The Communist Party of Canada demands the immediate release of all participants arrested on the recent “Freedom Flotilla” to Gaza earlier this week by the Israeli Defense Forces, and calls for the Harper Conservative government to ensure the safety of the detained Canadian citizens and their speedy return home.
Early in the morning of Monday June 29, at about 100 natical miles from the Gaza coast , the Israeli Navy illegally hijacked one of the Freedom Flotilla boats. The Freedom Flotilla is on route to Gaza to deliver humanitarian aid relief, including solar panels and medical equipment. A Swedish aid worker was repeatedly tasered during by IDF commandos the boarding, their boat was seized, and the eighteen participants and crew were kidnapped. Included in the group were Canadians Robert Lovelace and Kevin Neish.
Robert Lovelace is a retired chief of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation and an adjunct lecturer at Queen’s University. Lovelace has described the situations for Palestinians living in Gaza as “the world’s largest Indian reservation”. Kevin Neish is a retired marine biologist from Victoria, who has also been active in Colombian and Central American solidarity and support for Cuba. He was arrested on the first flotilla effort five years ago.
The Israeli government is asserting slanders that the boat carried military supplies. However, the act of state piracy in international waters, directed towards a peaceful civilian vessel, shows that despite recent claims to the contrary by the Netanyahu government the naval blockade of Gaza continues. The Flotilla has again put the spotlight of world attention on the blockade which is just one part of the large inhumane and illegal collective punishment of the 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza. Last summer, Israeli bombed of Gaza killed over 2100 Palestinian people, including hundreds of children.
This is the third Freedom Flotilla to try to break the naval blockade. In 2010, the IDF boarded the flotilla in international waters using helicopters and speedboats, killing nine people. There are three other boats in the flotilla which are carrying solidarity activists from fifteen countries around the world. Other participants on the boat which was boarded include the former president of Tunisia, parlimentarians from Israel, Morocco and Greece as well as Spanish member of the European Parliament, a retired U.S. Army colonel, a group of doctors, and TV crews from Israeli Chanel 2, Al-Jazeera, and New Zealand’s Maori TV.
We reiterate our long standing support of the flotilla effort, and our full solidarity with the Palestinian peoples, a question we will again push forward in the coming federal election. We urge people to contact the Minister of Foreign Affairs and demand the Canadian government support Bob Lovelace and Kevin Neish’s release, and for mobilizations in support of the release of Freedom Flotilla participants.
Please note that since this statement was issued, the pressure campaign forced the release of Kevin and Bob, who are now safe and sound back home.