FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Freedom Waves Campaigners Abused and Imprisoned

West Bank.

In the immediate aftermath of the illegal capture of the Freedom Waves flotillas, Israel’s public image has been tarnished, as reports of violence at sea surface to counteract its claims of a peaceful takeover, and as human rights cyber-resistance group Anonymous retaliates by shutting down Israeli government web sites.

As Israeli naval soldiers boarded the Tahrir and Saoirse Friday afternoon, the IDF released a statement saying that the ships were intercepted peacefully, and that no activists were harmed in the takeover. In addition, in an attempt to portray its own reasonable benevolence, the IDF released a video of soldiers contacting the ship and offering to reroute its humanitarian aid by land or through Ashdod, shortly before releasing another video which seemed to show Israeli soldiers peacefully and non-threateningly boarding one of the flotillas.

When Egyptian journalist Lina Attalah, an activist aboard the Tahrir, wrote an account of Israel’s seizure of the boats after her release on Saturday, however, the world began to see a different picture.  “Towards the early afternoon,” she said, “we saw three Israeli warships in the horizon… Soon after, the Israeli presence in the waters around us intensified. We counted at least 15 ships, four of which were warships, and the rest a mix of smaller boats and water cannons. From inside the smaller boats, dozens of Israeli soldiers pointed their machines guns at us. This is when our communications system was jammed and we lost contact with the world…the Israelis sent radio messages to our boat, asking us to stop sailing because they would board the boat and take us to the Israeli port of Ashdod. When our boat refused to surrender, they aimed their canons at us, showering us with salty water. The boat had become highly unstable and panic was in the air… Israeli ships hit our boat and soldiers started boarding. Dozens of masked soldiers screamed “on your knees,” and “hands up.””

The violent nature of Israel’s takeover of the Tahrir and Saoirse became more apparent with a statement released mid-Sunday by Fintan Lane, the National Coordinator of the Irish Ship Saoirse, in a hurried phone call made from an Israeli prison. “The whole takeover [of the Saoirse by Israeli naval authorities] took about three hours”, claims Lane. “It began with Israeli forces hosing down the boats with high pressure hoses and pointing guns at the passengers through the windows. I was hosed down the stairs of the boat. Windows were smashed and the bridge of the boat nearly caught fire. The boats were corralled to such an extent that the two boats, the Saoirse and the Tahrir, collided with each other and were damaged, with most of the damage happening to the MV Saoirse.  The boats nearly sank. The method used in the takeover was dangerous to human life.”

The same day, Saoirse activist Paul Murphy, Socialist Party and United Left Alliance MEP for Dublin, related in a 3-minute phone call, monitored by Israeli prison authorities, that “our boat was almost sunk by the manner in which it was approached and boarded by the Israeli navy. People were shackled and deprived of all personal belongings. In Givon  prison the authorities tried to disorientate us through sleep deprivation and the removal of our watches and the prison clock recording the wrong time. We have been given no time frame as to how long we will be kept here before the deportation trial. We were denied our right by Israeli law to contact our families within 24 hours of our arrest.”

Also on Sunday, Greek captain of the Tahrir Giorgos Klontzas, after his release from jail, told Greek Omnia TV that during interrogation, Israeli forces handcuffed him tightly and stuck fingers in his eyes.

The clearest testament to the abuse suffered by the activists at the hands of the Israeli military has come from British activist David Heap, in a letter smuggled out of his prison cell.  “I write to you from cell 9, block 59 Givon Prison near Ramla in Occupied Palestine”, the letter stated. “Although I was tasered during the assault on the Tahrir, and bruised during forcible removal dockside (I am limping slightly as a result) I am basically ok… [we] were transported in handcuffs and leg shackles…[we have created] a political prisoners’ committee in order to press our collective demands- association in the block, i.e. open cells; adequate writing and reading material; free communication with outside world- i.e. regular phone calls; [and] information about shipmate women held at same prison”. In response to the shortage of information regarding the female activists currently behind bars, the Women’s Organisation for Political Prisoners (WOFPP) offered Sunday night to send a lawyer free of charge to visit the female prisoners.

As reports of Israeli military violence leaked throughout the weekend, an international group of hackers named Anonymous released a video threatening retaliation against “a clear sign of piracy on the high seas.” The ‘Open Letter from Anonymous to the Government of Israel’ was pointed in its critique- “your actions”, it claimed, “are illegal, against democracy, human rights, international and maritime laws”, and an example of “justifying war, murder, illegal interception and pirate-like activities under an illegal cover of defense” which “will not go unnoticed by us or the people of the world”. Anonymous, which has temporarily disabled many web sites in past publicized acts of moral retribution, further threatened that “if you continue blocking humanitarian vessels to Gaza or repeat the dreadful actions of May 31st 2010 against any Gaza Freedom Flotillas, you will leave us no choice but to strike back, again and again, until you stop….we do not forget, we do not forgive. Expect us.”

A day later, Haaretz reported that “the websites of the IDF, Mossad and the Shin Bet security services were down”, likely due to an Anonymous cyber-attack. Hours later, however, the Israeli government released a statement on Facebook claiming that the websites were down “due to a systematic malfunction of the servers”, denying that Anonymous was behind the crash. It is highly unlikely, however, for this shutdown to follow so soon after Anonymous’s threat as a matter of pure coincidence.

