Why the Israeli and Egyptian blockade of Gaza matters to Canadians will be the topic of discussion at Thursday night’s Peace Café.
Kevin Neish, who was on the Mavi Marmara ship last May when, according to UN reports, nine Turkish activists were killed while trying to bring supplies to Gaza. Neish, who is planning to board a Canadian ship making the same trip again next month, will be the guest speaker.
“The Canadian Boat to Gaza is based on breaking what is called ‘the blockage to Gaza,’” Randy Janzen, chair of the Mir Centre for Peace said.
He explained that the incoming and outgoing of boats to Gaza is severely restricted, to the point where the UN and the Red Cross have called it a human rights issue.
“The coastline of Gaza is the only coastline in the Mediterranean where you cannot land because Israeli defence forces will not let you land,” he said.
“The once flourishing fishing industry in Gaza is now decimated because the fisherman can’t leave.”
Janzen compared Gaza to a jail as there is no economic viability.
“Israel has maintained this blockade as a means to control the people of Gaza and Egypt has gone along with this,” he added.
A huge victory was won when Egypt announced it would open its border, Janzen said, but every other entry point is still controlled by Israelis.
No boats have been able to get through since the Mavi Marmara tried last May, but Janzen said ships continue to try because it’s a political and human rights effort.
“Next month, there’s going to be up to five to 10 boats from around the world bringing citizens from many different continents,” Janzen said.
Countries confirmed to be involved are France, the USA, UK, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Greece and Turkey.
Janzen said Neish will be speaking at the Peace Café because they’re trying to bring up current issues and give people a platform to ask questions.
“He’s going to talk about his experience on the boat last May and he’s going to talk about, most importantly, why this is important to Canadians,” he said. “People ask, ‘there’s so much going on in the world, why this?’”
It’s a contentious issue, Janzen said. He invites people to attend if they have questions, want to know more information or just want to voice their opinion.
The Peace Café takes place on Thursday night at 7 p.m. in the Mir Centre for Peace at Selkirk College.
Admission is by donation and refreshments will be served.