I apologize. This message began with 2 items (the first 2), but as a result of continued reading it has expanded to 5, and I am sure that should I have continued to examine more email and electronic editions of the world’s media, I would have added yet more. But enough is enough.
Spouse and I returned a few days ago from the relative peacefulness of the San Francisco Bay Area to the horrific events surrounding the flotilla. Apart from totally identifying with the goal of the boats, several of the organizers of the Free Gaza movement are close friends, as are several of the people on the ships. So it was with considerable shock that I learned that Israel had attacked the largest ship with live ammunition, had descended at night on the ship, had killed 9 activists (mis-termed ‘terrorists’ by the Israeli leadership and media).
Spouse’s and my first contact with Israeli opinion was on the way home from the airport on June 2. Our taxi driver reiterated the Israeli propaganda line word for word. Nice guy, I thought, but totally ignorant, as are most Israelis. Most are also ignorant of how the rest of the world perceives Israel, particularly in wake of the attack. Israel may not have lost the support of the US and most European leaders, but the people—that’s a different story! And while I agree with Lieberman on one thing, that countries establish relations not out of love but out of interests, eventually the electorate could change the interests even of Israel’s staunchest supporter: America.
Meanwhile, notwithstanding the tragedy, the flotilla was not for naught. Egypt has announced (item 3) that the blockade of Gaza has failed, and that the Rafa border crossing will remain open indefinitely. Whether this is Mubarak’s true feeling or the pressure of the Muslim Brotherhood blowing down his neck, let’s hope that Egypt keeps its word. Additionally, a number of additional flotillas are in the making, including a Jewish one (final item). Moreover, boycotts and sanctions are making headway, among these are several cultural cancellations (item 4).
Of the items below, the first (a diary) is the longest. If you haven’t time to read the whole, skip down to May 30th. The 2nd is an overview of how one Israeli perceives the situation. The 3rd is Egypt’s announcement, followed by an unhappy Israeli reaction to the Pixies’ cancellation of its Israel gig. The 5th item is about the Jewish flotilla. And there is after all also a 6th item. I made the mistake of checking the email before sending this off. So it concludes with an eye-witness account by a flotilla participant of the events on that fateful day on board the Mavi Marmara. I doubt that you will regret my having included it.
The prize-winning writer and creator of Wallander [Henning Mankell] was among those on board the Gaza flotilla. Here he shares his private diary of the events leading to his capture
On board the Mavi Marmara: ‘The Israelis have behaved like pirates.’
It is five o’clock in the morning and I’m standing in the street waiting for the taxi that will take me to the airport in Nice. It’s the first time in ages E and I have had some time off together. Initially we thought we’d be able to stretch it to two weeks. It turned out to be five days. Ship to Gaza finally seems to be ready to set off and I’m to travel to Cyprus to join it, as arranged.
As instructed, I’ve limited my luggage to a rucksack weighing no more than 10 kilos. Ship to Gaza has a clearly defined goal: to break Israel’s illegal blockade. After the war a year ago, life has become more and more unbearable for the Palestinians who live in Gaza. There is a huge shortage of the bare necessities for living any sort of decent life.
But the aim of the voyage is of course more explicit. Deeds, not words, I think. It’s easy to say you support or defend or oppose this, that and the other. But only action can provide proof of your words.
The Palestinians who have been forced by the Israelis to live in this misery need to know that they are not alone, not forgotten. The world has to be reminded of their existence. And we can do that by loading some ships with what they need most of all: medicines, desalination plants for drinking water, cement.
The taxi arrives, we agree a price – extortionate! – and drive to the airport through empty, early morning streets. It comes to me now that I made my first note, there in the taxi. I don’t remember the exact words, but I’m suddenly disconcerted by a sense of not quite having managed to register that this is a project so hated by the Israelis that they might try to stop the convoy by violent means.
By the time I get to the airport, the thought has gone. On this point, too, the project is very clearly defined. We are to use non-violent tactics; there are no weapons, no intention of physical confrontation. If we’re stopped, it ought to happen in a way that doesn’t put our lives at risk.
Wednesday 26 May, Nicosia
It’s warmer than in Nice. Those who are to board the ships somewhere off the coast of Cyprus are gathering at Hotel Centrum in Nicosia. It’s like being in an old Graham Greene novel. A collection of odd people assembling in some godforsaken place to set off on a journey together. We’re going to break an illegal blockade. The words are repeated in a variety of languages. But suddenly there’s a great sense of uncertainty.
The ships are late, various problems have arisen, the coordinates still haven’t been set for the actual rendezvous. The only thing that’s certain is that it will be out at sea. Cyprus doesn’t want our six ships putting in here. Presumably Israel has applied pressure.
Now and then I also note tensions between the various groups that make up the leadership of this unwieldy project. The breakfast room has been pressed into service as a secretive meeting room. We are called in to write details of our next of kin, in case of the worst. Everyone writes away busily. Then we are told to wait. Watch and wait. Those are the words that will be used most often, like a mantra, in the coming days. Wait. Watch and wait.
Thursday 27 May, Nicosia
Wait. Watch and wait. Oppressive heat.
Friday 28 May, Nicosia
I suddenly start to wonder whether I may have to leave the island without getting onto a ship. There seems to be a shortage of places. There are apparently waiting lists for this project of solidarity. But K, the friendly Swedish MP, and S, the Swedish female doctor, who are travelling with me help keep my spirits up. Travel by ship always involves some kind of bother, I think. We carry on with our task. Of waiting. Watching and waiting.
Saturday 29 May, Nicosia
Suddenly everything happens very quickly. We are now, but of course still only maybe, to travel sometime today on a different, faster ship to the point out at sea where the coordinates meet, and there we will join the convoy of five other vessels that will then head as a single flotilla for the Gaza Strip.
We carry on waiting. But at about 5pm the port authorities finally give us permission to board a ship called the Challenge, which will take us at a speed of 15 knots to the rendezvous point, where we will transfer to the cargo ship Sophia. There are already lots of people aboard the Challenge.
They seem a bit disappointed to see the three of us turn up. They had been hoping for some Irish campaigners who have, however, suddenly given up the idea and gone home. We climb aboard, say hello, quickly learn the rules. It’s very cramped, plastic bags full of shoes everywhere, but the mood is good, calm. All the question marks seem to have been ironed out now. Soon after the two diesel engines rumble into life. We’re finally underway.
I’ve found a chair on the rear deck. The wind is not blowing hard, but enough to make a lot of the passengers seasick. I have wrapped myself up in blankets, and watch the moon cast an illuminated trail across the sea. I think to myself that solidarity actions can take many forms. The rumbling means there is not a lot of conversation. Just now, the journey feels very peaceful. But deceptively so.
Sunday 30 May, at sea, south-east of Cyprus, 01.00
I can see the glimmer of lights in various directions. The captain, whose name I never manage to learn, has slowed his speed. The lights flickering in the distance are the navigation lights of two of the other ships in the convoy. We are going to lie here until daylight, when people can be transferred to other vessels. But I still can’t find anywhere to sleep. I stay in my wet chair and doze.
Solidarity is born in dampness and waiting; but we are helping others to get roofs over their heads.
The sea is calmer. We are approaching the largest vessel in the flotilla. It’s a passenger ferry, the “queen” of the ships in the convoy. There are hundreds of people on board. There has been much discussion of the likelihood of the Israelis focusing their efforts on this particular ship.
What efforts? We’ve naturally been chewing that over ever since the start of the project. Nothing can be known with any certainty. Will the Israeli navy sink the ships? Or repel them by some other means? Is there any chance the Israelis will let us through, and repair their tarnished reputation? Nobody knows. But it seems most likely that we’ll be challenged at the border with Israeli territorial waters by threatening voices from loudspeakers on naval vessels. If we fail to stop, they will probably knock out our propellers or rudders, then tow us somewhere for repair.
The three of us transfer to the Sophia by rope ladder. She is a limping old cargo ship, with plenty of rust and an affectionate crew. I calculate that we are about 25 people in all. The cargo includes cement, reinforcement bars and prefabricated wooden houses. I am given a cabin to share with the MP, whom I view after the long days in Nicosia more and more as a very old friend. We find it has no electric light. We’ll have to catch up on our reading some other time.
The convoy has assembled. We head for Gaza.
We gather in the improvised dining area between the cargo hatches and the ship’s superstructure. The grey-haired Greek who is responsible for security and organisation on board, apart from the nautical aspects, speaks softly and immediately inspires confidence. Words like “wait” and “watch” no longer exist. Now we are getting close. The only question is: what are we getting close to?