As the international community rises in condemnation of Israel’s illegal takeover of a ship in international waters, 21 of the 27 activists captured by Israel remain in prison awaiting deportation, and the whereabouts of one, PressTV journalist Hassan Ghani, remains unknown. The Irish activists have refused representation by a lawyer in the Israeli court system, on the grounds that they do not acknowledge the legitimacy of Israel’s legal system. In addition, they refuse to sign a waiver which would forfeit their claim to legal representation before a judge and allow for their immediate deportation, because the offered waiver claims that they came to Israel voluntarily and entered illegally, statements which are patently untrue in light of the fact that Israeli naval boats seized the activists from the Tahrir and Saoirse, and forcibly transported them to Ashdod. They will therefore, according to Israeli law, be detained for 72 hours and then brought to court, where they will almost certainly be deported- though, because they refused to sign the waiver, the deportation will occur without their consent.

As Israel unsuccessfully attempts to save face in the aftermath of its illegal and violent seizure of innocent civilians on a humanitarian aid mission in international waters, the international community once again bears witness to the fact that, in the words of a Saturday press release by the Canada Boat to Gaza team, “there is no legal justification for stopping or in any way impeding the passage of the totally peaceful Freedom Waves boats from the international solidarity movement with Palestinian people”. What is clear to all, in spite of Israeli repression, is that the recent aid mission is only the first of many Freedom Waves bound for Gaza’s shore. “Whatever the Israeli Occupation Forces do to us,” said David Heap and Ehab Lotayef, steering committee members of the Tahrir, from behind Israeli prison bars, “this flotilla marks the launching of the Freedom Waves. It is the continuation of many efforts over the years to bring the plight of Gaza and Palestine to the world’s attention. We will keep coming again and again, until the closure of Gaza is ended and Palestinians have been able to achieve liberation and justice… Expect us. Again and again. The Freedom Waves are just beginning.”

Ben Lorber is an activist with the International Solidarity Movement in Nablus. He is also a journalist with the Alternative Information Center in Bethlehem. He blogs at freepaly.wordpress.com.

More articles by:
bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
November 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Meet Ukraine: America’s Newest “Strategic Ally”
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Frankenstein Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Ukraine in the Membrane
Jonathan Steele
The OPCW and Douma: Chemical Weapons Watchdog Accused of Evidence-Tampering by Its Own Inspectors
Kathleen Wallace
A Gangster for Capitalism: Next Up, Bolivia
Andrew Levine
Get Trump First, But Then…
Thomas Knapp
Trump’s Democratic Critics Want it Both Ways on Biden, Clinton
Ipek S. Burnett
The United States Needs Citizens Like You, Dreamer
Michael Welton
Fundamentalism as Speechlessness
David Rosen
A Century of Prohibition
Nino Pagliccia
Morales: Bolivia Suffers an Assault on the Power of the People
Dave Lindorff
When an Elected Government Falls in South America, as in Bolivia, Look For a US Role
John Grant
Drones, Guns and Abject Heroes in America
Clark T. Scott
Bolivia and the Loud Silence
Manuel García, Jr.
The Truthiest Reality of Global Warming
Ramzy Baroud
A Lesson for the Palestinian Leadership: Real Reasons behind Israel’s Arrest and Release of Labadi, Mi’ri
Charles McKelvey
The USA “Defends” Its Blockade, and Cuba Responds
Louis Proyect
Noel Ignatiev: Remembering a Comrade and a Friend
John W. Whitehead
Casualties of War: Military Veterans Have Become America’s Walking Wounded
Patrick Bond
As Brazil’s ex-President Lula is Set Free and BRICS Leaders Summit, What Lessons From the Workers Party for Fighting Global Neoliberalism?
Alexandra Early
Labor Opponents of Single Payer Don’t  Speak For Low Wage Union Members
Pete Dolack
Resisting Misleading Narratives About Pacifica Radio
Edward Hunt
It’s Still Not Too Late for Rojava
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
Why Aren’t Americans Rising up Like the People of Chile and Lebanon?
Nicolas Lalaguna
Voting on the Future of Life on Earth
Jill Richardson
The EPA’s War on Science Continues
Lawrence Davidson
The Problem of Localized Ethics
Richard Hardigan
Europe’s Shameful Treatment of Refugees: Fire in Greek Camp Highlights Appalling Conditions
Judith Deutsch
Permanent War: the Drive to Emasculate
David Swanson
Why War Deaths Increase After Wars
Raouf Halaby
94 Well-Lived Years and the $27 Traffic Fine
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Coups-for-Green-Energy Added to Wars-For-Oil
Andrea Flynn
What Breast Cancer Taught Me About Health Care
Negin Owliaei
Time for a Billionaire Ban
Binoy Kampmark
Business as Usual: Evo Morales and the Coup Condition
Bernard Marszalek
Toward a Counterculture of Rebellion
Brian Horejsi
The Benefits of Environmental Citizenship
Brian Cloughley
All That Gunsmoke
Graham Peebles
Why is there so Much Wrong in Our Society?
Jonah Raskin
Black, Blue, Jazzy and Beat Down to His Bones: Being Bob Kaufman
John Kendall Hawkins
Treason as a Lifestyle: I’ll Drink to That
Manuel García, Jr.
Heartrending Antiwar Songs
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
Poetry and Political Struggle: The Dialectics of Rhyme
Ben Terrall
The Rise of Silicon Valley
David Yearsley
Performance Anxiety
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail