Women in solidarity with Palestine: The Women's Boat to Gaza

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On this week's episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Zohar Chamberlain Regev, Shabnam Mayet, and Wendy Goldsmith about the Women's Boat to Gaza, an initiative under the auspices of the international Freedom Flotilla Coalition that seeks to break the blockade of the Gaza Strip and highlight the contributions of women to all facets of struggle.

Organizing in solidarity with the struggle against the occupation of Palestine can be found in all corners of the globe, including Canada. In the last decade or two, the movement in Palestine and solidarity movements globally have had increasing success in raising awareness that the occupation is not only colonial in character and a violation of international law, but that its implementation bears substantial political resemblance to the apartheid policies of pre-1994 South Africa. A particularly brutal facet of the occupation over the last ten years has been the treatment by the Israeli state of the occupied Gaza Strip, which has been under siege since 2007, when its people elected the Hamas party. Described by Independent Jewish Voices Canada as "a microcosm of many forces of global injustice," this treatment of Gaza has in part included severe restrictions on all goods and people entering and leaving, which has created a massive, ongoing, and entirely preventable humanitarian disaster, as well as four major military assaults by the Israeli state over the intervening years on what is one of the most densely populated civilian areas on the planet.

Under the rule of the Conservative government of Stephen Harper, the Canadian state became one of the most vocal supporters in the world of the colonial occupation of Palestine. Though there is hope among activists that the Liberals under Justin Trudeau might be convinced to alter this stance, the Liberal Party voted to support a recent Conservative motion in Parliament condemning Canadians who advocate for the global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (or BDS) campaign -- a nonviolent global solidarity campaign called for by a broad cross-section of Palestinian civil society groups in 2005, and modelled on the successful campaign against South African apartheid in earlier decades.

Another key campaign by international solidarity organizers, in this case specifically in response to the Israeli siege of Gaza, has been repeated attempts to break the blockade. An ongoing international effort emerged in 2010 under the banner of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, which has repeated attempts, mostly by sea, to bring humanitarian goods into Gaza. For the most part, the Flotilla's ships have been stopped by the Israeli military, which on at least one occasion killed multiple nonviolent activists who were involved.

The latest initiative in the Freedom Flotilla campaign is being publically launched this week on a global basis in honour of International Women's Day. Networks of women in countries around the world, in tight consultation with women's organizations in Palestine, are collaborating to send a Women's Boat to Gaza, most likely in the fall of 2016. They aim to challenge the siege, to contribute to the growing global awareness of and opposition to the occupation, and to highlite the important role played by women struggles of all kinds.

Zohar Chamberlain Regev is an Israeli citizen who has lived in Spain for the last 10 years, and who has participated in the coordination of the Spanish component of the Freedom Flotilla work since 2012. Currently, she coordinates the Women's Boat to Gaza Steering Committee. Shabnam Mayet is a South African human rights lawyer and a member of the Muslim Lawyers Association, and she is currently co-ordinating the South African Women's Boat to Gaza campaign. And Wendy Goldsmith has been a steering committee member for the Canadian Boat to Gaza campaign since 2010 and she is one of the Canadian representatives at the Freedom Flotilla Coalition and the Women's Boat to Gaza campaign. They speak with me about the context of the occupation of Palestine, including the siege of Gaza; about the overall campaign to break the siege; about the Women's Boat to Gaza; and about the specifically Canadian aspects of this issue, both the Canadian state's complicity in the occupation and the work that solidarity activists in Canada are doing.

To learn more about the international level of the work, click here. To learn more about the work on this campaign happening in Canada, click here.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show in general, visit its website here. You can learn about suggesting topics for future shows here.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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