B.C. residents join flotilla to Gaza

They say they want to draw the world’s attention to an “open-air prison” under the control of the Israelis

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      Victoria resident Kevin Neish knows the risks of breaking Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip. Last year as a human-rights observer on a Turkish-owned vessel, the Mavi Marmara, he witnessed a bloodbath after Israeli commandos boarded the ship. Nine passengers were killed and 54 were wounded.

      “It was a free-fire zone,” Neish said during a recent interview at the Georgia Straight office. “There was blood dripping down the stairs—and I’ve got the photographs to prove it. So it was just a nightmare, a horrendous nightmare. People that I broke bread with and had tea with just the day before, I watched die in front of my eyes. It was unbelievable.”

      Kevin Neish describes the bloodshed after Israeli commandos boarded his ship last year.

      The Israelis claimed they had no choice and acted in self-defence against “murderous mercenaries”, according to a report in the Jerusalem Post. The newspaper reported that two Israeli commanders were shot and one was struck over the head with a metal bar. Neish, however, maintained that passengers on the ship were protecting the soldiers. And he claimed that five of the nine passengers were “executed” with bullets fired at close range to the back of the head.

      “They got away with a war crime,” he alleged.

      Neish recalled being charged with “illegally” entering Israel and taken to jail. “This happened on a civilian ship in international waters with a bunch of aid workers,” Neish said. “If Israel can do that to us, I can’t imagine what they’re doing to the Palestinians in Gaza.”

      Neish is one of three British Columbians who will participate in a second “freedom flotilla” to Gaza later this month. He said he’s returning because the “job isn’t done” in persuading Israel to grant freedom to Palestinians living in Gaza.

      “I’m going to try to bring them to account in my small way,” Neish commented with a chuckle. “What else can I do? I can’t get into the mainstream media in Canada.”

      Two Vancouver residents, Karen De Vito and Irene MacInnes, will also be passengers on the flotilla. According to Neish, it could include 10 to 15 boats and up to 1,500 passengers representing 100 different nationalities. MacInnes has been a key organizer of “The Canadian Boat to Gaza”, which says it has raised $340,000 through donations. The organizers want to bring goods, including medical supplies, to Palestinians, and bring exports from Gaza to the West. MacInnes told the Straight that she and De Vito will be on the Tahrir, which will leave from a Mediterranean port later this month, carrying 34 Canadians.

      MacInnes said that she wants Canadians to know that there are 1.5 million people living on a 40-kilometre strip of land, which she described as “an open-air prison”.

      “They cannot leave,” she declared. “They are not able to visit family in neighbouring countries.”

      Irene MacInnes says she's anxious to join the flotilla to Gaza.

      De Vito, who accompanied Neish and MacInnes on their visit to the Straight office, compared their voyage to Gaza to that of the freedom riders who rode buses into the Deep South as part of the U.S. civil-rights movement. “When [author] Alice Walker said, ”˜This is the freedom ride of our era,’ that’s what really made me decide to go on the boat,” De Vito said.

      She grew up in New York state, and recalled the depth of discrimination meted out against people of African descent. “I’m old enough to remember my father telling some men to get out of his house because they wanted the neighbourhood to get together to put up some money so that an African-American family could not buy a house on their street,” she said.

      De Vito added that she has done extensive research on peace-making and divided societies, and is convinced that the expulsion of the Palestinians from what is now Israel is one of the “unacknowledged atrocities of the 20th century”.

      Karen De Vito discusses how books have influenced her thinking about the Middle East.

      Israel has justified its blockade as a necessary step to reduce rocket attacks from Palestinians. MacInnes, however, stated that the rockets “are a result of having their freedom taken away”. De Vito said that she doesn’t feel it’s right to launch rockets into Israel, but suggested that one of the motives of people doing this is to remind the world that people are living in Gaza in deplorable conditions.

      Both MacInnes and De Vito expressed great sorrow over the lack of educational opportunities for younger Palestinians.

      “That is a terrible thing to do to a people: to give the youth no hope,” MacInnes said.



      Barb R

      Jun 16, 2011 at 12:46pm

      Thank goodness these selfless people are bringing humanitarian supplies to the prisoners of Gaza.

      I hear those poor people could use more Louis Vuitton bags, being as there is only one Galleria Mall. I know a second mall is under construction, but a girl can only wait so long for her Jimmy Choo's, right? Of course, there's always the Grand Palace Hotel gift shop, but it can only carry so much.

      And don't forget the Godiva chocolates. Oops, the obesity rates in Gaza are about the same as in the States, so maybe we should skip the Godivas and take them appetite suppressants.

      Concentration camps sure aren't what they used to be ....

      Barb R

      Jun 16, 2011 at 2:47pm

      Birdy @ 12:58 "What planet do you live on?"

      The World Health Organization/The Economist:

      July 2010 Gaza's first shopping mall celebrated its televised grand opening:

      A nice little tourist ad:

      And my favorite, this Gaza Travel Guidebook:

      This last link will provide you with hours of references that should keep you busy.

      And that, dear Birdy, is the planet that I live on.

