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June 7, 2010

Kidnapped by Israel and abandoned by Britain

A British-born al-Jazeera producer recalls his ordeal on the Gaza flotilla

By Jamal Elshayyal

Sunday, 6 June 2010


A wounded activist on the Marmara after Israeli soldiers stormed the vessel

I joined the Mavi Marmara in Istanbul on Friday 21 May as one of between 30 and 40 journalists reporting on the flotilla’s mission to Gaza. I am a journalist for al-Jazeera.

It was at 11pm local time on the evening of the 30th, as we were headed for Gaza, that we first spotted the Israeli military from afar. I asked the organisers what they expected to happen. They told me they had decided to move as far away from the military zone as possible, and as far away from the Israeli army and as deep into international waters, because they wanted to avoid a confrontation.

At 2.30am I sent an email to my news desk to say we shouldn’t expect anything to happen during the coming hours, and I went to bed. At roughly 4am, a huge bang on the window woke me up. I could see swarms of people in small speedboats belonging to the Israeli army close to our boat. The sound was of water grenades and tear gas canisters landing on board. I quickly put on my life jacket, grabbed my satellite phone and ran upstairs. Most of the others chose to stay down.
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Because many of the crew were at that time at morning prayers, there had been a quick approach from all sides, just before they had finished praying.

When I got to the top deck I could see there were more than 15 speedboats around us, which had on average about 20 soldiers each. About 12ft above me, maybe 15ft at most, I saw the bottom of a helicopter; the sound was immense.

I pulled out my phone to call the desk. But none of the phones were working. None of the satellite phones were working; they were jammed by the Israelis. They had been working two hours before. I can list you more than 10 journalists whose satellite phones weren’t working.

There was a second helicopter hovering over the ship, trying to lower Israeli soldiers down on a rope. On either side there was tear gas being thrown in from the boats, canisters which they were firing from a sort of gun. One man was shot in the top of the head from the helicopter. He collapsed on the ground. I snatched a microphone from one of the Turkish reporters to say one man had been killed. As I did that another man was shot. Those people died instantly.

Until that point I had not yet seen an Israeli soldier on deck. As far as I am concerned, it’s a lie to say they only started shooting on deck. Only then did I see an Israeli soldier on deck.

The men who were dead had been fired on from above.

[Later, about 7am] a soldier shouted to me to put my hands behind my head. Come to me, he said, and get on your knees. As I did he pushed me and shoved me to the ground. I hit the ground hard. He said put your hands behind your back; he cuffed them with those plastic cuffs. Plastic cuffs, one hand above the other, extremely tight, not even a millimetre’s movement between them. He was standing on my feet. He then kicked me down to the ground and then told me to get up. I hit the ground with my head and my shoulder. It was obviously very difficult to get up. He marched me and a woman to the end of the room.

Outside there were more soldiers. All were masked. They took my wallet and passport and threw them on the ground, so another soldier picked them up and put them in my pocket. After that they pushed us against the wall, so I was facing the wall. About a minute or so later they then took me upstairs.

On the deck above, everyone else was there. Some people were handcuffed with their hands in front, some behind. After an hour I needed to go to the bathroom. I asked one of the soldiers; he said OK. He got me up. As we started walking, I was pushed to the ground. I assumed it was just to wait my turn, so when the other got back I said can I go now? He shook his head. I said I really need to go. He said no toilet for you. I said I desperately need to go. So he ushered me with his face and gun, and said go to the toilet where you are. He said: “You piss here.”

[Eventually, three hours later, he was allowed to use the toilet.]

Afterwards, I saw two things on deck that shocked me. There was a Malaysian man sitting in front of me to the right. His hands were tied behind his back, but his hands had gone blue. He pleaded with the soldiers to release him or to loosen his cuffs, but they kept saying no. After the fourth time of pleading with the guy, the soldier went up to him and said “OK” and then tightened it. The man gave out a huge scream, a spine-chilling scream I will never forget. It was only when the superior came later, three hours later, that he was released.

The other thing that shocked me was how the soldiers would walk up and down and kick people lying there. One man, who was Palestinian, was old and had diabetes. He was not very healthy. He requested to go to the toilet on numerous occasions but was refused.

We reached Ashdod at about 8pm. When we went back down below we saw the place had been completely ransacked. Clothes were everywhere, bags emptied, as if it were the aftermath of an earthquake.

So when I came off the ship they searched us again. A man with a black and white Palestinian scarf round his neck was told, “This is illegal in Israel”. I said just take it off. The soldier then turned to me and said: “Welcome to Israel. You like Israel?” I didn’t reply.

