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One year after surviving a brutal Israeli attack on a humanitarian aid flotilla to Gaza, a Victoria human-rights advocate says he plans to join the next aid flotilla in June.
Kevin Neish, a retired marine engineer and life-long Victoria resident, was aboard the flotilla carrying supplies to Gaza on May 31, 2010 when it was attacked by Israeli armed forces in international waters. He witnessed the one-sided gun battle that left nine aid workers dead, some executed by bullets to the head at close range. Despite being arrested, strip-searched, and detained in Be’er Sheva prison, Neish managed to smuggle photos of the atrocity out of Israel.
View the pictures as a pdf photo essay. Warning: graphic content.
“A year ago today, nine good men were killed all around me for trying to deliver humanitarian aid to people who urgently needed it.” Neish said.
The Canadian Boat to Gaza is one of ten ships challenging the Israeli blockade in June. All forty Canadians selected to sail on the ship Tahrir have pledged to confront the Israeli blockade and occupation through peaceful civil disobedience. They are also defying the Harper government, which tacitly supports Israel’s illegal occupation.
This week, Harper and his ministers labeled the humanitarian effort a “provocation,” a claim Neish dismisses as “Orwellian.”
“Like last time, the Israelis will have the only guns out there, it will be up to them to decide to use them or not,” Neish stated.
“The occupation and blockade of Gaza are illegal,” Neish said. “The Israelis are breaking international law. People can’t leave, they can’t get medical treatment, they can’t rebuild their homes. But the occupation’s days are numbered, because people all over the world are intervening and bearing witness. If the Canadian government won’t help, we will.”
Israel, in turn, is still seeking to convince observers that the humanitarian aid workers fired first when confronted by a warship and armed commandos in the Mediterranean last year. No guns were found onboard the aid ships, and Neish, who was meters away from the shooting when it began, reports that the Israeli commandos launched the unprovoked attack at dawn, firing paintballs and tear gas, then live ammunition, as commandos stormed the bridge from a helicopter. His reports are confirmed by United Nations reports, live-streamed footage, and video that was smuggled out and posted online at CulturesOfResistance.org.
Since the invasion and armed occupation began in 2007, Israel has aggressively enforced a land and sea blockade of the tiny Palestinian territory on the Mediterranean coast. The ban on imports includes a long list of food, clothing, construction materials, medical supplies, school supplies, and household items. The International Red Cross has called the blockade and occupation a human-rights crisis that has killed and maimed thousands.
The flotilla is expected to sail in the third week of June from an undisclosed port in the Mediterranean.
Beware of bogus news alerts
Victoria human-rights advocate Kevin Neish was the target of a fake press release earlier this month. The release announced a fictitious campaign called Canadians Boycott Arab and Iranian Goods, and listed Neish as a spokesperson, with a garbled version of his email address.
The hoax appears to mimic the growing boycott of Israeli goods led by the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid and other social justice groups. The campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) pressures Israel to end its occupation of Gaza, and it has sparked retaliation from the Israeli regime.
The fake press release may foreshadow attempts to misinform media about Canadians participating in the international aid flotilla to Gaza, expected to sail the third week of June. Pro-Israeli sources may try to discredit human-rights observers from Canada and a dozen other countries aboard the flotilla’s eleven vessels.
For accurate and up-to-date information about Kevin Neish, Canadian Boat to Gaza, the BDS Campaign, and the June 2011 Gaza aid flotilla, please contact
Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid