Monday, June 20, 2011
This coming week, the world is coming to the suffocating, captive land of Gaza.
Beyond the walls of this besieged area of humanity lies poverty, unemployment, hunger, lack of medical care and waning hope. Israel continues to hold the people of Gaza collectively responsible for terrorist acts in clear contravention of the UN Declaration of Rights. This bombed land, where movement is restricted and everyone treated as a criminal, needs our voices and our help. Forty-five percent of the population is unemployed, hunger is rampant, and medical care scarce. Something needs to be done.
So, peace activists from around the world are gathering on ships to head into Gaza carrying medical supplies and food.
Israel, predictably, wants none of it. Last year, when the first flotilla tried to approach, Israeli soldiers boarded the ships in international water in the middle of the night and killed nine unarmed peacemakers. There were no weapons on board. Even so Israel has made it clear that they will use force once again, possibly including snipers.
Israel has the right to defend itself. But it does not have the right to starve out, dislodge, abuse and bomb (horrifically and at length) an entire people. Nor does it have the right to forbid travel in international waters. Israeli and Palestinian peace activists, jointly dismayed by Israel’s abuse of Gaza, are calling for help. In Canada this includes over 150 civil rights organizations as diverse as Independent Jewish Voices, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, and the London District Labour Council.
The flotilla, comprised of citizens from many countries including 35 from Canada, has called on the UN or another international body to inspect their ships to put the Israeli government at ease. So far this has not been sufficient and the flotilla remains under threat of attack from the Israeli army. But the fifteen boats, including the Tahrir (‘liberation’) from Canada, are going anyway.
To those who are going, including Queens Professor Robert Lovelace of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation, Harmeet Singh Sooden of CPT, novelist Alice Walker, politician Manon Masse and filmmaker John Greyson, I say thank you and God bless you for your courage and commitment to justice and peace. To our politicians, I say please, stand up for what is right.
Our Canadian history remains stained by a past that has not always reflected a commitment to human rights. I think only of our treatment of indigenous peoples, or Japanese-Canadians during WWII, or Jewish refugees during the same war whose boats were turned away from Canada and sent back to Germany to certain death. Could we stand on the side of right this time? Could we be a voice for justice? Could we care for our distant neighbours as God calls us to?
For more information go to www.newcatholictimes.com or www.cjpme.org. Then write to Stephen Harper at Stephen.firstname.lastname@example.org, and ask him to publicly support the flotilla. We can’t all go, but we can all send our spirit and speak up for what is right, true, just and compassionate in this world.
Picture from tahrir.ca