David Heap and Derrick O'Keefe: Canadian Boat to Gaza campaign is legal, ethical, and necessary

By David Heap and Derrick O'Keefe

The Canadian Boat to Gaza initiative continues to be a target for a smear campaign that has little regard for law or facts. Rather incredibly, the executive of the University of British Columbia’s Alma Mater Society has subjected a routine donation for our campaign from the student Social Justice Centre to an “investigation” into potential “links to terrorism” A final decision on this so-called investigation is expected at the January 12 AMS meeting.

This episode in part reflects the growing desperation of those who seek to justify Israel’s ongoing collective punishment of Gaza. Exactly two years ago, the world’s eyes were opened to Israeli brutality during a three-week attack on Gaza that claimed more than 1,400 lives.

The question as to whether bringing humanitarian aid to Gaza can be viewed as legally constituting “support for terrorism” was resolved earlier this year by the Canadian Federal Court. On September 27, Mr. Justice Richard Mosley ruled unequivocally that it cannot: to consider humanitarian aid as “terrorism” would be to void the term of all meaning.

More importantly, our campaign follows the imperatives of international law, which our politicians have conveniently forgotten. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has issued a very clear statement on the subject: “The hardship faced by Gaza's 1.5 million people cannot be addressed by providing humanitarian aid. The only sustainable solution is to lift the closure.”

We have no illusions about the amounts of aid we can bring to Gaza, nor the amount of trade goods our modest vessel will be able to export, yet this aid will still have a significant impact on the suffering of the Palestinians of Gaza.

The significance of the international Freedom Flotilla movement is not in the amounts or types of goods we manage to bring in or out of Gaza, it is in challenging the blockade itself. Because it collectively punishes a civilian population, the blockade is clearly illegal under international law, specifically the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Because the blockade is illegal, opposing it is a moral duty for people of conscience everywhere. Our campaign involves over 100 grassroots groups from across Canada and thousands of large and small individual donations, responding to the cry for help from the Palestinians of Gaza to take decisive action, where government and state agents have failed them.

We join with like-minded flotilla delegations from many different countries focused on the same goal: ending the illegal and cruel blockade of Gaza.

Representatives of the Canadian Boat to Gaza recently met in Rome with a dozen other such projects. In Gaza, we work with nongovernmental partners through a network of Palestinian NGOs.

We neither seek nor require support from any state agency or government—be it Stephen Harper’s Conservatives or Hamas.

The ICRC goes on to clarify that “all states have an obligation to allow and facilitate rapid and unimpeded passage of all relief consignments” to Gaza. This means all consignments, not just those that arrive via land routes approved by Israel.

There is no justification in international law for stopping ships bearing humanitarian aid to Gaza.

In our national political context, where groups like the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism seek to criminalize support for Palestinian human rights, we refuse to be intimidated by the twin hysterical allegations of “terrorism” and “anti-Semitism”. Canadian and international law are clear: these smears are both equally baseless, and support for the Palestinians of Gaza is an ethical imperative.

People of conscience are voting with their donations to support the Canadian boat to join the Freedom Flotilla in the spring of 2011. Our holiday fund appeal has received a generous response, perhaps in part spurred on by the spurious attacks we have faced.

With international law and, more than ever, world public opinion on our side, we will not let slander or bullying steer us off course. The words of the captain of the Mavi Marmara to the rest of the Freedom Flotilla when they were violently boarded last May still ring in our ears: Carry on!

David Heap is a London, Ontario based activist. Derrick O'Keefe is a writer and activist in Vancouver and the cochair of the StopWar.ca Coalition. Both are members of the national steering committee for the Canadian Boat to Gaza.



Neil Edmondson

Dec 31, 2010 at 11:11am

Leftists like Heap and O'Keefe have been smearing right wingers as racists and bigots for decades, and it has been very successful. I've rarely witnessed such a clear case of being hoisted upon one's own petard.

Tell you what: when these guys speak out against the brutally oppressive leftist groups who have effectively banned Christy Blatchford and Anne Coulter from universities - groups which probably overlap very much with the Boats To Gaza crowd - and who have banned debate on abortion at universities, I'll speak up for them. These guys use slander and bullying when it suits their militant left wing purposes and cry about it when it bites them in the ass.


Dec 31, 2010 at 12:23pm

Uh oh ... discussion of sacred cows ... que the lynch mobs. And this just after the other lynch mobs all went home after the "Too Asian?" non-issue.


Dec 31, 2010 at 1:01pm

There is no shortage of wingnuts on both sides. The facts however speak for themselves. Hundreds of Palestinian women and children have been killed by the illegal use of phosphorus bombs and "accidental" tank shellings etc. All those living in Gaza have a right to a peaceful existence while Isreal preaches that "we obey the law" yet refusing to abide by numerous UN resolutions, refusing to allow inspections of their nuclear bomb arsenal, building illegally on Palestinian land etc.
Unfortunately, Isreal can't be claiming the high road while hoping to eradicate the people of Gaza. It seems obvious that the Palestinians need the moral support much more than Isreal.

Lawrence W.

Dec 31, 2010 at 1:20pm

Hmm, searched in vain in the article for anything resembling right wingers being called racists or bigots or for the use of slander and bullying tactics. 'Neil Edmondson' must be living in an alternate universe. I hope this comment isn't perceived as right wing bashing - just noting the encapsulated delusional thinking of the writer.


Dec 31, 2010 at 2:08pm

Good to see a rebuttal to the usual National Post fare.

David Heap

Dec 31, 2010 at 4:44pm

Actually, far from being "banned", Anne Coulter spoke freely at the campus where I work (UWO) last year. She has major corporate money behind her, and doesn't really any other support. I look do forward to Neil Edmondson's statement of support for the Social Justice Centre's donation to the Canadian Boat to Gaza.


Dec 31, 2010 at 8:14pm

If ever there were a time to let one's conscience be their guide, surely this is that time.
The children are malnourished and traumatized from years of brutal siege. Israeli snipers shoot at them as they attempt to make their way to school.
They cut off utilities (water, electricity), destroy agricultural lands, bomb their homes (that they are not 'allowed' to rebuild) and use the Palestinian children as human shields (tying them to the front of military jeeps or placing them in very dangerous situations).
Numerous other highly illegal acts are regularly implemented that Palestinians are forced to endure. This must stop.

Skip Gainer

Dec 31, 2010 at 10:50pm

Just sink their d-m boat!

Skip Gainer

Jan 1, 2011 at 2:36am

I guess Israel dose not have legal right for the blocked of Gaza. This blockade was set up under legally by established international law. Israel has the right to protect it`s country and people. Israel all so has a right to build homes on it`s land or is Obama going to take the land from Israel using eminetdomane?

Jim Benham

Jan 1, 2011 at 8:02am

Israel is a criminal state. It habituals ignores international law and floods Russian immigrants, some of whom are not even jewish, into the palestinian lands in the West Bank. The anti Palestinian bigots in Canada should be forced to defend their immoral position. (Stop losing the language war and stop calling them Pro-Israel.) Take the issue up with your MPs. Start with Joyce Murray, a member of the CPCCA.