Canadians Help Fund Second Gaza Flotilla

Activists Have Raised $125,000

Protesters rally against the Israeli blockade of Gaza Photo Faiz Imam

Activists who tried to storm the Israeli blockade on Gaza last year have announced that plans are underway for a second try.

On May 31, 2010, Israeli naval commandoes intercepted a flotilla of ships en route from Turkey to the Gaza strip. The flotilla was organized by a group of activists protesting the Israeli embargo of Gaza that Israel says is necessary to prevent smuggling of weapons into the enclave. Activists say this is denying the basic necessities of life to the citizens of Gaza.

Since their return, organizers of the Canadian Ship to Gaza campaign have raised enough money to add a ship to join the second international flotilla in Spring, 2011.

The organizers announced to supporters that their fundraising efforts were a success by e-mail and restated their intent: “To challenge the blockade both internationally, and more important, locally within the context of the Canadian political scene.”

By sending a Canadian boat to participate in a second flotilla, they hope to shed light on what they see as the Canadian government’s “shameful support of Israel and its atrocities.” 

Canadian activists Kevin Neish and Farooq Burney, who were onboard the flotilla vessel when it was boarded, had already announced their plans to help promote more Canadian participation in “the next flotilla” in Montreal not long after being deported from Israel following the capture of their ship.

The group raised over $125,000 out of their $300,000 goal so far. Some members have complained of being questioned by the Canadian Secret Service as to the nature of their activity.

Concordia Hillel president and former Israeli soldier Tomer Shavit disagrees with the activists’ methods.

“If these activists want to send a flotilla to Gaza to create violence and chaos, it must be made obvious that Canada does not support this and that this is viewed as a misguided initiative,” he said.

Making clear that he supports a two-state solution to the conflict, Shavit told The Link that “a free peaceful Palestinian state is an end goal that is in the best interest of the Palestinians and the best interest of the Israelis.”

Neish and Burney fought tears while recounting stories of their ordeal onboard the Gaza bound vessel. They maintained that their intentions were peaceful, that they had no desire to incite violence, but they reiterated that the blockade on Gaza “must be stopped.”

Neish justified his involvement saying that he is not “picking on Israel” for any reason other than his sympathy for the suffering of Palestinians and his dislike of governments that he sees as “bullies.”

They noted that some of their shipmates used parts of vessels to improvise weapons in order to fight back against the commandoes who, according to reports, were armed.

While they did not set an exact date for the launch of the Canadian boat to Gaza, they hope a second attempt at storming the Israeli embargo will force the State of Israel to acquiesce to international pressure to end the embargo.

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 20, published January 25, 2011.