Nobody knows what the Israelis will come up with. We only know that their statements have been menacing, announcing that the convoy will be repelled with all the means at their disposal. But what does that mean? Torpedoes? Hawsers? Soldiers let down from helicopters? We can’t know. But violence will not be met with violence from our side.
Only elementary self-defence. We can, on the other hand, make things harder for our attackers. Barbed wire is to be strung all round the ship’s rail. In addition, we are all to get used to wearing life jackets, lookouts are to be posted and we will be told where to assemble if foreign soldiers come aboard. Our last bastion will be the bridge.
Then we eat. The cook is from Egypt, and suffers with a bad leg. But he cooks great food.
Monday 31 May, midnight
I share the watch on the port side from midnight to 3am. The moon is still big, though occasionally obscured by cloud. The sea is calm. The navigation lights gleam. The three hours pass quickly. I notice I am tired when someone else takes over. It’s still a long way to anything like a territorial boundary the Israelis could legitimately defend. I should try to snatch a few hours’ sleep.
I drink tea, chat to a Greek crewman whose English is very poor but who insists he wants to know what my books are about. It’s almost four before I get to lie down.
I’ve just dropped off when I am woken again. Out on deck I see that the big passenger ferry is floodlit. Suddenly there is the sound of gunfire. So now I know that Israel has chosen the route of brutal confrontation. In international waters.
It takes exactly an hour for the speeding black rubber dinghies with the masked soldiers to reach us and start to board. We gather, up on the bridge. The soldiers are impatient and want us down on deck. Someone who is going too slowly immediately gets a stun device fired into his arm. He falls. Another man who is not moving fast enough is shot with a rubber bullet. I think: I am seeing this happen right beside me. It is an absolute reality. People who have done nothing being driven like animals, being punished for their slowness.
We are put in a group down on the deck. Where we will then stay for 11 hours, until the ship docks in Israel. Every so often we are filmed. When I jot down a few notes, a soldier comes over at once and asks what I am writing. That’s the only time I lose my temper, and tell him it’s none of his business. I can only see his eyes; don’t know what he is thinking. But he turns and goes.
Eleven hours, unable to move, packed together in the heat. If we want to go for a pee, we have to ask permission. The food they give us is biscuits, rusks and apples. We’re not allowed to make coffee, even though we could do it where we are sitting. We take a collective decision: not to ask if we can cook food.
Then they would film us. It would be presented as showing how generously the soldiers had treated us. We stick to the biscuits and rusks. It is degradation beyond compare. (Meanwhile, the soldiers who are off-duty have dragged mattresses out of the cabins and are sleeping at the back of the deck.)
So in those 11 hours, I have time to take stock. We have been attacked while in international waters. That means the Israelis have behaved like pirates, no better than those who operate off the coast of Somalia. The moment they start to steer this ship towards Israel, we have also been kidnapped. The whole action is illegal.We try to talk among ourselves, work out what might happen, and not least how the Israelis could opt for a course of action that means painting themselves into a corner.
The soldiers watch us. Some pretend not to understand English. But they all do. There are a couple of girls among the soldiers. They look the most embarrassed. Maybe they are the sort who will escape to Goa and fall into drug addiction when their military service is over? It happens all the time.
Quayside somewhere in Israel. I don’t know where. We are taken ashore and forced to run the gauntlet of rows of soldiers while military TV films us. It suddenly hits me that this is something I shall never forgive them. At that moment they are nothing more to my mind than pigs and bastards.
We are split up, no one is allowed to talk to anyone else. Suddenly a man from the Israeli ministry for foreign affairs appears at my side. I realise he is there to make sure I am not treated too harshly. I am, after all, known as a writer in Israel. I’ve been translated into Hebrew. He asks if I need anything.
‘My freedom and everybody else’s,’ I say. He doesn’t answer. I ask him to go. He takes one step back. But he stays.
I admit to nothing, of course, and am told I am to be deported. The man who says this also says he rates my books highly. That makes me consider ensuring nothing I write is ever translated into Hebrew again.
