Ark was being readied to bring commercial goods produced by local farmers, manufacturers and artisans to international markets in an effort to stimulate Gaza’s economy.
Our Canadian government has taken a position against the people of Gaza as well as any peaceful challenge to what the United Nations has deemed an illegal blockade.
This is more reason for people of conscience to support Freedom Flotilla III. When our government sides with the oppressor, the responsibility falls on us to act.
Concerned people will continue to sail as long as innocent people are marginalized and confined to lives of poverty and deprivation. The Freedom Flotilla movement continues to grow as understandings increase that the people of Gaza need more than aid — which doesn’t even arrive when promised.
Palestinians need freedom and the liberty to develop their skills and commercial products to support themselves. Farmers and fishers need to be able to work on their land and waters without lethal intimidation.
Canadians care about the lives and future of Palestinian children. Last summer, people in Canada took to the streets in unprecedented numbers to protest against the bombing of innocent people in Gaza.
The new flotilla is a continuation of those efforts in a strategic attempt to let the people of Gaza go, to develop trade and to pursue an equitable international relationship.
Canadian politicians have been reluctant to get on board. It is now time to see some of them step forward and show the same initiative and responsibility as their constituents.