Former Ladysmith resident and Canadian MP Jim Manly says his fellow citizens and the government of Israel cannot close their eyes to the blockade of the Gaza Strip any longer.
“In the last six years, it has been very intense, and this means that the ordinary people of Gaza are suffering from a lack of food, lack of water, lack of shelter, they haven’t been able to rebuild since the bombing raid of 2008 because they’re not able to bring in supplies,” he said.
“We’re going to keep protesting until more and more people recognize that it’s wrong and put pressure on Israel to lift the blockade.”
As of press time Friday, Manly was on his way to Naples to board the Freedom Flotilla’s ship Estelle, along with several other international protestors, in an attempt to bring humanitarian supplies to civilians in Gaza.
“It’s a non-violent protest. We’ll be signing on as trainees,” he explained. “I’m not sure what I’ll be trained in, maybe scrubbing the decks or washing dishes.”
The Gaza borders were sealed by Israel and Egypt in 2007, shortly after the Hamas political party won the Palestinian legislative election in 2006 and took control of the Gaza Strip.
According to Wikipedia, Israel maintains the blockade is necessary to limit Palestinian rocket attacks from the strip on its cities.
“A lot of people in Israel don’t realize the tragedy they are inflicting on the people of Gaza,” Manly said. “The way to peace and security for Israel is not by oppressing other people.”
Manly said that approximately 51 per cent of Gaza’s population are younger than 18, and they are not able to have access to crucial medicines, or education materials needed.
The basic goal of the mission is to not only deliver much-needed supplies to the people of Gaza, but also to wake up the people of Israel to what is wrong about their government’s policy, Manly explained, on the phone from the ferry to Vancouver on the first leg of his journey.
“We also want to tell the people of Gaza that they’re not alone, that this is a message of solidarity with them,” he said. “It’s a message to the Canadian people that we should be speaking out on this issue, our government should be speaking out.”
On Wednesday (Oct. 3), the Jerusalem Post reported that the Israel Navy is making preparations to intercept the Estelle, which had set sail from Sweden back in June.
While he and his family remain concerned about the possibility, Manly said he will continue to be committed to the cause.
“There is a very great possibility that we will be intercepted before we get there. They’ve intercepted previous boats and taken any supplies and people on board into custody, put them into prison for a few days and deported them,” Manly said. “It’s not the greatest thing in the world to be arrested and thrown into prison when you’re not doing anything wrong.”
Manly is a retired United Church minister (73-80) who served as a New Democratic Party Member of Parliament from 1980-88, representing Cowichan-Malahat-The Islands.
As MP, he was NDP critic for Indian Affairs and later critic for Fisheries and also International Development.
For more information about the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, click here. .