Agitation and chaos reign in this “asylum-seekers’ reception centre”. Every so often, someone is knocked to the ground, tied up and handcuffed. I think several times that no one will believe me when I tell them about this. But there are many eyes to see it. Many people will be obliged to admit that I am telling the truth. There are a lot of us who can bear witness.
A single example will do. Right beside me, a man suddenly refuses to have his fingerprints taken. He accepts being photographed. But fingerprints? He doesn’t consider he has done anything wrong. He resists. And is beaten to the ground. They drag him off. I don’t know where. What word can I use? Loathsome? Inhuman? There are plenty to choose from.
We, the MP, the doctor and I, are taken to a prison for those refused right of entry. There we are split up. We are thrown a few sandwiches that taste like old dishcloths. It’s a long night. I use my trainers as a pillow.
Tuesday 1 June, afternoon
Without any warning, the MP and I are taken to a Lufthansa plane. We are to be deported. We refuse to go until we know what is happening to S Once we have assured ourselves that she, too, is on her way, we leave our cell.
On board the plane, the air hostess gives me a pair of socks. Because mine were stolen by one of the commandos who attacked the boat I was on.
The myth of the brave and utterly infallible Israeli soldier is shattered. Now we can add: they are common thieves. For I was not the only one to be robbed of my money, credit card, clothes, MP3 player, laptop; the same happened to many others on the same ship as me, which was attacked early one morning by masked Israeli soldiers, who were thus in fact nothing other than lying pirates.
By late evening we are back in Sweden. I talk to some journalists. Then I sit for a while in the darkness outside the house where I live. E doesn’t say much.
Wednesday 2 June, afternoon
I listen to the blackbird. A song for those who died.
Now it is still all left to do. So as not to lose sight of the goal, which is to lift the brutal blockade of Gaza. That will happen.
Beyond that goal, others are waiting. Demolishing a system of apartheid takes time. But not an eternity.
I have been trying to get my head around what happened on the Gaza flotilla, with no success.
When I turned on the Israeli news at 6:40 a.m. on Monday morning, knowing that the flotilla must be nearing our shores, the broadcaster’s first words were a knife to the heart: “Something very bad has happened. The commanders knew ahead of time that this was a lose-lose situation…” I could not help but wonder why the naval commanders (and obviously the higher-ups in the government) would knowingly go into a situation that was “lose-lose.”
I could not help but wonder why, once again, we had thrust ourselves into an impossible situation, endangered so many lives, perpetuated violence and severely damaged our relations with the world community in a nonsensical effort to enforce the unjustifiable blockade of the Gaza Strip.
I can turn off the radio and television and internet, but I cannot turn off my thoughts about all that has happened this week. My thoughts revolve around the steady stream of disturbing news and articles, interviews, photos and videos broadcast on the radio, television, internet, and youtubes. Each new photo, video, interview and article purports to give the “facts” of what happened in the dark, early morning hours of Monday.
Each new photo, video, interview and article from outside of Israel puts the blame on my country. Each new piece of news from inside of Israel puts the blame on the ‘terrorists’ on the boats, on the Hamas, on Iran, and on the Turkish government. Each new ‘fact’ widens the chasm between Israel and the rest of the world.
Over night, our world has turned into one angry and volatile demonstration. It is impossible to count how many people from how many countries are marching, shouting and demanding Israel’s blood for the attack on the ‘peace ships.’
I cannot count how many Israelis are draped in the Israeli flag, portraying the citizens on the boats as ‘terrorists’, calling Hanin Zuabi – an Arab Knesset member who was on board the Mavi Marmara – a traitor and calling for her blood. We cannot measure how much anger and hatred has resulted from this terribly destructive fiasco. And we do not know how long it will take to dissipate, if it will ever really dissipate.
The attack on the flotilla, and all that ensued (whether or not the citizens on board attacked first, second, or later is of no importance) has shown us, once again, how the blind perspective that force can solve the problem has made the problem uglier, deeper, more senseless.
With all this darkness, the attack on the flotilla has had one good effect: It brought the blockade of the forgotten Gaza Strip, from the land, the sea and the air, into the homes of billions/millions of people around the world. More importantly, it brought this immoral and inhumane blockade into the homes of millions of Israelis, who, for the last three years, have chosen to ignore this destructive act that our government has inflicted on an innocent population. This may be the light at the end of the tunnel(s). This might be the beginning of the end of a government and military policy that was borne in vengeance, and has been carried out with a vengeance.
In these dark days, I have tried to understand how my country has so terribly lost its way. From my perspective, for the last number of years, but most especially since the Gaza War, we have rushed to stumble in the darkness because:
We (Israelis) constantly push ourselves deeper and deeper into this black hole called “the conflict.” It consumes us, shutting out any other way to see our relations with the Palestinians.
We can no longer see any option but the military option.
Anyone who does not agree with the government and/or military policy is perceived as a traitor. Democracy is to be feared and freedom of speech has become profanity.
Any call for human rights is seen as a call against Israel.
We are obsessed with the quality of our hasbara (information/explanations) to the rest of the world concerning our actions. We are obsessed with trying to understand why our hasbara is ineffectual. We are obsessed with explaining our unexplainable behaviors, instead of being passionate about changing them. We spend our resources on embarrassing hasbara instead of using our energies to look for ways to end the conflict that offer the promise of peace, justice and security to Israelis (and Palestinians).
We are alienating country after country. We are isolating ourselves in the world, creating new enemies everyday, forgetting that we belong to the world, and that we cannot survive in this world on our own, without friends.
We are so obsessed with our own victimhood, that we do not see how we are victimizing others. We see threats and dangers at every turn, and dismiss our actions as self defense against the evil forces that would destroy us. We are militarily strong, but psychologically very, very weak.
We have become so indifferent and blind to the suffering of the Palestinians that our hearts have turned to stone.
I search for the magic wand (knowing this to be a childish fantasy) that would make my fellow Israelis (ordinary citizens and ‘leaders’) soften the stone, open the borders, gather in the friends, embrace our Palestinian cousins, spread the rights. I unsuccessfully and naively search in the darkness for this wand, only to realize that if it ever existed, it has fallen into the depths of the black hole of guns and warships and airplanes and helicopters and rockets.
From my home near the Gaza border, I hear the drone of the army helicopters, the booms of the artillery, the sirens from the Qassam rockets. I try to remember what life was like when the borders between our two regions were open and we Israelis and Palestinians traveled freely between the two. I vainly search the horizon for Israeli peace trucks and ships that herald the end of the blockade and for the beginning of a new era that offers us a life of peace and security that we Gazans and Israelis need and deserve so desperately.
3. Ynet Monday, June 7, 2010
16:18 , 06.07.10
Egypt: Gaza blockade a failure, border stays open
A security official says Egypt will keep its border with Gaza open indefinitely, easing the blockade on the territory’s Palestinians and giving them a crucial link to the outside the world.
Egypt and Israel have maintained the blockade since Hamas took control of Gaza three years ago. But the official says the closure has failed to achieve its goals, including the release of an Israeli soldier held by Hamas since 2006. (AP)
Shuki Weiss, promoter of Pixies concert which was called off at last minute, says ‘artists are under huge pressure by Arab elements to boycott Israel, including threatening letters and commercial sanctions’
The Pixies band’s decision to call off its Tel Aviv concert, which was scheduled to take place this Wednesday, has sparked a row in the local music industry. The British [American, not British] band followed in the footsteps of artists Santana and Elvis Costello, who canceled their gigs in Israel for political reasons as well [and also in the footsteps of 2 other bands: the Klaxons and the Gorillaz, both British.].
Ever since the cancellation was announced Sunday morning, thousands of Israeli surfers have been posting angry messages on the band’s Facebook page, saying that the group members “should be ashamed of themselves” and slamming the band for “supporting terror”.
Producer Shuki Weiss, who promoted the American band’s concert in Israel, admitted Sunday that the cancellation was the result of “cultural terror against the State of Israel and against art in general”.
“I regret the fact that repeated attempts to bring good music to Israel and produce concerts and festivals of high quality fall victim of a series of political events, which are expressed in new patters of actions which I can only define as a type of cultural power against the State of Israel and art in general,” said Weiss.
“Intense pressure to boycott Israel – including threatening letters, commercial sanctions, cancellations of shows from influential countries – is being exerted by Arab and other elements on most artists (as well as writers, industrialists and others) across the world.
“This has turned into a painful series of cancellations with one sparkle of art – one foreign band which understood the difference and chose to focus on music and ignore the threats, and did not even consider disappointing and punishing its fans,” Weiss said, referring to the Placebo band which performed in Tel Aviv on Saturday evening.
