June 1, 2010
by Michael Leon

Gaza Freedom flotilla carried world-renowned names and veteran activists
Inclusion of human beings on relief missions is  not necessarily a deterrent to state murder. Such is the nature of fascism.

Author Henning Mankell and Nobel peace laureate Mairead Corrigan-Maguire are among more than 600 passengers attacked 36 hours ago.

The squalor and oppression of 1.5 million people in the Gaza Strip has been, until n0w, one of those things Americans ignore: No matter how many Nobel peace laureatea you have working for you: The world can be a dirty, mean place far away; so why try?
But how mean and dirty is largely up to us. We have in our power the capacity to reverse the decline of the humanism of Israel into something violent, bigoted and sick.

Henning Mankell Author Henning Mankell

[Author Henning Mankell had been due to speak at the Hay festival by satellite link on Saturday, but the connection failed. Photograph: Bertil Ericson/EPA]

The largest flotilla launched to challenge the Gaza blockade also carried the most passengers, well over 600 people, believed to include 27 from the UK. Internationally renowned names were on board, among them activists, authors, film-makers, politicians and journalists from Europe, the Middle East, the US and Canada.
Among the most famous is Henning Mankell, author of the best-selling Wallander series of crime novels. Mankell had been scheduled to speak to the Hay festival on Saturday night by live link from the boat, but the connection failed.
One of the best-known international activists is Huwaida Arraf, born in the US to an Israeli Arab father and Palestinian mother, co- founder in 2001 of the International Solidarity Movement, which campaigns against Israel’s actions in the West Bank and Gaza. He was on the Challenger.
Also on board was the Nobel peace laureate Mairead Corrigan-Maguire, co-founder of Northern Ireland’s Peace People and a veteran of the Gaza flotillas, who was briefly jailed last year when Israel intercepted and towed a flotilla.
The Scottish journalist and documentary film-maker Hassan Ghani, 24 and from Glasgow, was on board the Mavi Marmara, the Turkish vessel attacked by Israeli forces. He was seen broadcasting for PressTV as the commandos took control of the ship.
In footage shown on YouTube, Ghani said: “This is the MC Marmara, Hassan Ghani reporting for PressTV. We’ve had several injuries here; one is critical. He has been injured in the head and we think he may die if he doesn’t receive medicaltreatment urgently.
Another person being passed in front of me right now has been seriously injured. We are being hit by tear gas, stun grenades. We’ve navy ships on either side. We’re being attacked from every single side. This is internationalwatersand not Israeli waters, not in the 68-mile exclusion zone. We’re being attacked in international waters completely illegally.”
His father, Haq Ghani, a businessman who runs an Islamic information service called Noah’s Ark, told the BBC he had asked the foreign office for news about his son but had been told anything.
Sandra Law, the mother of Alex Harrison, a 31-year-old British woman on board the Challenger 1, said the Foreign Office had “totally refused” to provide information or assistance to her family. “They were obstructive to say the least,” said Law, from Croydon. “We rang them last night to say the flotilla was being threatened by the Israeli navy.
They totally refused to help us. I’m extremely worried about Alex. We have no idea what has happened to her. But she’s an experienced human rights defender and very level-headed.”
Others among the 27 Britons believed to be on board were journalist Jamal Elshayyal, a 25-year-old producer for the al-Jazeera English service who managed a dramatic crackly broadcast cut short in mid sentenceas one of the ships was boarded; Kevin Ovenden, a member of the Viva Palestina charity, who was on the Mavi Marmara; Denis Healey, who skippered one of the previous flotillas; Theresa McDermot from Edinburgh; and Sarah Colborne, director of campaigns at the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
International Solidarity London also listed Fatima Mohammed, on board the Mavi Marmara, and Alexander Evangelou, Hasan Nowarah, and Gehad Sukker – a pizza shop manager from Altrincham in Cheshire who is originally from Gaza – among those from the UK. Peter Venner, from Ryde on the Isle of Wight, is also believed by his partner, Rachel Bridgeland, to be on board.
A spokesman for the Foreign Office said they were unable to confirm, or even definitely establish, how many Britons had sailed with the convoy, and on which boats.
Caoimhe Butterly, an Irish pacifist activist who was shot and injured on the West Bank in 2002 after standing in the path of Israeli tanks, was on board.
Three German MPs, Annette Groth, a human rights policy spokeswoman, Inge Höger, a member of the defence and health committees, and Norman Paech, who is also a professor of public law in Hamburg, are believed to have been on board, as well as two members of the Palestinian Knesset, including Haneen Zoubi, an Israeli citizen.
The Free Gaza Movement website lists passengersfrom Holland, Belgium, the US, Ireland, the UK, Greece, Poland, Palestine and Germany. Most were on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, including Raed Salah, who was aquitted earlier this month of rioting in Jerusalem in 2007.
The oldest passenger is believed to be David Schermerhorn, 80, an American film producer whose work includes City of Ghosts. Eighty-five year old Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein decided at the last moment not to travel. Epstein, who now lives in the United States, but left her native Germany on a Kindertransport to London in 1939, before both her parents and other family members died in Auschwitz, instead spent today at the Free Gaza offices in Cyprus, trying to establish what has happened to other passengers.
Other passengers were Giorgos Klontzas, a Greek professional diver and sailor, and the Palestinian activist Lubna Masarwa.
Ewa Jasiewicz, a Polish activist and freelance journalist, who last year contributed a graphic account to the Guardian of her experiences in Gaza under Israeli shelling, was also on board.
Other media representatives included one of Pakistan’s best known reporters, Syed Talat Hussain, of Aaj television, travelling with another Pakistani journalist, Raza Mahmood Agha.


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