It was the middle of the night on May 31st, 2010. I was staring at a google map on my laptop. On it, a dot was slowly inching across the Mediterranean Sea. At 4:00 in the morning, the dot stopped moving. That dot was tracking a convoy of ships staffed with hundreds of volunteers from Cyprus to Gaza, in an attempt to break the Israeli-Egyptian blockade on the Gaza Strip. It wasn’t the first convoy but it was the biggest one to attempt to do so. Its intention was clear — to reach the oft-forgotten Palestinian territory under Israel’s occupation and break the inhumane blockade imposed on it by land, sea, and air.
I remember those anxious hours, waiting for news, any news on why the dot stopped moving. In previous attempts to break the blockade, the Israeli navy stopped the ships and arrested those on board, deporting them after interrogation and confiscating or destroying their boats and supplies. This time I had a bad feeling. At 8:00 in the morning a message finally came through. The Israeli navy intercepted the boats, invaded, and attacked. All in international waters, all against international law. Nine people were killed (a tenth died later from wounds) and dozens injured.
Working as a journalist in Israel/Palestine I’ve frequently covered Israeli army attacks, but rarely have the victims been international activists. That attack led to international pressure, media attention, and a chain of events that had further complicated Israel’s fraught relationships with Turkey and Egypt. It had direct consequences on the ten families who lost loved ones, on thousands of activists, and on millions of Palestinians who saw that international civil society has not abandoned them in their struggle for basic freedoms. It also had an impact on millions of Israelis for whom Gaza is not a real place where people struggle to live normal lives but a conversation piece, a hellish fantasy behind huge walls, tucked away only to be periodically invaded as "punishment" for rocket attacks. In Hebrew “go to Gaza” is a slang insult, akin to “go to hell.” By noon of that day in May 2010, hundreds of Israelis gathered on the streets and chanted horrible hate-filled slogans aimed at the activists and Palestinians at large. The incident highlighted not only that the Occupation must end but also the extent of dehumanization and collective denial that would need to be overcome if we as Israelis are to live as equal citizens to Palestinians, in an open Middle East. Since then, year after year activists continue to fundraise for more convoys, for more ships, to collect donations of humanitarian aid, and to risk their lives against the Israeli Navy.
I don’t know what will be the straw that will break the camel’s back and that will finally bring to an end the brutal military occupation of the Palestinian Territories. It’s been seventy years since two-thirds of the Palestinian people were displaced from their lands and fifty years since the Israeli army imposed martial law on those remaining in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. So long has the Occupation continued that its very existence has become a violation of international law.
No one can know the cumulative effect of thousands of steps taken collectively towards the end of injustice. As someone born in the repressive, insulated regime of the Soviet Union I do know that these steps make an impact. In 1989, against all predictions, the Berlin Wall came tumbling down. In 1990, against all predictions, I was one of over a million Jews freed to leave to Israel, escaping Soviet anti-Semitism. In 1993, again against all predictions, Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin shook hands on the lawn of the White House, starting the tumultuous and yet-unfulfilled peace process. I know that change can come, that it can be within our lifetimes, and I thank wholeheartedly the courageous volunteers of the Canadian Boat to Gaza and the Freedom Flotilla Coalition as they risk their lives for change to manifest.
Lia Tarachansky, Israeli-Canadian journalist & filmmaker
You can donate to Canadian Boat to Gaza online (canadaboatgaza.org/donate) or by postal mail. Make out cheque or money order to Turtle Island Humanitarian Aid and mail it to:
Canadian Boat to Gaza
PO Box 1950, London Stn. B
London, Ontario N6A 5J4
(Note: like many of our sister organizations, we would prefer to move away from dependence on PayPal for online donations. At this point, we are pleased to accept e-Interac transfers from Canadian bank accounts, and we hope to announce other payment methods soon. Please e-mail us if you have questions about this).
Some (especially those who can benefit from a charitable tax receipt in the US) may wish to donate through the US Boat to Gaza page:
In other parts of the world, please consider donating through one our other partner campaigns in the Freedom Flotilla: Coalition: https://sgf.freedo
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