Preparing for the Next Gaza Freedom Flotilla in Canada

A specter is haunting the Harper government and its pro-Israel allies. It’s been dubbed CBG and it stands for Canadian Boat to Gaza.

Pro-Palestinian activists recently began raising $300,000 to send a Canadian registered ship to help break Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza. The plan is to fill the ship with various supplies, a couple dozen prominent activists and to return with Palestinian exports.

Collecting $300,000 is not easy but it’s important that Canada be represented in the next international Free Gaza flotilla, which is expected to include boats from the U.S., India, and many European countries. The Harper government continues to adopt an extreme pro-Israel position and the flotilla is an opportunity to demonstrate that there is a countervailing force supporting Palestinian rights.

The CBG could also be used to embarrass the Conservative government. Presumably, the Prime Minister would like to maintain his ‘Israel no matter what’ position, which is popular with evangelical Christians and right-wing Jews, but can he actually support an Israeli assault against a Canadian flagged ship?

If Harper supports Israeli forces commandeering a Canadian vessel in international waters — tantamount to piracy — Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff would be under enormous pressure to defend international law.

Irrespective of the positions taken by Canadian leaders, the ship will draw attention to Israel’s siege of Gaza and the suffering of Palestinians.

Despite many logistical hurdles the CBG was given a significant boost by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. After Canada Post announced that it would no longer send mail to Gaza (Israel Post decided to halt mail to the area last month) the union called on Canadians to send their Gaza-bound mail on the CBG.

A number of Quebec unions also look set to support the initiative.

The media understands that the CBG could mark a watershed moment in pro-Palestinian activism. Both the National Post and Toronto Star have already run front-page stories about the effort and pro-Israel commentators have unleashed a torrent of criticism.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service has taken interest as well. CSIS agents visited the home of one of the organizers, Ehab Lotayef, twice in one week. They claimed to be concerned that unfriendly individuals might take advantage of the endeavor, but this follows their recent harassment of other Pro-Palestinian activists.

Sending a boat to Gaza would be a major step forward for a movement that has made remarkable strides in recent years.

A decade ago Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights didn’t exist and now they have a dozen chapters across the country. Similarly, groups such as the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East and Tadamon! have all established themselves in recent years. Ditto for Independent Jewish Voices and its six active chapters.

These groups’ organizing efforts are increasingly bearing fruit. During Israel’s 22-day assault on Gaza at the end of 2008 many Canadian cities witnessed their largest ever pro-Palestinian demonstration while this year’s Israeli Apartheid Week was bigger than the previous one. In February, 500 Quebec artists stated their intent to boycott Israel and a few months ago pro-Israel groups suffered a humiliating defeat after trying to get Queers Against Israeli Apartheid barred from Toronto’s Gay Pride parade.

Continuing this momentum forward at the end of October Montreal will host an international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) organizing conference that looks set to boost the nascent movement. The CBG provides the Pro-Palestinian movement with another more high-profile opportunity to draw attention to Canada’s role in Palestinian suffering.

For Israeli decision-makers the forthcoming international flotilla is a major threat. Since killing nine aboard a Turkish vessel in May Israeli officials have been under growing international pressure to end the blockade. A month ago new British Prime Minister David Cameron called Gaza a “Prison Camp”.

But Israeli leaders are concerned that softening their policies in Gaza might have longer-term consequences. By conceding to international grassroots pressure they risk giving a boost to the international boycott campaign. It would further confirm that the tide is turning towards a just settlement

The Canadian Boat to Gaza depends upon many individuals donating $20, $40 or more and many others bringing fundraising proposals to their union, church or student group. Once the money is raised the boat should gives us an opportunity to stir outrage at Israel’s brutal treatment of Palestinians and Canada’s complicity therein.

People who support justice and peace should get behind the flotilla.

To donate:

Yves Engler is the author of 12 books. His latest book is Stand on Guard for Whom?: A People's History of the Canadian Military . Read other articles by Yves.

9 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozh said on September 4th, 2010 at 9:30am #

    Spending boats to gaza gladdens my heart. It appears very helpful and i thank all those who contributed money and volunteered to man the ship. tnx

  2. John Andrews said on September 5th, 2010 at 12:00am #

    This is a great piece of news and I wish CBG every success.

