September 28 2009: Nobel Peace Prize Winner Mairead Maguire – Breaking the Siege of Gaza


Where: UBC Downtown C300, Robson Square Theatre
When: Monday, September 28 at 7:30pm
Cost: Suggested donation $10-20, no one turned away for lack of funds
More info:

Mairead Maguire will be speaking about her experiences on the Free Gaza movement ships that broke the siege of Gaza in 2008. She sailed on the DIGNITY, a ship that successfully delivered medical and humanitarian supplies in November 2008. In June 2009, Maguire was on the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY — carrying 3 tons of medical aid, plus toys and reconstructions supplies to Gaza — that was boarded and hijacked in Gaza territorial waters by Israeli Naval commandos.

All of the passengers including Maguire were arrested, jailed for up to a week and then deported — meanwhile the boat and aid supplies were siezed and are still being held by the government of Israel. Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, issued a formal statement calling the seizure of the SPIRIT “unlawful.” The FREE GAZA voyage in August 2008 was the first international boat to reach Gaza in 41 years.

Mairead Maguire and Betty Williams won the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize for their work promoting peace in Northern Ireland as co-founders of the Community of the Peace People. Mairead was the aunt of the three Maguire children who were killed by a getaway car after its driver was shot by a British soldier in 1976. The Community of the Peace People went on to organize the largest nonviolent demonstrations in the history of Northern Ireland.

Maguire is a long-time campaigner for non-violent resistance to injustice and defender of Palestinian human rights. In 2004 she went to Israel to welcome Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli nuclear weapons whistle-blower upon his release from serving 18-years in prison. In 2007 Mairead was shot and injured by an Israeli soldier with a rubber-coated steel bullet while peacefully protesting Israel’s separation wall and the theft of Palestinian land in Bil’in.

Last December and January, Israel launched a massive military assault on Gaza that killed 1400 Palestinians — including at least 800 civilians and 330 children, according to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said Israel’s indiscriminate massacres of Palestinian civilians have “all the elements of a war crime.” The UN, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and a coalition have all called for the investigation of prima facie evidence of Israeli war crimes by an independent international body.

Since the military assault ended, Israel has maintained a strict blockade of Gaza, allowing only a minimum of food to prevent mass starvation. For example, no reconstruction supplies, gasoline, seeds or agricultural or industrial materials are allowed in. Gazans cannot replace or repair the thousands of buildings, water and sewage systems damaged by the more than one million tons of explosives Israel’s military dropped on Gaza in 22 days, most farms and factories cannot operate for lack of supplies.

The UN trade and development agency says 90 percent of Gaza’s residents are currently beneath the poverty line and estimates the damages caused by the Israel’s invasion at $4 billion, a sum triple Gaza’s annual GDP. Child malnutrition in Gaza has reached levels normally seen only in sub-Saharan Africa. A Gaza Community Mental Health Programme survey found that 90 percent of children in Gaza are suffering moderate to severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder since the assault.

But the siege of Gaza did not start in December 2008. Since the democratic election victory of Hamas in January 2006, Israel has pursued an illegal policy of extreme collective punishment against the 1.5 million residents of Gaza — more than half of whom are children under the age of 16. The Israeli blockade of humanitarian supplies severely restricted all shipments of food, medical supplies, fuel, and aid in an effort to pressure Gazans to bring down their elected government. In May 2008, former US president Jimmy Carter called the blockade of humanitarian goods to Gaza “one of the greatest human rights crimes on Earth.”

For over three years, the Canadian government has been a staunch supporter of the comprehensive siege and sanctions regime against the Gaza Strip. According to the previous UN Special Rapporteur, John Dugard, even before the 2008 assault Gaza was “a besieged and imprisoned territory as a result of the economic sanctions imposed by Israel and the West… It is a controlled strangulation that seriously violates norms of human rights law and humanitarian law.”

More than half of the net proceeds from this event will go to the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP) on the ground in Gaza. GCMHP’s mission is to enhance the capacity of the Palestinian community in Gaza to deal with mental health issues based on the principles of justice, humanity, and respect for human rights. They work with three major target groups: children, women, and victims of torture.

Organised by the Boycott Israel Apartheid Campaign, sponsored by ISM Vancouver, SPHR-UBC, Canpalnet and Stopwar.

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