“I am sure the matter will be discussed in detail by the international and local community of artists,” Weiss added, “and I call on artists who understand the difference to visit Israel and any other place in the world where they can display their art, meet with their fans and stand firm in this cultural war…
“Otherwise, all those nice expressions, like ‘Music speaks louder than words’ and ‘Bridge over troubled water’ will be devoid of meaning.
“As for those who choose not to come, we will wait for them until they realize that we are not alone in this game and that the cynical and ugly use of art as a weapon will eventually force everyone to look deep into the actions of many governments across the world and put the relations of artists and their fans to the test.
“I would like to suggest to those elements working to cancel the arrival of artists not to celebrate their ‘victory’, and to call on the community of artists in Israel to communicate, talk and work to bring people closer together, bring down bridges and come up against the misuse of cultural terror in places and countries and not to be swept into the abyss of loneliness, which will only strengthen the hatred and diminish the moral power of the freedom of speech and freedom of art.
“I’ll keep working to produce events in Israel and worldwide because it’s important and because it’s what I do,” he concludes. “The smile and the satisfaction of the visitor in good events are undoubtedly worth it. Keep on rocking in the free world.”
5. Monday, June 07, 2010
The Jewish boat to Gaza is sailing soon
In an undisclosed harbor in the Mediterranean, a small vessel is waiting
for a special mission. She will be sailing to Gaza. In order to avoid
sabotage, the exact date and name of the port of departure will be
announced only shortly before her launch.
“Our purpose is to call an end to the siege of Gaza, to this illegal
collective punishment of the whole civilian population. Our boat is small,
so our donations can only be symbolic: we are taking school bags, filled
with donations from German school children, musical instruments and art
materials. For the medical services we are taking essential medicines and
small medical equipment, and for the fishermen we are taking nets and
tackle. We are liaising with the medical, educational and mental health
services in Gaza..
”In attacking the Freedom Flotilla, Israel has once again demonstrated to
the world a heinous brutality. But I know that there are very many
Israelis who compassionately and bravely campaign for a just peace. As
broadcasting journalists from mainstream television programs are
accompanying our boat, Israel will have a great chance to show the world
that there is another way, a way of courage not fear, a way of hope not
hate”, says Edith Lutz, one of the organizers and passenger on the
The ”Jüdische Stimme” (Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Near East),
along with her friends of EJJP (European Jews for a Just Peace in the Near
East) and Jews for Justice For Palestinians (UK) are sending a call to the
leaders of the world to help Israel find her way back to reason, a sense
of humanity and a life without fear. ”Jewish Voices” expects the
political leaders of Israel and the world to guarantee a safe passage for
the small vessel to Gaza, thus helping to form a bridge towards peace.
Firstly I must apologise for taking so long to update my blog. The events of the past few days have been hectic to say the least, and I am still trying to come to grips with many of the things that have happened.
It was this time last week that I was on the top deck of the Mavi Marmara, and first spotted Israeli war ships in the distance, as they approached the humanitarian flotilla. Little did I know how deadly and bloody were the events that soon began to unfold.
What I will write in this entry is fact, every letter of it, none of it is opinion, none of it is analysis, and I will leave that to you, the reader.
After spotting the warships at a distance, (at roughly 11pm) the organisers called for passengers to wear their life vests and remain indoors as they monitored the situation. The naval war ships together with helicopters remained in the distance for several hours.
At 2am local time the organisers informed me that they had re-routed the ship, as far away from Israel as possible, as deep into international waters as they could. They did not want a confrontation with the Israeli military, at least not by night.
Just after 4am local time, the Israeli military attacked the ship, in international waters, and totally unprovoked. Tear gas was used, sound grenades were launched, and rubber coated steel bullets were fired from almost every direction.
Dozens of speed boats carrying on average of 15-20 masked Israeli soldiers, armed to the teeth surrounded the Mavi Marmara which was carrying 600 or so unarmed civilians. Two helicopters at a time hovered above the vessel. Commandos on board the choppers joined the firing, using live ammunition, before any of the soldiers had descended onto the ship.
Two unarmed civilians were killed just meters away from me. Dozens of unarmed civilians were injured right before my eyes.
One Israeli soldier, armed with a large automatic gun and a side pistol, was overpowered by several passengers. They disarmed him. They did not use his weapons or fire them; instead they threw his weapons over board and into the sea.
After what seemed at the time as roughly 30 minutes, passengers on board the ship raised a white flag. The Israeli army continued to fire live ammunition. The ships organisers made a loud speaker announcement saying they have surrendered the ship. The Israeli army continued to fire live ammunition.
I was the last person to leave the top deck.
Below, inside the sleeping quarters, all the passengers had gathered. There was shock, anger, fear, hurt, chaos.
Doctors ran in all directions trying to treat the wounded, blood was on the floor, tears ran down people’s faces, cries of pain and mourning could be heard everywhere. Death was in the air.
Three critically injured civilians were being treated on the ground in the reception area of the ship. Their clothes soaked in blood. Passengers stood by watching in shock, some read out verses of the Qur’an to calm them, doctors worked in despair to save them.
Several announcements were made on the load speakers in Hebrew, Arabic and English – “This is a message to the Israeli army, we have surrendered. We are unarmed. We have critically injured people. Please come and take them. We will not attack.”
There was no response.
One of the passengers, a member of the Israeli Parliament wrote a sign in Hebrew, reading the exact same thing; she held it together with a white flag and approached the windows where the Israeli soldiers were standing outside. The pointed their laser guided guns to her head, ushered her to go away.
A British citizen tried the same sign only this time holding a British Flag and taking the sign to a different set of windows and different set of soldiers. They responded in the same manner.
Three hours later, all three of the injured were pronounced dead. The Israeli soldiers who refused to allow them treatment succeeded where their colleagues had earlier failed when they targeted these three men with bullets.
At around 8am the Israeli army entered the sleeping quarters. They handcuffed the passengers. I was thrown onto the ground, my hands tied behind my back, I couldn’t move an inch.
I was taken to the top deck where the other passengers were, forced to sit on my knees under the burning sun.
One passenger had his hands tied so tight his wrists were all sorts of colours. When he requested that the cuffs be loosened, an Israeli soldier tightened them even more. He let out a scream that sent chills down my body.
I requested to go to the bathroom, I was prevented, instead the Israeli soldier told me to urinate where I was and in my own clothes. Three or four hours later I was allowed to go.
I was then marched, together with the other passengers, back to the sleeping quarters. The place was ransacked, its image like that of the aftermath of an earthquake.
I remained on the ship, seated, without any food or drink bar three sips of water for more than 24 hours. Throughout this time, Israeli soldiers had their guns pointed at us. Their hands on the trigger. For more than 24 hours.
I was then taken off the ship at Ashdod where I was asked to sign a deportation order, it claimed that I had entered Israel illegally and agreed to be deported. I told the officer that I, in fact, had not entered Israel but that the Israeli army had kidnapped me from international waters and brought me to Israel against my will; therefore I could not sign this document.
My passport was taken from me. I was told that I would go to jail.
Only then were my hands freed, I spent more than 24 hours with my hands cuffed behind my back, with nothing to eat, and barely anything to drink.
Upon arrival at the prison I was put in a cell with three other passengers. The cell was roughly 12ft by 9ft.
I spent more than 24 hours in jail. I was not allowed to make a single phone call.
The British consulate did not come and see me. I did not see a lawyer
There was no hot water for a shower.
The only meal was frozen bread and some potatoes.
The only reason I believe I was released was because the Turkish prisoners refused to leave until and unless the other nationalities (those whose consulates had not come and released them) were set free.
I was taken to Ben Gurion airport. When I asked for my passport, the Israeli official presented me with a piece of paper and said “congratulations this is your new passport”. I replied “you must be joking, you have my passport”. The Israeli official’s response: “sue me”.
There I was asked again to sign a deportation order. Again I refused.
I was put on a plane headed to Istanbul.
Masked Israeli soldiers and commandos took me from international waters.
Uniformed Israeli officials locked me behind bars.
The British government did not lift a finger to help me, till this day I have not seen or heard from a British official.
The Israeli government stole my passport.
The Israeli government stole my lap top, two cameras, 3 phones, $1500 and all my possessions.
My government, the British government has not even acknowledged my existence.
I was kidnapped by Israel. I was forsaken by my country.