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Canadian Boat to Gaza Steering Committee member David Heap was in Halifax on Wednesday, February 15, to discuss the ongoing efforts of the Flotilla movement to break Israel's illegal blockade on Gaza. Heap was a participant on last summer's Freedom Flotilla II, which saw Israeli foreign policy outsourced to the Greek archipelago; and with Freedom Waves, which saw two boats, the Canadian Tahrir and the Irish Saoirse, leave from Turkey last November.
The Freedom Waves attempt, as with all the Flotilla ships, wanted nothing to do with Israel. But unfortunately the same could not be said of the ironically-named “Israeli Defence Forces.” The Israeli Navy, who, as has become its trademark when dealing with unarmed boats attempting to sail to Gaza, attacked the ships with water cannons and commando-filled zodiacs. Heap himself was tasered and roughed up, but thankfully no one aboard was seriously injured.
Such was not the case in May of 2010, when nine individuals aboard the Mavi Marmara, the Turkish flagship of an earlier Flotilla effort, were shot and killed, several in the back of the head, execution-style.
One would have presumed that a speaker with the magnitude of Heap would have drawn the attention of the mainstream media. Yet despite the standard overtures of press releases and contact numbers, Halifax's media sources were sadly asleep at the captain's wheel. Indeed, only News 95.7 fm's Jordie Morgan had the acumen to interview Heap.
But was this a case of the “insular-peninsula” at work? Or is there more to the Halifax mainstream media's malaise when dealing with all things Palestine? I purport that this is not simply a case of Halifax's media having no sense or spine for a story, but is causally related to the amount of noise and difficulty that so-called “media monitoring” can muster against anyone who dares mention the words Palestine, Gaza, or--my goodness, cover your ears--Hamas.
I know for a fact that, when I was interviewed by CBC's Information Morning before I was slated to travel aboard last summer's Freedom Flotilla II, the absolute furor mounted by a few key “media monitors” was such that morning host Don Connolly will think twice about ever interviewing anyone about Gaza again.
The equally ironically-named “Honest Reporting Canada,” perhaps the most powerful of the monitoring groups, took its complaint against Connolly directly to CBC's Ombudsman, who found that poor Connolly should have taken me to the mat when I mentioned that when I lived in Israel 12 years ago, I directly viewed inequality and racism endemic to Israeli society--as though the repeated invasions on, full-out assaults against, and imprisoning of the indigenous Palestinian population was not proof enough. No, Connolly must be found in fault, and re-trained (read: re-programmed) not to let statements that question whether the sun shines out of Israel's proverbial backside go unchallenged in the future. Read the ombudsman's capitulation here.
In a more personal example of the opprobrium that any news source must face if it dares to critically examine the question of Palestine: after a certain local news weekly was brave enough to publish an account of my attempt to get to Gaza, the executive of the Atlantic Jewish Council brazenly invited the editors of said publication over for libations, and then informed them that my own mother had called him up, and asked him to do something about her wayward son, who had strayed so far from the Jewish flock as to be unmanageable.
Is there any truth to the executive of the AJC's rant? My mother says no. But don't take mom's word for it. This is the same organization that still publicly touts the blatherings of early 1900s Canadian Zionist Dr. Herman Abramowitz, in that Palestine was a land devoid of people, comprised mostly of malarial swamps, and not home to hundreds of thousands of indigenous peoples.
In any case, what you should know is that last November, as in 2010, the IDF committed an act of piracy in international waters. The Tahrir was seized and towed to the Israeli port of Ashdod, even though it was made explicitly clear by all aboard that they had no intention, or desire, to visit Israel.
And there the Tahrir remains. According to David Heap, just like pirates displaying their booty, some of the seized ships from Flotilla efforts are now part of some twisted mili-tourism package deal, for those who just need to get up close and personal with the war machine. Please don't contact your local travel guide for details.
The Canadian Boat to Gaza group would like the Tahrir back, however. And, as a publicly-funded campaign purchased the brave vessel in the first place, so too would many concerned Canadians like to have their property returned. Granted, maybe her best days are behind her, but certainly the Tahrir deserves a better resting place than an Israeli dry-dock, being trod upon by IDF-wannabees in Hawaiian shirts.
To that effect, the CBG has prepared a declaration that should be signed by everyone who believes that the blockade on Gaza should be immediately lifted, and the Tahrir returned to the people of Canada. Of course, with Israel's track record of listening to signed documents chastising its reckless behaviour (see many, many, many UN declarations), it may sit in the in-box for awhile.
Please enjoy the following conversation with David Heap from the Canadian Boat to Gaza steering committee.