Not any more

Canadian postal workers put stamp of approval on bid to break Gaza blockade

In Canada on August 12, 2010 at 21:15

The union for Canada’s postal workers is sending a message of support to the Gaza Strip, backing a plan that would take a ship through the blockade of the Palestinian territory in the wake of Israel’s suspension of mail delivery there.

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers on Thursday called on Canadians to co-ordinate with Canada Boat Gaza, a coalition of Islamic and human-rights organizations that are planning to sail a ship through the Israeli blockade this autumn to deliver aid to the Gaza Strip.

"As postal workers, we know very well that cutting off mail creates suffering and hardship for people, who are isolated from their loved ones," said Denis Lemelin, the union’s national president. "How many more abuses will the people of Gaza have to endure?"

Israel Post, the nation’s mail carrier, informed Canada Post this week they would no longer deliver mail to the Gaza Strip due to circumstances "beyond their control."

No specific explanation was given, but a rocket fired from the territory hit an Israeli city on July 30, and a subsequent Israeli Air Force airstrike that killed a senior Hamas official and injured 11 in Gaza, have heightened tensions between the historically intransigent neighbours.

"We are heartened by the growing international response to Israel’s cruel treatment of the Palestinian people," said Lemelin. "We stand in solidarity with all efforts to break the blockade and end the indignities imposed on the Palestinian people by the state of Israel."

Sara Saber-Freedman, a spokeswoman for the Canada-Israel Committee, said the union acted in a "hasty and . . . irresponsible" manner in issuing a plea to break the blockade. She said the reasons for the suspension of mail service need to be made public before such measures are taken.

"We don’t know why, we don’t know whether it’s temporary, and we don’t know what other options are available," said Freedman, pointing to the border shared with Egypt as another possible entrance for mail. She speculated that it’s "entirely possible" that Hamas, the Islamist political party that controls the Gaza Strip is preventing mail from crossing into the territory.

"In that context, the postal workers’ decision to exploit this is highly suspect," she said. "Our view is that they’re playing politics."

Canada Post has said they are looking into other avenues for delivering mail into the country.

Relations between Israel and the Gaza Strip have taken a turn since Israeli forces boarded ships bound for the blockaded territory in late May, killing nine activists and drawing condemnation from much of the world.

Land and sea blockades were enacted in 2007 by Israel and Egypt after Hamas came to power in the Gaza Strip.

The UN’s Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs has reported that as many as 68 per cent of the Gaza’s 1.5 million residents lack adequate access to food, with an unemployment rate of nearly 40 per cent and rising food costs exacerbating the effects.

Since the flotilla raid, however, pressure from the international community has led Israel and Egypt to ease the restrictions of what goods and people can move to and from the territory.

While food and household items are generally allowed into the tiny slice of land along the Mediterranean Sea, building and agricultural materials, such as cement, lumber and fertilizer, remain banned.

© Copyright (c) Postmedia News

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