As Amnesty International blasted Israel in its annual report for maintaining its naval blockade on Gaza, a group of Canadians have announced they plan to build a “Gaza Ark” with the Palestinians aimed at breaking out of the coastal strip.
The organization calling itself The Canadian Boat to Gaza has announced that it was going to hire Palestinian shipbuilders to build an ark using existing resources that would take produce out of Gaza to sell abroad. Work would begin this summer it said in a statement.
International volunteers were planning to come to Gaza to help build it, but wages would be paid to local workers, said Ehab Lotayef, a Canadian activist behind the endeavor.
“By building the boat inside Gaza will help create some industry and some work inside Gaza and will empower the people inside Gaza and will help them participate in the project in a positive way,” Lotayef told Al Jazeera.
Lotayef, who could not be reached for comment, said in an Internet stream interview with Al Jazeera that the initiative was to “empower the people of Gaza.” He said it would also disarm Israel’s claim that the blockade was needed for security reasons.
“A boat coming out of Gaza carrying produce from Gaza; how will that threaten Israel’s security?” he asked.
He said all the logistics were in place “even if it is subjected to acts of sabotage by Israel.”
He spoke as Amnesty International issued its annual report which included criticism of Israel’s continued blockade on the Gaza Strip, which it said was “prolonging the humanitarian crisis there.”
Israel imposed a naval blockade on Gaza after Hamas seized control of the enclave from Fatah in a bloody coup in 2007 in an attempt to prevent weapons and explosives from being brought in. It says that this doesn’t apply to humanitarian goods and has recently started allowing Gazan-produce to be exported via Israel.
Israel restricts Gazan fishermen from sailing too far from the coast and has blocked numerous attempts by international groups to run the blockade. The most infamous was in May, 2010 when it killed nine Turks on the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish ship.
Lotayef, a Montreal engineer, had been aboard The Tahrir, another ship, when it was boarded by the Israeli navy in international waters on Nov 4, 2011. The boat contained medical supplies for the Palestinians living in Gaza. Israel deported him after holding him and the rest of the international crew for five days in jail.
According to the group’s statement, the Gaza ark will help revitalize the dwindling ship building industry in Gaza and be used to pass on the ship building expertise to younger generations.
They also plan to train Gazans in the use of up-to-date electronic sailing equipment and techniques, the statement said.