The saga of the activists on the Canadian boat to Gaza headed into its final chapter on Tuesday, July 19, when one of the boat’s guiding spirits, Montreal’s Stephan Corriveau, was taken into Israeli custody.
Corriveau – who is currently being deported home – along with others on Canadian vessel The Tahrir, had his mission short-circuited by the Greek coast guard on July 4. But he later joined other internationals whose boats had been seized on the French craft Dignité/Al Karama.
The Al Karama had better luck than the others for a while, departing from a French port on Corsica and nearing the Gaza coast, where Israeli naval commandos easily boarded and commandeered the craft in international waters.
It was pulled into the Israeli port of Ashdod, where those aboard with Israeli citizenship were processed and quickly released, while international activists, including Corriveau, were detained by border police.
Interestingly, the ship wasn’t carrying an ounce of aid and set sail mainly as a challenge to the blockade, a fact duly noted by Israeli officials.
“It was never about aid,” Mark Regev, the Israeli government press office spokesperson tells me on the phone from Tel Aviv. He almost sounds as if agrees with the activist position that the problem in Gaza is not humanitarian but political, until he adds, “If the activists are interested in Gaza’s freedom, then why is their ally and supporter the authoritarian Hamas?”
(Freedom flotilla activists maintain that they support no particular political faction in Gaza.)
“The simple fact is, the flotilla activists have no international legitimacy,” Regev says. He contends that pressure to prevent Freedom Flotilla boats from reaching their destination has come from the UN, North American and European governments and was not an Israeli initiative.
Corriveau would likely agree with Regev’s assessment of Western nations’ willingness to assist Israel in its blockade. He was certainly ready to point out what he sees as Canada’s ready collusion when he and I spent two weeks together on the island of Crete preparing for the The Tahrir to set sail. When it was clear that Greece would prevent the departure of all flotilla vessels, he optimistically remarked, “I think it’s mission accomplished even if the game is not finished.
His activist game has been a long one, dating from South African anti-apartheid work to anti-sexual-repression fights with the Catholic Church. But “Palestine,” he told me as we headed to the then secret location of The Tahrir in the tourist town of Agios Nikolaos, “is my first love.”