| NOVEMBER 5, 2011
Originally posted by Rabble.ca at http://rabble.ca/news/2011/11/canadians-protest-seizure-tahrir-boat-near-gaza-amid-claims-sabotage
Earlier this year the Tahrir was seized by Greek commandos as it tried to make a break for international waters after being denied permission to leave from Greece for Gaza as part of the "Freedom Flotilla II."
Following the seizure of the Canadian boat, the Tahrir, by Israeli authorities in international waters off the coast of Gaza, impromptu protests erupted across Canada Friday in a show of solidarity with the activists arrested.
In Toronto, a group of 30 picketed the Israeli consulate, protesting the boarding and seizure of the Tahrir and its companion, the Irish ship the Saoirse, in the Mediterranean Sea by Israeli naval forces earlier in the day. The Tahrir was carrying Canadians and other nationalities intent on delivering a reported $30,000 in medical supplies to the beleaguered people of Gaza. The Israeli military has blockaded Gaza since 2007 after Hamas won a majority of seats in the 2006 Palestinian election.
Among the people at the vigil in Toronto was Ahmed Sholi, 39, an electrician from Mississauga, Ontario, who had just returned from Turkey where he worked on the Tahrir, getting it seaworthy before it sailed for Gaza. Originally a Palestinian from Nablus who had been jailed by Israel for three-and-a-half years when he was 17, he has lived in Canada since 1997.
After two days of routine checks to ensure the boat's seaworthiness, a serious problem was found with the Tahrir's electrical system.
"We had some electrical problems. Somebody caused that problem to happen on the boat. Somebody did it on purpose. Thank God we managed to find the problem and we took care of it, otherwise who knows what type of problem it would have been in the middle of the sea," Sholi said.
He said someone had switched the electrical wires which ran power from the marina to the boat.
"It's supposed to feed between 220 to 240 volts to the boat. We found there was 380 volts in the breakers inside the boat which is too high. Anything you plugged into the boat would blow. We lost a fridge, a freezer, a power supply, battery chargers, we lost lots of equipment because of that problem. That's when we unplugged everything and went through all the electrical. It took us eight hours to find the problem because it wasn't easy to find it, but we did find it. That type of problem in my experience can cause a fire on the boat. If you're on the boat for hours on the sea that can light the whole boat on fire," Sholi said.
"As far as I know, they used the boat to bring [travel] from Greece all the way to Turkey. They said it was fine. I spoke to the Captain, and he said it was fine, there was no problem with it. They took it out of the water for body work and I believe that it happened during that time." Sholi said.
Another activist at the vigil was Sue Goldstein, 53, who is a member of Women in Solidarity with Palestine and the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network.
"Israel says they pulled out of Gaza? It's like teenage boys telling you when you're a girl 'I'm just going to pull out, nothing will happen'. That's a bad analogy but fitting in a lot of ways. Israel claimed to pull out but they control the water, the air, and the entry into and out of Gaza," she said.
François Villeneuve, 34, from Toronto said, "I'm here in solidarity with the people who went on the Tahrir and the Saoirse, the two boats that went to break the Gaza blockade. I think it's really important that we support activists who put their bodies on the line to try and break that blockade."
Activists in Canada are still waiting on word about the delegates, media, and crew who were on board the two boats seized by the Israeli Navy and presumably taken into custody.
"We don't currently know whether everyone is unharmed and accounted for," says Wendy Goldsmith, organizer with the Canadian Boat to Gaza. "We're very concerned for their safety. An official video from the Israeli military shows them firing a water cannon at the Tahrir in rough seas, which is actually quite dangerous and reckless. That kind of aggression can knock people into the water and puts lives at risk."
Undeterred by his experience, Sholi has a message to send to the Canadian and Israeli governments, "We will come back. We will keep going. To free Gaza and break the siege. We have a spirit that they're not going to break. People of Gaza have a right to live. Kids in Gaza have a right to live like any other kids in the world. We will keep going back until we break the siege. We will free Palestine and Gaza."
Mick Sweetman is rabble.ca's news intern and is based in Toronto.
~ reposted by Sofia Smith