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Remembering the Cast Lead assault: Supporting the Canadian Boat to Gaza

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Gaza Freedom March protest occupies part of Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo,: seated protesters with a line of riot police.

As we mark the second anniversary of the brutal 2008-2009 Cast Lead assault against Gaza, we remember the more than 1,400 killed -- most of them civilians, many of them women and children -- and the thousands more who were injured. Their recovery is still hampered by the ongoing crime of the illegal and inhumane blockade, now in its fourth year.

The Palestinians of Gaza are the only coastal population in the world that does not have free access to its own sea, and Gaza is the only port on the Mediterranean which is closed to shipping. Once home to a thriving agricultural and manufacturing economy, Gaza's exports have been halted by the blockade, factories and farms largely destroyed by the Israeli assault, and even production for the domestic market is severely curtailed by the blockade.

Faced with this ongoing injustice, one year ago the Gaza Freedom March brought together almost 1400 peace advocates from more than 40 countries to challenge the siege of Gaza. The Egyptian government, subservient to U.S. interests and complicit in the Israeli siege, prevented us from reaching the Rafah crossing into Gaza. So instead hundreds of us were left in Cairo, where our protests on behalf of the Palestinians of Gaza were much more visible both to the Egyptian people and to world media. It was clear that the Palestinian cause enjoys widespread support from ordinary Egyptians, despite the massive police presence the authoritarian Egyptian state deployed to keep us from being visible.

The international Gaza Freedom March in Cairo
Our protests culminated in the liberation of part of Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo, which we renamed Free Gaza Square on December 31, 2009. Canadians were among the first to bravely step into the Cairo traffic that morning and among the last to be dragged from the street by Egyptian police. Canadians from three generations sat and linked arms together with hundreds of others from many different countries as we put our bodies on the line for Palestine and for human rights.

This experience changed participants: we returned to Canada energized and more committed than ever to the Palestinian cause, locally and internationally. At the University of Western Ontario, we defied "tradition" by organizing London's first (but not last!) Israeli Apartheid Week in March. When the Freedom Flotilla was attacked and seized by Israeli state pirates in May, the Gaza Freedom March network was part of an unprecedented international response.

Support the Canadian Boat to Gaza
And the international March to free Gaza continues -- on land, on sea and in the hearts of a growing number of people worldwide. Sometimes of course we literally march in the streets together, to show our strength and determination. At times, the March takes other forms-for example, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. One important form the March takes right now is the campaign to send a Canadian Boat to Gaza, as part of the next Freedom Flotilla in the spring of 2011.

You can join us and join the ongoing March for freedom Gaza, by supporting the Canadian Boat to Gaza.

David Heap and Wendy Goldsmith are members of the Canadian Boat to Gaza steering committee and People for Peace, London.

Originally published in the December issue of Al-Bilad, London's Arabic-English monthly newspaper.

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