Jim Manly spent three days in an Israeli prison. Upon his release, he spent over twenty hours on a plane ride back to his Nanaimo home. But the 80-year-old former New Democrat MP did not forget why he had gone—by noon the next day, Manly was picketing downtown, calling for an end to the Gaza blockade.
Manly, along with several European delegates and three former members of the Israeli Defence Forces, sailed for Gaza onboard the Estelle. The group hoped to break the six-year blockade and deliver building supplies and recreation equipment to Palestinians along the Gaza Strip.
“We know a family from Gaza living in Nanaimo,” says Eva Manly, Jim Manly’s wife. “They were so excited for Jim going, hoping he could visit their parents.”
“We wanted to spread a message of solidarity,” adds Jim Manly, “to let the people of Gaza know that they’re not alone.”
On Oct. 20, the Estelle was stopped by an Israeli military vessel. “It was an act of piracy, there’s no other way to describe it,” Manly says. “They lowered the Finnish flag and raised the Israeli one. Pirates used to do the same thing with the skull and crossbones… I’m sure Jewish people all over the world were outraged to see their flag used in that way. The occupation is against everything Israel should stand for.”
Manly says that despite a non-violent resistance, 11 members of the crew were tasered by Israeli soldiers. The crew was taken into custody, and brought to Ashdod, Israel for interrogation.
Jim Manly says that he only suffered “minor indignities” while detained, and doesn’t seem interested in talking about himself. “That’s not the story,” he says, “the real story is about the people of Gaza, and the indignities they go through every day. Much of their agricultural land isn’t available to them because of the buffer zone, and the 20 yards of sea for fishing has been reduced to three… and the first thing the Canadian government did when the Hamas government was elected [in Gaza] was to cut off humanitarian aid. The people of Gaza are entirely dependent on humanitarian aid.”
Jim Manly arrived home to a warm welcome at the Nanaimo Airport (YCD) on Oct. 25. Fellow activists awaited him in the terminal, wielding anti-blockade signs and cheering as he stepped off the plane.
The next day, Jim Manly joined them in downtown Nanaimo. He continues to oppose the blockade through participating in monthly vigils organized by Mid-Islanders for Justice and Peace in the Middle East. He currently has no plans to return to Gaza. “I’ll support it, but I won’t be a part of it,” he says. “But there will always be others.”
For more information on the local movement to end the Gaza blockade, visit <www.Midislanders.com>.