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We are all Gaza

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Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu asked UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to stop the International Freedom Flotilla ll from sailing to Gaza in May. He claims that the Flotilla has been infiltrated by "radical Islamists bent on violence." He also claims that the ships will be used to attempt to smuggle weapons into Gaza. These ludicrous claims only further illuminate the desperate nature of the Zionist agenda to portray Israel as victim.

As one of the founding members of the Canadian Boat to Gaza project, part of the Freedom Flotilla ll, I offer a very different narrative. I am a white, Canadian-born, middle class, educated woman. I am a mother of three, a social worker and advocate for justice and peace. I am not a radical Islamist. I have no religion. I grew up knowing very little about the struggles in the Middle East but over the years became much more aware of my dark roots linking me directly to a history of colonialism. I could say that intellectually, I found my way to social activism as a way to acknowledge and offer my personal retribution for centuries of oppression at the hands of "white people." I could say that, but the truth is much simpler.

The truth is that, thanks to the Internet, the world is in our living room 24 hours a day if we are willing to look. During Operation Cast Lead in 2009 which claimed the lives of more than 1300 Palestinians living in Gaza, haunting images of dead and maimed, trauma-stricken children flooded my psyche. As a human being, regardless of race, nationality, culture or gender, how could I NOT speak out? How could we allow this to happen? Before you dismiss me as a naive leftist bleeding heart, I invite you to ask yourself the same question. There is no rational, humane answer. The five year siege of Gaza has collectively punished the population in violation of international law, specifically the Fourth Geneva Convention. Israel continues to build illegal settlements in the West Bank, villages are demolished regularly and Palestinians are routinely evicted in East Jerusalem, all with the unwavering support of Western governments, particularly Harper's Conservatives.

In spite of facing tremendous suffering, deprivation and loss, I remain in awe of the resiliency of the human spirit. In Gaza today, children still play, dance and sing although they carry unspeakable trauma in their little bodies. Their mothers and fathers try to carve out a life of hope while literally surrounded by the rubble and destruction of this one-sided war. I do not condone violence on either side, but the disproportionate amount of violence perpetrated by Israel against Palestine is inarguable.

It is my connection to the hope and resiliency of our human spirit that compels me to act. I want Palestine to know that when it comes to justice, there are no borders. The diverse team of caring individuals who have joined together from coast to coast to launch the Canadian Boat to Gaza all understand that it is up to civil society to speak out against the illegal siege of Gaza, which confines 1.5 million people in an open air prison. We must do this because our governments are failing to do so.

We join like-minded people from more than 15 countries in the Freedom Flotilla ll, and welcome and invite the UN and any other independent bodies to thoroughly inspect our ships prior to our departure for Gaza. We are not terrorists, and we will not be terrorized and intimidated by Israel. We are all Gaza.

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