|Freedom Flotilla III participants on the way to Gaza before|
the Israeli Navy's piracy
Robert Lovelace and Kevin Neish are two Canadians among at least 16 other participants of the "Freedom Flotilla III" who were kidnapped in international waters this morning. The boat they were on, the Swedish "MV Marianne" was carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza, including solar panels and medical equipment.
Robert Lovelace is a retired chief of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation and an adjunct lecturer at Queen's University. Kevin Neish is a retired marine biologist from Victoria, BC, whose lifelong solidarity work has taken him to Cuba, Colombia, Central America and Palestine. According to his blog which has detailed the journey so far, his motivation is that "In a nutshell, I just don’t like bullies, regardless of their colour, religion, size, nationality or race." Lovelace has described the situations for Palestinians living in Gaza as living “in the world’s largest Indian reservation”.
The Freedom Flotilla III's website issued the following statement after the Marianne had been boarded this morning (June 29th, 2015):
"Israel once again commits an act of state piracy in the Mediterranean
At 02:06AM today (Gaza time) the “Marianne” contacted Freedom Flotilla Coalition (FFC) and informed us that three boats of the Israeli navy had surrounded her in international waters, while sailing approximately 100NM from Gaza coast. After that we lost contact with the “Marianne” and at 05:11AM (Gaza time) the IDF announced that they had “visited and searched” Marianne. They had captured the boat and detained all on board “in international waters” as they admitted themselves. The only positive content in the IDF announcement was that they still recognize that there is a naval blockade of Gaza, despite Netanyahu’s government recent denial that one exists.
We have no reason to believe that Marianne’s capture was “uneventful”, because the last time the IDF said something like that, in 2012, the people on board the “Estelle” were badly tasered and beaten with clubs. Back in 2010, ten passengers of Mavi Marmara were murdered by the IDF during a similar operation in international waters.
It is disappointing that the Israeli government chose to continue the absolutely fruitless policy of “no tolerance”, meaning it will continue to enforce an inhumane and illegal collective punishment against 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza. Israel’s repeated acts of state piracy in international waters are worrying signs that the occupation and blockade policy extends to the entire eastern Mediterranean. We demand that the Israeli government cease and desist the illegal detainment of peaceful civilians travelling in international waters in support of humanitarian aid.
We call on our governments to ensure that all passengers and crew from the “Marianne” are safe, and to strongly protest against the violation of international maritime law by the Israeli state. We call on all civil society organizations to condemn the actions of Israel. People all over the world will continue to respond and react to this injustice, as will we, until the port of Gaza is open and the siege and occupation is ended.
For more updates visit: ff3.freedomflotilla.org"Take Action!
You can also tweet at Rob Nicolson using: @HonRobNicholson
Hashtags: #FreedomFlotilla and #SOSFreedomFlotilla are in use
Update July 2nd, 2015 from Canadian Boat to Gaza:
"Israel seizes Flotilla ship to Gaza and deports 2 Human Rights advocates to Canada
Two Canadians, Robert Lovelace and Kevin Neish, who were on board the Freedom Flotilla III boat Marianne, headed towards Gaza when it was seized by Israeli forces early Monday morning, are returning to Canada today. Israeli forces used an electric weapon against four Swedish crew members during their illegal seizure of vessel, which Israeli government sources described as “uneventful”. The two were held in an Israeli prison with seven other Flotilla participants from Sweden, Norway and Russia, until being transferred to Ben Gurion Airport late Wednesday. They are expected to land at Pearson International Airport at 6:55 pm,Thursday July 2.
Neish, a retired marine engineer from Victoria B.C., had been sailing with the Marianne since it left Sweden in early May. Lovelace, a Queen’s university professor and member of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation, joined the ship at its last port of call, Messina in Sicily on June 19.
“We are very happy to welcome home our two friends from their mission but we remain concerned about the six Swedish activists still in prison in Israel,” commented David Heap, spokesperson for the Canadian Boat to Gaza Campaign. “Even more than freedom for our international friends, we want to see the world demand freedom of movement for the 1.8 million Palestinians living in the open-air prison of Gaza.”
Ehab Lotayef, a Montreal engineer and writer, and Christian Martel, a retired trade-unionist from Québec, were among the internationals who participated in Freedom Flotilla III. They were on a different boat, the Rachel, which returns to Athens today. “Now we are focusing on future Flotillas to continue to challenge the blockade of Gaza,“ comments Lotayef. “The blockade must end completely and Palestinians must regain their full rights."