For five years Gazan civilians have lived with the effects of a strangling and punitive blockade enforced by Israel on the one side and Egypt on the other. The blockade was initiated following the election of Hamas with its stated goal to force the people of Gaza to overturn their elected leaders. No effort was made to work with Hamas. Instead Canada led the pack in declaring the Hamas government a terrorist organization. This is a way to de-legitimize the real needs and concerns of the people living in Gaza, a place that has been referred to as an open-air prison of 1.5 million people.. Gazans have been systematically deprived of the necessities of survival – nutritious food, and the means to grow it, clean water and the infrastructure to provide it, and safe housing and the opportunity to rebuild it. They have been denied the opportunity to export goods and produce and they have been denied the ability to travel in and out of the Gaza Strip.
While Israel claims to have left Gaza in 2005 they still control all access points in conjunction with Egypt. They prevent fishermen from going out far enough in the harbor to catch fish, on pain of death, and they prevent farmers from using the rich agricultural land near the borders, also on pain of death.
In 2008 there was a 5 month ceasefire supported by the population on both sides of the Gaza/Israel border with 500 residents of Sderot supporting the continuing of the ceasefire and the easing of the blockade. Instead of easing the blockade Israel launched Operation Cast Lead killing some 1500 Palestinians including women and children, and destroying massive amounts of infrastructure.
An occupying power is required under the Geneva Conventions to provide for the needs of the occupied citizens and to allow humanitarian aid to reach the civilians in need of that aid.
This is what Israel is refusing to do.
It is very sad to see politicians line up against the flotilla claiming that there are ‘legitimate channels’ for aid. According to OXFAM and the Red Cross, Gaza is a humanitarian disaster and truck traffic into Gaza is just a fraction of what is required to sustain healthy life. Where is the path to an end of this punishing blockade? This is collective punishment of a population. The Freedom Flotilla is a modern day version of the Freedom Riders who supported the marginalized black communities in the southern US during the civil rights era.
It is time for our politicians to get on the right side of history. Kudos to those brave few who are doing so. And to all of us: time to examine our consciences and see how we can stand up for justice.
Martin Luther King said to his critics: there is a time when it is necessary to dramatize the injustice. This is such a time.
Lyn Adamson will be a delegate on the Canadian Boat to Gaza, the Tahrir, with the Freedom Flotilla II. Lyn represents Canadian Quakers and the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace.