Destination: Gaza

After narrowly escaping violence, Victoria’s Kevin Neish makes second aid journey to Middle East

Photo contributed Kevin Neish on the Mavi Marmara

Despite the bloodshed he experienced during his first failed mission last year, Victoria’s Kevin Neish is Gaza bound once again.

On Wednesday, Neish left for Istanbul where he will learn in what country he will board one of about 15 aid ships.

“In person they’ll tell me what to do next,” he said. “Because of the threat of the Israelis damaging the ships or pressuring the countries (not to let them sail) … information is on a need-to-know basis.”

The flotilla will be carrying medical, school and construction supplies for the Palestinians of Gaza.

“The hospital has put out a special appeal for children’s hearing aids because of all the … explosions and sonic booms the Israelis are doing over Gaza, the children are having hearing problems,” he said. “It really brings it in perspective when they ask for something like that.”

On May 31, 2010, Neish made national headlines after Israeli marines boarded his ship, the Mavi Marmara, during a similar mission. Violence erupted and nine activists were killed.

“I was right in the middle of it,” said Neish. “The commandos that were captured came right past me and all the dead bodies and wounded — at least a couple of dozen came by me.”

While most of the 500 aboard the flotilla were strip-searched by the Israeli military, Neish was deported to Turkey with his camera’s memory card still hidden in his underwear.

“I’m sure they’re not happy that those photos got off,” he said.

He’s uploaded his graphic photos to the Internet, claiming credit as the photographer.

For this reason, he suspects he’ll have a red flag on his file. “They’re going to be poking and prodding,” he said.

This year’s mission will likely be three times the size of last year, with activists from 100 countries including 30 to 40 Canadians.

“I’ve been invited back on the (Mavi Marmara) and I agreed,” he said.

Neish’s hope is to spend one week in Gaza, where he will lend his experience as a mechanic and waste-treatment plant operator to help fix the ailing sewer system or repair other machinery.

“It will be a step toward a peaceful solution,” he said.

Most likely, however, he’ll end up again detained by the Israeli military before he reaches the shore.

“I imagine it will be a repeat of last year,” Neish conceded. “I’m walking into what could be an extremely violent situation, but I won’t be alone.”

Looking back on his experience last year, he said “I’m still angry.”

To this day, he suffers from nightmares, likely inspired by his deportation to Turkey.

“I lost all my identification to the Israelis, so I always seem to be reaching for my wallet when I’m in these dreams.”

rholmen@vicnews.com

Did you know?

• While Israel was widely criticized after its raid on an aid flotilla last year, the country accuses activists of provoking the violence. Kevin Neish and other witnesses insist the activists on board had no weapons and resisted only with objects such as broom handles, pipes and chains. According to the BBC, a four-person UN panel was appointed to investigate in August, but has yet to report back.

 

 

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