Ehab is a Montreal supporter of IJV. This appeared today in the National Post
Photo – Matthew Sherwood for National Post. Former Canadian MP and retired United Church Minister Jim Manly speaks to the media at Toronto Pearson International Airport on Wednesday.
First off, the Estelle — which was seized by Israel over the weekend — sails under the Freedom Flotilla Coalition (FFC) banner, not that of the Free Gaza Movement (which your editorial impugned at some length). The FGM is not even a member of the FFC. The Canadian Boat to Gaza (CBG), of which I am a founding member, is a member of the FFC and was co-ordinating former MP Jim Manly’s brave and conscientious trip on the Estelle.
More broadly, independent expert reports have confirmed that the Palestinians in Gaza are facing a multifaceted crisis in food, water, health and economy. See, for instance, the report by five specialized UN rapporteurs posted here.
Israel makes sure that people in Gaza do not starve; this is true. But it is done in a calculated manner to keep the Palestinians in Gaza controlled and subservient. As the Estelle was crossing the Mediterranean, the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the Israeli Government to release the “Red Line” report, which confirms what we’ve been saying all along: What Israel sends Gaza is far below the needs of the population, and that is done intentionally. Israel makes sure not to starve the people of Gaza, for optical reasons. But it keeps them weak and dependant, so they cannot build.
This brings us to another point: Is Gaza “occupied” or not?
If Gaza is no longer occupied, then Israel has no responsibility toward sustaining the people of Gaza. But, by the same token, Israel should not prevent Gazans from sustaining themselves through trade. In other words: Israel should lift the blockade, and permit Gazans to control their territorial waters in regard to peaceful civilian and commercial sailing.
On the other hand, if Gaza is still occupied, as I believe is true, then Israel is fully responsible for the population and the needs of the population. (Moreover, it makes no sense to blockade a territory you occupy.)
Every time Israel is challenged, those who want to support it resort to the same tactic. They claim that the challengers are driven by anti-Semitism — or, as in the case of your editorial, that the challengers are naive individuals who have signed on to campaigns initiated by anti-Semites. But the Estelle had five Jews on board, three of them Israeli nationals. We, CBG and FFC, stand firmly against anti-Semitism as well as any racist discriminatory ideology, including that which considers the Palestinian Arabs to be a lesser people than the Jews.
Finally, our critics ask: Why don’t you go to Syria (or Libya, or Iraq, etc.)?
We acknowledge that the people of Syria need help and are facing horrendous circumstances. Actually one of the FFC member organizations, the Turkish IHH, has been directing a large percentage of its resources over the past year toward the Syrian people, and that is one of the reasons it has not been actively present in the Estelle mission. But in any event, should the atrocities facing one people be used as an excuse to forget oppression committed against another?
Peace for Israel will come about only through the defence of justice and the rights of all peoples. In this way, it is Jim Manly who truly is working for the people of Israel, not his critics.
Ehab Lotayef is a founding member of the Canadian Boat to Gaza and an organizer with the Freedom Flotilla coalition.