They put us on the bus which then took us to Beer Sheva prison. I spent a night in jail and I was released in the afternoon. I was not allowed to speak to my family. There was only one meal and that was frozen slices of bread and potatoes. Two Irishmen refused to leave the jail, and one of them was beaten up horrendously. The captain of the ship had been poisoned so we all did blood tests and urine tests.

As far as I am concerned I was kidnapped by Israel and abandoned by Britain.

Jamal Elshayyal was talking with Matthew Bell


Irish press release about Turkish victims and Netanyahu’s

Free Gaza Movement –

In the dark, early hours of May 31, Israel launched a commando and navy attack on 6 unarmed civilian ships carrying humanitarian aid in the international waters of the Mediterranean sea, opening fire before they landed. These highly trained, professional soldiers killed and wounded tens of civilians, many of whom were on the Mavi Marmara, a boat owned by the Turkish charity, IHH (The Foundation for Human Rights & Freedoms & Humanitarian Relief).

We in the Free Gaza Movement would like to offer our deepest sympathy to the people of Turkey and particularly to the 9 families who have lost loved ones. 28 children have lost their fathers due to the Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara.

Britain’s Guardian newspaper quoted Yalcin Buyuk, the vice-chairman of the Turkish council of forensic medicine, as saying that the nine victims were shot a total of 30 times. Based on preliminary autopsy reports, two men were shot four times each and five others were shot either in the back of the head or in the back. Ibrahim Bilgen, a 60-year-old activist, was shot four times in the temple, chest, hip and back. Nineteen-year-old Furkan Dogan, a US citizen of Turkish descent, was shot five times from less than 45cm away, in the face, the back of the head, twice in the leg and once in the back. Two IHH aid workers, Cevdet Kiliclar and Necdet Yildrim, were amongst the victims.

We in Free Gaza are proud and honored to work and be associated with the IHH and its honorable track record of humanitarian missions worldwide. As a human rights organization, it is hard for us to comprehend this kind of violence, especially when used against civilians embarked upon a humanitarian mission, such as that of the highly respected IHH. Furthermore it is appalling that the inflammatory remarks of Netanyahu, referring to them as “a ship of hate organised by violent Turkish terror extremists” should subsequently be repeated or even referred to by the media as anything but a pathetically transparent attempt to justify the inadmissable.

The facts are simple: The blockade of the port of Gaza is illegal, as deemed by international law and the UN. This point cannot be argued with, the siege must end, the rights and dignity of the Palestinians in Gaza must be honoured, the port must be opened. Alongside of our partners in the Freedom Flotilla, we demand that Israel returns our boats including the Spirit of Humanity, detained by Israel since early 2009. The Free Gaza Movement and our international parteners intend to launch another flotilla at the first available opportunity. After that there will be yet another… and another… until this diabolical blockade collapses and steps towards peace are finally taken.

Yesterday another boat was announced by the ”Jüdische Stimme”. Along with her partners, the EJJP and JJP (UK), they are sending a boat and call to world leaders 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 safe passage for their small vessel to Gaza, thus helping to form a bridge towards peace.

The FGM and our partners would like to acknowledge and thank the many governments in particular that of Ireland and Turkey, for their support for our mission. However most importantly of all, we would like to thank the ‘ordinary’ people from everywhere who contributed to the cargo and raised their voices together to spread the message worldwide: This siege of the Gaza strip and the imprisonment of its people must end.

Israel hasbara fails again: Photos show Mavi Marmara passengers protecting, aiding Israeli soldiers

Ali Abunimah

* Ali Abunimah

Captured, disarmed hijackers did not face “lynching” as Israel claimed

The website of Turkish newspaper Hürriyet published a gallery of photos showing Israeli soldiers captured after their attack on the Mavi Marmara in international waters in the early hours of 31 May.

The predictable response of the Israeli army, as quoted in Haaretz, was that the “published pictures serve as clear and unequivocal proof of Israel’s repeated arguments that aboard [the Mavi Marmara] were mercenaries who intended to kill Israeli soldiers.” Israeli spokespersons and media in recent days have also claimed the soldiers faced “lynching,” a provocative term which originated to describe the deliberate mob murders of African Americans by white supremacists in the United States.
read on

And another…

Another aid ship to set sail for Gaza
Sun, 06 Jun 2010 07:20:26 GMT
Press TV report

Pro-Palestinian activists have launched a campaign to send another aid
ship to the Gaza Strip in continuing efforts meant to break the siege
of Gaza.

The organizers of the initiative, “Free Palestine Movement” and
“Reporters Without Limits,” say the vessel will be carrying
educational supplies for children of the besieged Palestinian strip.

The two non-governmental groups say the ship is slated for departure
from a Lebanese port next week in hope of putting an end to the
Israeli blockade.

