Put the shoe on the other foot
Our recreational fishery is in full swing. When the cod moratorium was imposed in 1992 in an attempt to halt the decline in the species that had supported Newfoundlanders and Labradorians for centuries, there was an outraged backlash. The situation was resolved, as we all know, by permitting a limited “recreational” fishery to allow us to fish cod sufficient for our personal needs under strict control.
Meanwhile, the commercial fishery, also operating under strict rules, continues to land fish for both local consumption and for export.
Now, join me on the shores of Gaza, a desperately poor country — an enclave, really — where the people barely survive under conditions of occupation. Electricity might be available for two hours in 24; hospitals are short of both staff and equipment for the constant flow of injuries incurred both in everyday life and in conflict with the Israeli military. The United Nations has been sounding the alarm for many years and now counts the possibility of survival of the enclave in months.
For these people fishing is not a recreation. It is the only way that their families can obtain the protein and other nutrients available in fish. Up until recently Gaza fishers were able to take their small boats and rudimentary gear out to the international 12-mile limit to find fish. The Israelis imposed a six-mile limit, within which there were, of course, smaller and fewer fish. Recently, the Israelis imposed a totally arbitrary and unreasonable three-mile limit on the fishers, patrolled by fast, powerful and heavily armed patrol boats.
We all know what such a strict limit would do to our catches here in Newfoundland and Labrador. If we were prevented by force from going to the grounds where we know the cod congregate, we could not catch our quota. If we were in Gaza, we would be restricted to fewer, smaller and less-nourishing fish — and as the people of Gaza are driven further and further towards to polluted, overcrowded beach — to no fish at all.
These are a people who are already deprived of most jobs, of freedom of movement, whose farms are tiny and unproductive and of whom that the United Nations says that their country will be uninhabitable in less than five years. The people still living in Gaza are remnants of the largest refugee population in the world.
The issue of the fishery is just one that the people of Gaza face in their struggle for survival.
But if Israel is callous in its treatment of Gaza, the world is watching ever more closely. As I write this, the first of the Freedom Flotilla boats, the Al Awla, carrying solidarity and awareness, as well as some medical materials for the people of Gaza, has been violently detained in international waters, with the crew and passengers taken to prison in Israel. This is a clear act of piracy on the High Seas and yet another indication that Israel takes no notice of the standards of practice recognized by the democratic nations of the world.
Marilyn Porter Palestine Solidarity Group St. John’s