With several Canadians still languishing in an Israeli prison, organizers of the Canadian Boat to Gaza are demanding Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird step down for failing to do his job.
"Our friends have been assaulted, tasered, beaten, kidnapped, robbed, and imprisoned and we have now learned that the Department Foreign Affairs is telling them they have to pay for their deportation flight," says Wendy Goldsmith, an organizer with the Canadian Boat to Gaza.
"If Minister Baird wants to put the interests of a far-right Israeli government before Canadians, he should apply for the job of Israel's ambassador," adds Goldsmith. "Otherwise he should demand the immediate release of the Canadian political prisoners in Israel and an immediate end to Israel's illegal blockade of Gaza. Unfortunately, when it comes to Israel, Baird is soft on crime."
The Canadian Boat to Gaza organizers say the minister has failed to seek the immediate release of the Canadians and internationals who have been political prisoners of Israel since Friday. Instead, they say, the minister has been spreading misinformation in an attempt to justify Israel's illegal actions.
"Canadians are still imprisoned by Israel because they refuse to sign documents that falsely claim they entered Israel 'voluntarily' and 'illegally'," says Dylan Penner, an organizer with the Canadian Boat to Gaza.
"The fact is they were kidnapped and taken there against their will," says Penner. "But Minister Baird is trying to create the impression that international waters are Israeli waters. He should really look at a map and stop misleading Canadians about international law."
Two tweets from the Department of Foreign Affairs last week advised Canadians to "avoid all travel" to "regions of #Israel surrounding the #Gaza Strip." However, there are no Israeli waters "surrounding" Gaza. There are Gaza's coastal waters beyond which are international waters. The Israeli Navy captured the boat in international waters (approximately 50 nautical miles from the coast of Gaza), not Israeli waters. This is a violation of international law.
Baird has publicly discouraged Canadians from participating in flotillas aimed at breaking the illegal blockade of Gaza. The Canadian Boat to Gaza campaign views Minister Baird's statement as an attempt to abdicate the Canadian government's obligation to ensure the safety of the Canadians and to justify any crimes Israel may commit against peaceful unarmed civilians from Canada and all over the world.
Canadian Boat to Gaza organizers say it is also an attempt to enable the Harper government to maintain its complicity in Israel's illegal blockade of Gaza by providing political cover.
For updates, stay tuned to:
For more information:
Wendy Goldsmith, Canadian Boat to Gaza, 519-619-6766
Dylan Penner, Canadian Boat to Gaza, 613-859-6996
Denis Kosseim, Canadian Boat to Gaza, 514-923-5594
FACT CHECK: THE BLOCKADE OF GAZA IS ILLEGAL & FREEDOM WAVES ARE NECESSARY
In a November 2 media release from Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird (virtually identical to his media release of May 28 prior to Freedom Flotilla 2), Baird makes a numerous false claims:
* Minister Baird claims that aid to Gaza must go through "established channels."
o The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), one of the official channels to send aid to Gaza, has itself said: "all States have an obligation to allow and facilitate rapid and unimpeded passage of all relief consignments, equipment and personnel [into Gaza]," not just those passing through channels approved by the government of Israel. 
o In other words, Freedom Waves to Gaza is effectively an "established channel" according to the Red Cross.
* Minister Baird claims efforts like Freedom Waves to Gaza are "provocative."
o How is aid provocative? How is standing up for international law and social justice provocative? How is it provocative to work for the freedom of the 1.5 million Palestinians in the open air prison of Gaza?
* Minister Baird claims initiatives like Freedom Waves are "unhelpful to the people of Gaza."
o In fact, numerous civil society organizations in Gaza have requested on multiple occasions that initiatives like Freedom Waves to Gaza keep sailing. 
o The people of Gaza, not Minister Baird, are in the best position to know what would be helpful to them.
* Minister Baird implies that the blockade of Gaza is about "preventing the smuggling of weapons" and by association implies the Canadian Boat to Gaza is smuggling weapons.
o CBG has always been an explicitly non-violent initiative and has invited him to personally inspect the contents of the boat. The minister never took the organization up on it.
o The weapon import claim masks the fact that the illegal blockade not only blocks imports into Gaza, but also exports out of Gaza and the free movement of Palestinians into and out of Gaza, whether to and from the West Bank, East Jerusalem, or the outside world. It is an open-air prison, and a violation of international law. In defending this crime, Baird is complicit.
* In Baird's statements he fails to note the fundamental reason initiatives like Freedom Waves are necessary:
o The blockade of Gaza by Israel is a collective punishment of the 1.5 million people there, is illegal under international law, and his government is enabling this impunity to continue.
GAZA BLOCKADE VIOLATES INTERNATIONAL LAW: LEGAL EXPERTS
The blockade IS illegal no matter what Israel claims
An expert legal opinion on International Maritime Law and the Gaza blockade
The Palmer/Uribe Report Whitewashes Israeli Crimes
UN independent panel rules Israel blockade of Gaza illegal - September 2011
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