Gaza blockade divides B.C. observers
Although Israel and Hamas reached a ceasefire on November 21, the blockade by the Jewish state of the Gaza Strip could remain a source of conflict.
While the cessation of hostilities was welcomed by both a former NDP MP who tried to run the blockade last month and a Vancouver-based spokesperson of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, they offered opposing perspectives on the restrictions placed by Israel on Hamas-ruled Gaza.
“The blockade will continue to be an issue because the people of Gaza need a great deal of help and assistance,” ex–B.C. MP Jim Manly told the Straight in a phone interview from his Nanaimo home moments after news of the ceasefire broke.
In another interview on November 21, Stephanie Goldberg of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs emphasized that the blockade is an act of self-defence by Israel.
“The rockets were made in Iran and they were entering Gaza somehow,” Goldberg told the Straight by phone, referring to weapons used by Hamas in the recent wave of fighting between the two sides. “And so in order for Israel to remain safe, one of the ways it does that is try to make sure that these rockets don’t reach places where they could be fired on the Israeli civilian population.”
Both Manly and Goldberg expressed hope for lasting peace in the Palestinian city by the Mediterranean Sea. However, they have different viewpoints on how this can be achieved.
“It could certainly be eased,” Manly said, in reference to the blockade. “We’ll have to keep working until it’s completely lifted.”
For Goldberg, Hamas has to do two things. One is to stop firing rockets into Israel. Second, Hamas must recognize Israel’s right to exist as a state.
On November 21, there were conflicting news reports on whether the blockade would be eased as part of the truce.
Since 2007, Israel has maintained the blockade on Gaza, a measure that has generated different forms of solidarity actions for the people of Gaza, such as October’s voyage of the ship Estelle that carried current and former international parliamentarians including Manly. The Estelle was boarded by the Israel navy, and its passengers were arrested and eventually deported.
“I think that there’s a kind of a general fear that any criticism of Israel, no matter what Israel does, becomes anti-Semitic,” Manly said. “And this is simply not true. I can criticize the Canadian government, and that’s not un-Canadian.”
Goldberg maintained that there are ways of sending relief items to Gaza other than “ad hoc and rogue” actions like unauthorized flotillas. “The best way to send aid is through established humanitarian channels.”