I am writing to you to ask for your public support for the Canadian Boat to Gaza to challenge the illegal and inhumane Israeli blockade.
I am one of the more than 30 Canadians who will embark on that journey later this month, and whose safety depends in part on whether politicians like you have the courage to take a public stand in support of our opposition to the siege of Gaza.
Some of you have expressed concerns about the risks involved in our non-violent direct action to challenge the blockade. I would ask you to consider this: solidarity often entails risks.
When we shelter battered women in our communities, there are risks. When we give sanctuary to refugees and war resisters, there are risks. And, in a case which should be familiar to many of you from the trade union movement, when we step into the street as part of a picket line, there are very real risks.
Those opposed to justice will always try to intimidate those who stand on the side of the oppressed: our work must always be to face these risks non-violently and not give in to intimidation. These risks are greatly reduced (though not eliminated) by solidarity: we are safer when we walk with others on a picket line, and we will be safer on the Canadian Boat to Gaza because of the many Canadians who have contributed to our campaign and who will be following our progress towards Gaza.
Will you stand with us, and with them? Or will you stand on the sidelines of history?
Pulitzer winning author Alice Walker, who will be on the U.S. Boat to Gaza, has called our Freedom Flotilla the “Freedom Ride of this era”.
Some of you may recall my father Dan Heap, former MP for Trinity Spadina and member of your caucus in the 1980s and early 1990s. Long before that, in 1965, dad answered Martin Luther King’s call and joined the walk for human rights in Alabama: not because it was a safe thing to do (it certainly was not safe), but because it was the right thing to do.
Another former NDP caucus member, Jim Manly, has also come out in support of the Canadian Boat to Gaza. Though I do not share their religious faith, I walk humbly in their footsteps along with Canadian Christians, Jews, Muslims and others. Will you join us?
We are deeply appreciative of Alex Atamanenko’s courageous and principled stand in support of our campaign, and we hope others in your caucus will join him soon.
Many of us are frankly very disappointed that Jack took a public position in the media about our campaign after meeting with a foreign ambassador and without even taking the time to meet with the many Canadian organizations such as Independent Jewish Voices who support our campaign. We would hope the voices of Canadian civil society would be heeded at least as much as that of a foreign power.
Canadians already know what to expect on these issues from the two (now one-and-a-half) old-line parties. Many Canadian voters are looking for fresh new leadership that takes bold positions in support of human rights and international law. Will you be that leadership? Will you stand with us and with the Palestinians of Gaza?