Glyn Secker is a British Jew. His parents gave him an English, Christian name so that they could assimilate and live a quiet, safe life after his grandparents fled from the pogroms and open attacks of Jews in Eastern Europe.
But when Glyn Secker and his wife Vanessa had children, they didn’t give them Christian or Jewish names. They gave them Muslim names: Karim and Khalil. Karim meaning generous, and Khalil meaning friend in Arabic. Because, as Secker says: “that’s where our future lies.”
Secker is a member of the British group, Jews For Justice For Palestinians whose motto is Two Peoples- One Future. He was the captain of the boat Irene, and with eight other Jewish activists, they sailed late September 2010 to Gaza to deliver humanitarian aid to the Palestinians under siege by Israel.
Secker, as part of his North American tour came to Toronto at the Palestinian cultural house, Beit Zatoun on March 24, to talk about his experience captaining the Irene, in defiance of the Israeli blockade.
“What is being perpetrated on the Palestinians is morally outrageous,” Secker said. “It constitutes crimes against humanity. These are war crimes in Gaza and it is not in our name, absolutely. We’re an alternative Jewish voice.”
Their humanitarian boat didn’t make it to Gaza. Despite the fact that they were under the British flag, unarmed, sailing on international waters, and with most of the crew over 60 years of age they were still attacked and violently arrested by Israeli forces.
Yonatan Shapira, (who used to be part of the Israeli forces, but quit after realizing what they were required to do to Palestinians) was tasered twice into his shoulder, and then directly on his heart, which caused him to get into an epileptic fit.
“That was the ‘non-violent’ take over of the Jewish boat to Gaza,” Shapira wrote on the jewishboattogaza.org’s testimony. “If we were Palestinians or Muslims they would have shot with live ammo, but because we were Jews and Israelis and had world attention they did not want to do what they did to the Mavi Marmara.”
Aboard the boat was 82-year-old Holocaust survivor, Reuven Moskowitz. Secker said, despite all the atrocities that he witnessed during the Nazi era, Moskowitz believes that the Gaza situation is far worse than what he experienced in the Holocaust. Moskowitz says Gaza is the world’s biggest concentration camp.
Moskowitz was part of the first wave of Jewish migrants to settle in Palestine after WWII. Socialist in ideology, this Humanist Zionist movement believed in peaceful coexistence and supported only settlement of uninhabited land.
When Moskowitz moved to Palestine in 1945, he built a kibbutz on isolated land, but had no animals. He will never forget the time when Palestinians came over and offered him meat. A spirit of cooperation existed between the Palestinians and Israelis, Secker explained.
It’s at this time Judaism was at its truest form, before political Zionism distorted the sacred Torah into a political doctrine, used as an excuse for a “greater Israel.”
Secker quoted Rabbi Hillel who said, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour. That is the whole Torah, the rest is commentary.”
With the advent of Nationalist Zionism and their use of illegal force as a way to acquire land, Israel led itself into a “cycle of violence.” Israel only deals with problems with more violence and force, rather through understanding and mutual respect, Secker explained.
“It has become a pariah country internationally,” Secker said. “Israel doesn’t know how to make peace, it only knows how to make wars.”
80 per cent of people in Gaza now suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome. 62 per cent of Palestinian kids in Israel live in poverty.
By sailing their boat to Gaza, the Jewish activists on board of the Irene wanted to show the world that there are actually many Jews around the world who strongly oppose the immoral Israeli blockade on Gaza and will continue to fight for a better future together with the Palestinians.