and white fishing boats are moored for the day. Next to the intensely blue sea
and brilliant sunshine, the initial colourful impression is one of tradition
and familiarity. I am not a fisherman, but living in Vancouver on Canada’s
Pacific Coast, I appreciate the many ways in which the sea is of importance to
coastal communities. The salt air, sight of the gentle waves rocking the boats,
and the hungry screeching of the seagulls pleases me.
closer to the boats, I notice the well-worn patina of years of salt-water
damage. Rusted machinery, chipping paint and badly damaged nets reflect the
limited resources available for regular maintenance.
am at the port of Gaza, to meet with Mahfouz Kabariti. In addition to being the Coordinator of the Fishermen's Solidarity Campaign in the Gaza
Strip, Mr. Kabariti is the President of the Palestine Sailing
Federation and the President of the Palestine Society for Marine Sports. We talk about the new
international solidarity project - Gaza’s Ark. Unlike previous maritime
challenges of the Israeli blockade of Gaza that involved ships sailing to Gaza, Gaza’s Ark will build a boat in
Gaza and sail out to the world from Gaza–
challenging the illegal blockade from within.
we walked along the pier, we met a group of fishermen. They invited us aboard
to have tea. That afternoon I heard stories unlike anything I could ever have
imagined. Tales of Israeli war ships attacking fishers at sea. People forced at
gunpoint to strip, jump into the sea and swim towards navy vessels to be
brutally interrogated for fishing. One man told of his son who was killed by
Israeli gunfire while fishing.
I had read about the naval blockade of Gaza, perused UN charts, it was not
until I talked to these men that the horror of this aspect of the blockade
crystalized in my mind.
Threatened by Israel’s Blockade of Gaza
the Mediterranean waters off the coast of Gaza in Occupied Palestine is
dangerous. Very dangerous. The most significant risks confronting the Gazan
fishing community are not the forces of nature. The turbulent waters these
fishers face on a daily basis are caused by a belligerent navy acting on behalf
of Israel’s illegal occupation and crushing blockade.Naval gunships aggressively enforce an
arbitrary three nautical mile fishing limit.It is this mean-spirited, aggressive practice that prevents the fishers
from practicing their traditional profession. The few and small fish inhabiting
the shallow waters close to shore cannot sustain their livelihood.
the fishers attempt to sail out to deeper waters, they risk being shot at by
navy gunboats. The Palestinian Center for HumanRights documented 92
attacks launched by the Israeli Occupation Forces between January and June
2012. Needless to say, it is absolutely prohibited by international law to
target civilians. Moreover, even within the ever-shrinking permitted “fishing
zone range”, the Israeli Navy continues to deliberately fire on the fishing
boats and to harass and arrestits crew.
is a forty-two-kilometre long and six-kilometre wide strip of land, bordered by
Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea, that is part of the Occupied
Palestinian Territories. (The West Bank and East Jerusalem comprise the rest of
one’s customary image of a Mediterranean coastal paradise, Gaza is an
impoverished, ecologically damaged, economically destitute and dangerous,
humanitarian disaster zone. The inhabitants’ fundamental human rights are
completely abridged. Basic freedoms such as freedom of movement,
self-determination and the right to life are eclipsed in Gaza – as in the rest
million people reside in the tiny Gaza Strip, making it one of the most densely
populated regions in the world; over 4,500 people per square kilometre.
Unemployment in Gaza remains at 34%. The poverty level is 38%. A shortage of
basic foods, medicines, fuel and building supplies further undermine quality of
life and social cohesion and contributes to chronic medical illnesses and
the most disturbing aspect to this on-going misery is that these severe living
conditions are directly attributable to a purposeful policy of containment and
subjugation -enforced by Israel’s
live in deplorable conditions because of wilfully thought-out political
decisions aimed at collective punishment and continued colonization.
the Israeli Blockade on Fishing in Gaza
the Oslo Accords, Gazan fishermen were allowed access to waters 20 nautical
miles from the shore. In 2002, Israel reduced the permitted fishing zone to 12
nautical miles. In 2006 the allowable zone was further restricted to 6 nautical
miles, and since the devastating Operation Cast Lead (December 2008 to January
2009) - and where it stands to date -fishing is not permitted beyond three nautical miles off the coast.
85% of fishing waters are now inaccessible to the Gazan fishing community.
