Nfld. & Labrador

Palestinian doctor in St. John's joins Freedom Flotilla Coalition to Gaza

MUN professor and rheumatologist says the area has delved into "something inhumane."

'People everywhere have the right to live in dignity and ... without fear of being shot'

Dr. Majed Khraishi has lived in Newfoundland for 30 years, but still has family in Jordan and the West Bank. (NLMA/Facebook)

The family connections of a St. John's doctor — and a desire to inspire change  — have motivated him to join a team sailing to the Gaza Strip.

"The most important thing is really to raise awareness of the horrible situation and the siege of Gaza, this has been going on for many years," says Dr. Majed Khraishi, a rheumatologist and a clinical professor in the medical school at Memorial University of Newfoundland. 

"There are two million people who are living in a space not much larger than the size of greater St. John's in some unbelievable conditions," Khraishi said.

He has been living in Newfoundland for 30 years, but still has family in Jordan and the West Bank.

Khraishi, who is Palestinian, will serve as an onboard doctor with the Freedom Flotilla Coaltion (FFC), an international organization that aims to challenge the Isreali blockade of Gaza.

He said he has two reasons for joining the fleet of boats.

"Bring some supplies, some humanitarian supplies. But more importantly to raise awareness of our governments — of people around the world — that there is something inhumane going on here," he said.

'Is that all we can do?'

Israel and Egypt argue that they must maintain the blockade of Gaza to contain Hamas and other militant groups, which have built up arsenals over the years, including short-range rockets.

Hardships linked to the blockade, including daily power cuts and rising poverty, have driven turnout at protests.

Khraishi says for him, it's a humanitarian issue first, not a political one. 

"The fact that people everywhere have the right to live in dignity and ... without fear of being shot, or not even having their children taken care of," he said.

"It makes you feel like you have to do something ... I thought the least I can do is be part of this flotilla, part of this mission and make my voice heard and do something about it."

This is the boat Khraishi will travel on for a week, serving as the onboard doctor. (Freedom Flotilla Coalition/Facebook)

The FFC fleet of four boats will stop in ports throughout Europe, running public outreach and awareness campaigns.

Khraishi is meeting the group in Lisbon Wednesday, and will sail for about a week on one of the boats, although he expects to disembark before the final leg as the group tries to reach Gaza in mid-July.

"What I really feel is some sense of fulfilment, some sense of apprehension and sometimes [I wonder] is that all that we can do?" 

"I did a very small part eventually that will help others to do bigger parts and eventually maybe there is a light at the end of the tunnel."

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from the St. John's Morning Show and The Associated Press