  3. mary said on September 5th, 2010 at 5:58am #

    I couldn’t believe my eyes when I just opened the BBC Middle East page.

    Israeli style retribution – thousands of eyes for an eye and thousands of teeth for a tooth.

    PS For some unknown reason this link on the ME page opens on the US/Canada page above

    5 September 2010 Last updated at 13:26 One dead in Israeli raids on Gaza
    Israel carries out three bombing raids on the Gaza Strip, killing one man and injuring another.

  4. JoeJ said on September 5th, 2010 at 12:54pm #

    Canadian Boat to Gaza – Hear Hear – Good Sailing!

  5. mary said on September 5th, 2010 at 1:42pm #

    Mohammed Omer writes from Gaza. The continuing siege is still cruel.

  6. Ismail Zayid said on September 5th, 2010 at 4:49pm #

    The idea of the CBG is a positive peaceful gesture to bring humanitarian assistance to the 1.5 million people in the Gaza “Prison Camp”.

  7. mary said on September 6th, 2010 at 1:56am #

    A boy is shot in the right knee (and with possible nerve damage) whilst collecting gravel. He is now maimed for life.

    Good wishes to the Canadian Boat to Gaza and to all humanitarians who try to help.

  8. Rehmat said on September 6th, 2010 at 6:21pm #

    On July 21, The Washington Post reported that Professor Rashid Khalidi (Columbia University), whose past friendship with Senator Barack Obama had irked the Jewish Lobby during the 2008 election – along with other peace activists in the US Boat to Gaza movement, is trying to raise $370,000 for the 1.5 million Gaza people (how could AIPAC allow such anti-Semitic activities in the ‘Jewish State of America’?). Not onlt that – Professor Khalidi even plans to name the vessel, which this group is planning to use to send humanitarian goods to Gaza – after Obama’s best-selling book The Audacity of Hope. The said move has really pissed-off some of pro-Israel groups who have asked the Justic Department to probe the academic for his possible material support (F16s, heicopters, gunships, mini nukes, etc.) to “a terrorist group”. So far there is no comment from the White House. I suspect, Obama maybe consulting Benjamin Netanyahu on this national security issue.

    Across the border, Israel’s most trusted government of Stephen Harper had been approached by some ‘anti-Semitic’ individuals who are planning to raise $300,000 to send a Canadian vessel to join the Free Gaza Movement coming adventure to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza residents, who were crazy enough to elect an anti-Zionist Islamist group Hamas in 2006. Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon (extremely allergic to Ahmadinejad’s policy towards Israel) has advised the group to make sure they follow the rules set up by Israel for getting supplies to Gaza. In other words, the Israeli rules are more ‘sacred’ and should not be challeged – but the Canadians are quite free to break the Biblical commandments.

    In response, the Canadian Boat Gaza has come up with a novel idea. Instead of taking aid material to Gaza, it might help Gazzan to export some goods to boost their economy.

  9. mary said on September 12th, 2010 at 12:41pm #

    Reports: 3 Palestinians dead in shelling
    By the CNN Wire StaffSeptember 12, 2010 — Updated 1749 GMT (0149 HKT)

    The dead include a 61-year-old man and his grandson
    NEW: Israel Defense Forces says its soldiers were returning fire
    (CNN) — Three people, including a teenager, were killed Sunday and two others were injured when an Israeli tank shell landed east of the Beit Hanoun neighborhood in northern Gaza, according to Palestinian medical and security officials.

    The number of dead was initially two, but a 13-year-old boy died from injuries sustained in the incident, the officials said. The other fatalities were a 61-year-old man, the teenager’s grandfather, and another youth, 21.

    The Israel Defense Forces said its soldiers were returning fire toward “a number of suspects” who were attempting to fire a rocket-propelled grenade in their direction. The suspects “were apparently hit,” the IDF said in a statement.

    Suspects were seen approaching a security fence earlier Sunday in the same area, the IDF said, and soldiers fired warning shots at them. “Two projectiles apparently landed in the same area,” the statement said.

    CNN’s Talal Abu-Rahma and Guy Azriel contributed to this report.

    Note the use by the IDF of the words ‘attempting’ and ‘apparently’. Cold blooded murder by the Zionists as per usual.