Activists building ship in Gaza to defy Israel

AFP, VANCOUVER

Fri, Oct 05, 2012 - Page 7

A ship built in Gaza will sail next year carrying Palestinian exports to international customers, and to challenge Israel’s blockade from the inside out, Canadian activists said on Wednesday.

The Gaza’s Ark project is building a boat using existing resources in the tiny Palestinian enclave to carry Palestinian goods to the outside world, former Canadian MP Jim Manly said.

Manly held a news conference at Vancouver’s airport before flying for Naples to join the Estelle ship, which is scheduled to sail from Italy this month carrying humanitarian goods to the Gaza Strip, in another challenge to the blockade.

The Estelle, coordinated by the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, will carry an anchor for Gaza’s Ark paid for by Canadians, he said.

Slated to include at least 17 activists from around the world, the Estelle is the latest ship organized by the international pro-Palestinian coalition to try to break Israel’s blockade.

Israel says the blockade is necessary to prevent weapons from entering the coastal territory, which is run by the Islamist movement Hamas. It has used force to stop previous attempts to run it.

Nine Turkish nationals were killed in May 2010 when Israeli commandos boarded on the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, the lead ship of a Gaza-bound flotilla.

In November that same year, 27 passengers and crew aboard two ships were intercepted by the Israeli navy trying to run the blockade.

Israeli commandos boarded the Irish-flagged Saoirse (“Freedom”) and the Canadian ship Tahrir (“Liberation”) in international waters off Gaza before the Israeli navy escorted them to the port of Ashdod.

Canadian activist Irene MacInnes, who works with Manly, said when the last flotilla was intercepted pro-Palestinian activists in Canada, the US and Australia came up with the new idea of building a ship in Gaza.

She told reporters a committee is now working to refurbish the Gaza boat, using paid Palestinian labor.

Gaza’s Ark will likely be used to ship olives, oil and local hand crafts, and will leave Gaza with a crew of Palestinians and internationals, activist Jase Tanner said.

Tanner said Palestinian producers will be paid in advance for the goods, and customers — likely non-governmental organizations — will be told they might be detained by Israel.