Politics

Gaza flotilla support up to MPs, Layton says

NDP Leader Jack Layton says it's not his party's policy to back the international flotilla headed to Gaza, but he left it up to MPs who have expressed support for the flotilla to decide whether to fall in line with party policy.

NDP Leader Jack Layton says it's not his party's policy to back the international flotilla headed to Gaza, but he left it up to MPs who have expressed support for the flotilla to decide whether to fall in line with party policy.

"Well, we're a diverse party and people have different points of view," said Layton. He added that while the NDP does not officially support the flotilla, which aims to break the Israeli naval blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza, the party is concerned about the safety of the people on the boats. 

The Mavi Marmara ship was the lead boat of a flotilla headed to the Gaza Strip and was stormed by Israeli naval commandos in a predawn confrontation in May, 2010. A Canadian ship is planning to be part of another flotilla is planned. (Burhan Ozbilici/AP File Photo)
Last May, Israeli troops raided an international flotilla that wanted to deliver aid directly to Gaza. Nine activists were killed.

This year's flotilla includes a Canadian ship.  

"I did express my concerns to the Israeli Ambassador about the safety of Canadians because we naturally are concerned that they not find themselves in a situation that could result in injury," said Layton. "And, of course, we don't support the blockade by Israel of Gaza and we made that point very clear to the ambassador." 

A media report indicated two NDP MPs had endorsed the Canadian ship that is part of the flotilla.

Asked whether they should remove their endorsements, Layton said: "These are decisions they'll make."

After Layton's comments, only one NDP MP, Alex Atamanenko, was still listed in the endorsement section of the Canadian Boat to Gaza's website. Atamanenko respresents B.C.'s southern interior. 

Layton said he has had conversations with the MPs, but told reporters those conversations are private. 

Under the Israeli blockade, boats must first get checked at an Israeli port before the shipments of aid and supplies can enter Palestinian territory.