In addition to aid, the ship will carry 50 Arab and foreign
journalists and 25 European activists, including some MPs, AFP
reported on Saturday.

The effort comes after Israel seized another Gaza-bound aid ship,
named the Rachel Corrie on Saturday, only five days after Tel Aviv’s
military attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla.

e Press TV news report

Ken O’Keefe

91177info — 6 juin 2010 — After seeing passengers shot at close range they tried to grab the weapons to stop the killing. Kenneth Nichols O’Keefe was later beaten by the Israelis.

A US war veteran said yesterday he confronted Israeli commandos when they raided a Gaza-bound aid ship which he had boarded as a peace activist, Anatolia news agency reported.
Kenneth Nichols O’Keefe, his face bruised and still stained with blood, flew to Istanbul from Tel Aviv, on his way to Ireland, the report said.
“We overpowered three Israeli commandos. They looked at us… They thought we would kill them, but we let them go,” O’Keefe said, adding he took the weapon of one of the soldiers and emptied it, according to Anatolia.
The ex-marine said he saw five people being killed on board the Mavi Marmara.

Thankyou to cdr23d1-

15 000 communist and peace activists marched in Tel Aviv yesterday evening

dimanche 6 juin 2010, par Davidi

15 thousands of communist and peace activists marched in Tel Aviv yesterday evening (Saturday, June 5) to mark 43 years of Palestinian and Arab territories occupation while taking the opportunity to slam recent IDF murder raids on Gaza-bound ships.

Dozens of fascist counter-protesters periodically attempted to disrupt the demonstration, and at one point a smoke grenade was hurled at the protestors outside the Tel Aviv Museum in face of the Defense Ministry. No injuries were reported in the incident. Later, right-wing protesters tried to attack veteran peace activist Uri Avneri, snatching signs he was carrying.

The demonstration, which was held under the slogan “The government is drowning us all,” was originally planned by the Communist Party of Israel (CPI) and Hadash (the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality) solely to protest the occupation, but following last Monday’s Israeli deadly raid on a Turkish vessel trying to run the Gaza blockade, the rally also addressed the criminal government’s policies in regard to the Gaza Strip and the military operation that left nine foreigners dead.

“The government is drowning us all” read a large sign in the rally. Dov Khenin, a legislator for Hadash and leading communist militant, charged that “Barak has refused to move on the path of peace and leads [us to] a dangerous deterioration. The same people who sent the soldiers to take over the flotilla in the middle of the night are liable to send Israel to a new and terrible war”. Hadash chairman Mohamed Barakeh declared, “We will not let the crazy right wing push aside the left and the Arab sector into political isolation.”

A spokesman for the organizers of the rally told journalists it “was an even bigger success than he expected” and that he believes the past week’s events had led to an increase in the number of participants. That it showed that “people are opposed to this government that is driving us toward international isolation and a new war.”

The communist and pacifist protestors, who were walking from Rabin Square to the Tel Aviv Museum, were holding up signs reading “The government is sinking all of us – we must aspire for peace”. Other marchers held up signs reading “Israel, Palestine, two states for two people”. The rally has been organized by a communist and peace coalition that includes Hadash, CPI and Meretz parties, the Young Communist Guard (Banki-Shabiba), Peace Now, Gush Shalom, Yesh Gvul, Physicians for Human Rights, and other organizations. The march was being lead by CPI chairman Muhammad Nafah, Knesset Members Muhammad Barakeh, Dov Khenin, Afo Agbarie and Hanna Sweid (from Hadash) and Knesset Members Haim Oron and Nitzan Horowitz (from Meretz).

PGFTU. Nablus vs Histadrut

The Palestinian General Federation of Trade unions, PGFTU reacted with shock at the irresponsible stand taken by General Federation of Labour in Israel, Histadrut, regarding to the Israeli Forces brutal attacks on civilians, including trade unionists, on freedom flotilla that tried to breach the Israeli military blockade of Gaza coastline in Palestine.

Instead of denouncing killing of the civilians on Flotilla , demanding to end the military blockade imposed for more than three years on Gaza, the Histadrut exploits a union to union cooperation to handle industrial complaints for Palestinian workers as a cover to escape from the ethical responsibility as free , independent trade unions , to condemn the crime which was strongly denounced by all freedom lovers around the world.

We in the PGFTU join the International Trade Unions and United Nations calls for putting end for the military blockade on Gaza NOW, and demanding a full inquiry which must be independent in order to be credible. We condemn any attempt by Histadrut to hide behind Union to Union cooperation in order to justify brutal assaults against civilians who tried to offer humanitarian assistant to 1.5 million Palestinian, mostly working people, in Gaza.

PGFTU, 3.6.2010

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