2010, the Israeli Navy arrested 66 fishers, including seven children.
to being arrested, often within the sanctioned, militarily enforced fishing
zone, fishermen are typically and sadistically ordered to remove their clothing
and to swim to the patrol boats. Once on board, they are blindfolded and
interrogated. The Palestinians can have their boats seized and they face
rationale for this aggressive, and increasingly lethal action is that the
fishing boats may be carrying weapons intended for coastal Israel. If that was
the real concern, why not simply search the boats?
represent the most impoverished sector of Gazan society. In 2012 90% of fishing
folks were at the poverty level. In 2008, there was a 50% poverty rate amongst
the fishers. The rate in which the fishing life-style is being destroyed is
tragic. In 2009, 53% less fish were caught then just one year earlier.Today there is 35% less income generated by
fishing then there was in 1999. Due to these restrictions, fishing has been
reduced by 65% in ten years.
are now 3, 500 fishermen, and I understand one fishing woman – Go Girl! -attempting to eke out a living and heroically
maintain a traditional way of life that is being destroyed by occupation forces.
65,000 people’s lives are impacted by these maritime closures and 26.5 million
dollars in potential revenue has been lost in the last five years.
human cost? Totally preventable devastation due to an illegal and brutally
enforced closure policy.
outrage must be stopped!
An International Civil Response to the Unfolding Catastrophe
courageous civil response to this humanitarian catastrophe is the work done by
people sailing out on the small boat, The Oliva. Oliva started its work in
April 2011. The international crew escorts the Gazan fishers while working
within the permitted waters. By documenting the inevitable violent incursions
by the Navy, they are able to limit the Navy’s aggressive behaviour and furnish
valuable data to human rights organizations. The ultimate aim is of course to
end the illegal assault on Gazan fishers. Fishing is a time-honoured
profession. It is a way of life; a way to sustain a family, a community and
indeed a culture. It certainly is not a crime, nor is it a threat to Israel’s
security. State-sanctioned attempts at destroying a vital aspect of Palestinian
maritime culture must therefore be resisted.
the Oliva has come under fierce naval attack and has sustained damage. We were
asked by the Gazan activists working with the Oliva to raise $600 to replace
the boat’s radio as it suffered irreparable salt-water damage. People reading
been amongst those generousindividuals who responded to the need. I am delighted
to report that to date $760 was raised. I have wired the money for replacement of the
radio to the Palestinian Association for Fishing and Marine Sports. They are in
close contact with the crew of the Oliva. This new radio is essential and it
will ensure that the solidarity workers can continue their valuable mission of
ensuring that the Military Occupation and Blockade of Gaza does not destroy a
traditional fishing-based lifestyle.
John Max Soos, PhD
Clinical Psychologist, Peace and Social Justice Advocate
A traveller wrote a letter to the Globe and Mail newspaper yesterday saying that he had recently returned from Occupied Palestine and unlike a previous letter-writer, who was shocked by the Apartheid reality she encountered there, this individual wrote that in his view, the "inconvenience" to Palestinians was the price to pay for security, and besides ,"...no one was ever killed by The Wall".
I became so incensed with this inaccurate, hurtful, racist dishonesty, that I had to register my huge displeasure immediately; to call the travesty of The Wall an "inconvenience" is profoundly demeaning and a response was essential.
Here is what I wrote:
XY's letter is reflective of the psychological principle that perception is in the eye of the beholder. Mr. Y refers to the Separation Wall in Israel-Palestine as an "inconvenience" for Palestinians and states that the "Security Wall" has never "killed anyone".
Both conclusions are woefully inaccurate as attested to by international human rights groups such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, B'Tselem, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, and most recently, in the July 2012 publication of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
The Wall kills those who have been denied access to life-saving medical treatment available only on the other, privileged side of The Wall. It kills children whose mothers have been forced to give birth at checkpoints. It kills the spirit of those whose olive groves are inaccessible behind The Barrier. It is soul murder of the 7,500 Palestinians who now reside between The Wall and the Green Line and who need military-issued permits to continue living in their own homes. At least they have homes! Many Palestinians are traumatized by having their homes demolished to make way for the ever-expanding Wall.
I believe most observers would agree that these unethical, illegal and lethal consequences of the Separation Wall cannot be dismissed as mere "inconvenience".