POLITICS

Former MP arrested in Gaza blockade arrives home

10/25/2012 05:54 EDT | Updated 12/25/2012 05:12 EST
VANCOUVER - After spending three days in an Israeli detention centre for trying to break a maritime blockade of Gaza, a former New Democrat MP is back in British Columbia where he remains unapologetic for his actions.

Shortly after Jim Manly arrived at Vancouver International Airport Thursday afternoon, the 79-year-old retired United Church of Canada minister called on Canadians to pressure the federal government to speak out about the "oppression and violence" under which Palestinians live.

Manly also demanded the Israeli government change its own policies, especially those that have seen settlements built in disputed territory.

"If the Canadian government is a friend of Israel, it should be prepared to speak the truth to Israel," said Manly, who was surrounded by a small group of banner-carrying supporters.

"I do not think that oppression and violence and robbing another people of their right to a decent life is the way to peace and security for any nation. It's certainly not the way for Israel."

He asked the federal government to "speak out" and the Canadian people "to demand of the Canadian government that they speak out."

The blockade he was trying to break by sea is "slowly strangling the economy and the people of Gaza," said Manly.

A spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Monday that the federal government recognizes Israel's "legitimate security concerns'' over flotillas going into Gaza, and asked those who want to deliver aid to Gaza to go through established channels.

The blockade was imposed in 2007, after an Islamic militant group seized control of the territory.

Manly was aboard the MV Estelle along with European politicians and pro-Palestinian activists trying to break the blockade.

When the vessel was about 30 nautical miles from Gaza, six Israeli naval ships stopped the Estelle, and masked soldiers streamed aboard.

Manly said the vessel was in international waters at the time.

He said 11 people who were unarmed but were resisting non-violently were shocked with Tasers, including two seniors, before the vessel was taken to an Israeli port and he was taken to a detention centre.

He was questioned there and remained in custody for three days.

He was also asked to sign a document acknowledging he had entered the country illegally, Manly said.

He refused.

"We had entered Israel illegally because we'd been brought there illegally by the Israeli defence forces," said Manly. "But we had not entered of our own voluntary free will."

Manly said he did sign a statement that said he had been taken in international waters against his will.

Deflecting attention away from the "minor inconveniences" he said he suffered while in detention, Manly asked people to focus instead on the Palestinians.

"There are people who face detention for years. There are people who face interrogation that is brutal. There are people who face torture. I didn't have any of that difficulty. I had a fairly minor inconvenience in my life."

Israeli officials announced earlier this week that those detained would be deported.

Manly said his only plans now were to return home and enjoy a glass of wine.

The weekend incident was not the first flotilla to be stopped.

Back in 2010, nine people died and 45 were injured when Israeli soldiers boarded a Turkish vessel trying to break the blockade.