Marilyn Porter leaves Newfoundland Sunday as part of an international mission to support the women of Gaza.
Porter is one of three Canadian women joining the two-boat flotilla — an effort under the larger Gaza Freedom Flotilla campaign — that will leave Barcelona Thursday. If all goes as planned, the vessels will make it to the small Palestinian territory around Oct. 6 or 7. The goal is to show solidarity to women who are trying to support their families under very difficult circumstances, and to bring attention to their plight.
As Israel has closed Gaza’s borders, Porter said it has become like an open-air prison.
“And of course, women take the brunt of that, because they’re the ones trying to take care of their families with inadequate medical supplies, inadequate infrastructure, with many — I think like 30 per cent of their infrastructure’s been destroyed, and at least that of the houses and homes,” Porter said.
“So they’re living in pretty dire circumstances and with no way to get out. The borders are closed. So the women have to go on dealing with the situation as best as they can. So we are attempting to draw attention to the situation and to say to the state of Israel, ‘we recognize your right to exist, but we also recognize the people of Gaza’s right to live in relative peace.”
Porter said along with closing the border on land, Israel has imposed a six-mile border by sea, which restricts fishing activity.
“Obviously, fish is a vital source of nutrition. ... It’s extremely difficult for them to get foodstuffs in, so fishing is even more important. There are women fishers, quite a lot of women fishers, because there have been more men killed in this conflict than women, and they are prevented from going even the six miles, and they’re under constant harassment from the Israeli forces, and they certainly can’t go out as far as they legally can, which is the 12-mile limit,” she said.
“Much of what Israel is doing to Gaza is illegal. The blockade is illegal. A number of other things are illegal under UN regulations, and we need to bring attention to that and if possible, say to the world, try and bring Israel’s attention to the awful circumstances that this blockade is putting the Gazan people in.”
While Porter supports Palestine, she said she is not anti-Israel; rather, she and the group she’s travelling with are against some of the Israeli state’s actions.
The flotilla is part of a movement that has sent boats to Gaza over the past few years, often with goods and humanitarian aid. She said often, the boats are intercepted, either taken or turned back, and the people on board are arrested.
But she said she’s not worried about her safety at this point.
“We’ve got to get from Barcelona to the possible point of interception, so I’m more concerned with not getting seasick, staying warm, all those kinds of things,” she said.
“I will deal with any possible threats when I get there, but I have confidence that the Israelis are going to police this matter in a humane and legal way, and we’ll be able to sail into Gaza and do what we want to do without any harassment.”
She said if they do get harassment, they’ll deal with it peacefully, but she is very optimistic that the mission will succeed.
“I have good faith in the state of Israel. And I think even though it has elected an extremely right-wing foreign minister, that peace and security will prevail. I’m hoping so.”
She said the act of solidarity means a great deal to the women of Gaza.
“Can you imagine trying to take care of your family and deal with stuff when supplies are very short, with a constant threat of further outbreak of violence, and just to know that there are women all over the world who kind of know what you’re doing and are prepared to support you? We’re not taking humanitarian aid or indeed any aid. All we’re taking really is solidarity and an effort to publicize the situation of the women in Gaza,” she said.
“They know we’re coming, and they’ve got the picnic all laid out. Let’s hope we can go and enjoy it.”