      R Myers

      Jun 16, 2011 at 9:14pm

      What a complete bunch of idiots

      el Pampeano

      Jun 22, 2011 at 11:23pm

      Once again the Georgia Straight bashes and demonizes the State of Israel distorting facts. Gaza is not a prison controlled by Israel. It is controlled by Hamas, a theocratic fascist organization. 94,500 is the number of tons of humanitarian aid Israel has delivered to Gaza in three months alone. Gaza has a border with Egypt, but conveniently it is never mention in your newspaper. There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza and Israel delivers all goods through regular channels. If the flotilla was about delivering aid to Gaza Israel would gladly accept the aid and deliver it to the people in Gaza. But this flotilla is not about aid – it’s about hate towards Israel and about trying to create a provocation against Israel. It’s about denying Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.

      Tim Bus

      Jun 23, 2011 at 3:48pm

      Charlie Smith and Georgia Strait you are accessories to character assassination if not publishing libel.

      Look at the cutline to the photo of Kevin Neish:

      "Kevin Neish (left) was arrested by Israeli commandoes on last year’s voyage - and witnessed passengers being killed."

      Kevin Neish's quote is a bloody lie, as he himself made clear in one of the many versions of his 'heroic' actions. Replying to a question, something like: "Well, no. I didn't see anyone shot, I wasn't on the upper deck, but I saw the bodies being brought down the stairs. My friends (IHI, FGM ?) told me they saw the shooting, and I believe them."

      Then, consider the sweet, unbiased source of the picture: www.culturesofresistance.org.

      "...lack of educational opportunities for younger Palestinians."
      Nonsense they have facilities 100 times better than Darfur, better even than many Egyptians. And how do they use them? They churn out sickening books, radio, video, even cartoons, which demonize Israelis/Jews, and encourage them to commit acts of violence.

      "MacInnes said that she wants Canadians to know that there are 1.5 million people living on a 40-kilometre strip of land, which she described as “an open-air prison”."
      Now, where have we heard that before? She didn't quote her source, did she? But those aren't her words.
      Joe Goebbels would be proud of her: Make up (or copy) a big lie, and repeat it, and repeat it, until gullible people believe it.

      Believe this: There are MILLIONS of people who would LOVE to live in Gaza, who would see their standard of living rise 1,000%, who would benefit from the highest per capita aid on the planet (much higher than Egypt).
      Those people, if you selected 1.5 million from the maybe 100-500 million who are desperately more impoverished than the Gazans, would not seek to import ever more sophisticated rockets, to blow up Israeli schoolbuses.

      So, shame on you Georgia Straight, for being part of this never ending stream of propaganda/taqiyya/jew-bashing.


      Jun 24, 2011 at 10:21am

      To the participants in the flotilla to Gaza:
      What is the difference between Gaza and a Canadian reservation?
      Answer: the rate of poverty, suicide, alcoholism, prostitution, AIDS is higher in the typical Canadian native reservation.

      Education, standard of living, life expectancy, literacy, are lower on the res than in Gaza.

      Don't need to make comparisons with Darfur, Yemen, Syria and other Arab totalitarian states. Hypocritical Canadians just need to look in the mirror to find the face of oppression.

      Focusing on the alleged wrongs of Israel is at best disingenuous and at worst antisemitic. Flotilla joiners, abort the trip to Israel and instead sail up your own coast.
      As an Israeli statesman once said, "The West has nothing to teach us about morality."

      Joe Zeev

      Jun 25, 2011 at 10:14am

      I was born in Canada , brought up and educated in BC & Alberta.
      I am now 78, and have travelled to the Holy Land many times.
      I have seen trucks and semi trailers passing through the checkpoint from
      Israel to Gaza. These are loaded with humantarian Goods, construction material and medical supplies. According to the June 2011 UN REport
      150 trucks cross into Gaza from Israel EVERYDAY. As thanks Israel gets Rockets and Missiles fired into southern Israel......KIdnapped Soldier
      Gilad Shalit has been held by the terrorists for over 5 years without basic rights of Red Cross visits. In Contrast Israel Prisons Alllow terrorists to have visitors rights, have the privilige to continue their studies, to geet degrees, and watch TV, and use cellular phones,

      Those on the Flotilla have no other purpose put to spread Anti Israel hatred and get a lot of cheap PR...

      Zabensky, Joe

      Jun 26, 2011 at 12:07am

      Graduated from King Edward High School Vancouver...1950.

      If they are caught in storms or have mechanica breakdowns or these "hate mongers" need medical help while
      Cruising in The Mediterannen Sea"

      Who will they call to rescue them? Hizbulla in Lebanon? Hamas in Gaza?
      Egypt? Cyprus? or Greece?

      They will depend on the Israeli Rescue Service for help?

      Incidently Israel has sent its Medical teams, and rescue serves all over

      the world where disaster occur, including Turkey?

      Israel has supplied more to Gaza than any of these "pro Palestinians combined", This also includes treating Them at Israeli Hospitals....at the
      Israeli taxpayers expense....
      The Hamas terrorist regime wa velected, and has murdered more Gazans
      than Israel . Where has all the world funding gone?

      Gaza is not occupied territory ....The Israeli's and the Army pulled out years ago....But Hamas, still threatens to destroy Israel

      Sorry as one person who has studied the whole Middle Eastern Problem
      and keep up on UN reports, and in the light of all terrible atrocities going
      on in the Moslem Countries of Syria, Lybia, Iraq, Iran, I can't accept the one sided BLINDHatred of those on the Flotilla