June 1, 2010
Northern Irish Nobel peace laureate Máiread Corrigan-Maguire and Denis Halliday, a former senior United Nations diplomat, and several other Irish citizens have boarded the MV Rachel Corrie and have set off for Gaza to deliver aid.
|MV Rachel Corrie.|
“Israel’s Navy is ready to stop another aid ship headed to Gaza, a commander said on Tuesday, playing down the prospect of his men shying from confrontation after their bloody seizure of a Turkish vessel a day earlier,” reports Conservative American News. “Israel’s Army Radio reported that the MV Rachel Corrie, a converted merchant ship, would reach Gazan waters by Wednesday. A Marine lieutenant who was not named told Army Radio that he expected an easy takeover of the ship.”
Rachel Corrie was an American member of the International Solidarity Movement killed by an Israeli bulldozer in 2003. Corrie was attempting to prevent IDF forces from demolishing a Palestinian home when she was crushed to death.
Máiread Corrigan-Maguire is a Northern Irish peace activist who co-founded the Community of Peace People, an organization which attempts to encourage a peaceful resolution of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Corrigan-Maguire received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976.
Denis Halliday was the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq from September 1, 1997, until 1998. Halliday was presented in 2003 with the Gandhi International Peace Award in recognition of his efforts to draw attention to the plight of Iraqis. He spoke out against the “disproportionate and murderous consequences” of the United Nations embargo against Iraq that resulted in the death of more than 500,000 Iraqi children.
If Corrigan-Maguire and Halliday receive the same treatment as Greek activist Michalis Grigoropoulos and others at the hands of the Israelis, it will undoubtedly result in more negative media coverage of Israel. Israel has received intense criticism for its raid on the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara that resulted in the death of 19 activists, most of them Turkish.
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
Grigoropoulos was aboard the Eleftheri Mesogeio, a ship that accompanied the Mavi Marmara on Monday. “Israeli troops jumped onto the boat around 0530 on Monday,” Middle East Online reports today. “They fired rubber coated bullets, tear gas and then used electroshock weapons on some activists,” he told Skai television shortly after Israel deported him and five compatriots to Athens.
“An hour beforehand, at 0430 local time, we heard gunfire on the Turkish boat Mavi Marmara, the Israelis jumped from helicopters onto the boat,” he said.
Pro-Palestinian activists returning to Europe confirmed Grigoropoulos’ account. “Israeli commandos used stun guns on passengers and beat them during the deadly raid,” the Winnipeg Sun reports. Greek activist Dimitris Gielalis told the newspaper the boat’s captain was beaten for refusing to leave the wheel and a cameraman filming the raid was hit with a rifle butt in the eye by Israeli soldiers.
Steve Watson, writing for Prison Planet, reports today that Israel had planned to kill a large number of activists. Hanin Zoabi, who currently serves as a member of the Knesset representing the Balad party, told a press gathering that it “was clear from the size of the force that boarded the ship that the purpose was not only to stop this sail, but to cause the largest possible number of fatalities in order to stop such initiatives in the future.”
Ms. Zoabi has diplomatic immunity from prosecution and was one of the first passengers freed. She said she watched what was happening from below deck and saw no provocation from those on board, according to ABC in Australia.
Reports seem to confirm an effort by passengers to fight off the commandos as they descended on the ship. A group of German witnesses who experienced the assault first hand before being detained and deported denied anyone on board was armed with more than a few wooden sticks, reports the AFP.
|Israel claims the activists had a cache of weapons.|
“Personally I saw two and a half wooden batons that were used … There was really nothing else. We never saw any knives,” said Norman Paech, a 72-year-old former member of the German parliament. “The Israeli Government justifies the raid because they were attacked. This is absolutely not the case.”
Israel has released photographs purporting to show an array of knives and large wooden batons they claim were used on the soldiers.
Israel is holding nearly 700 passengers from the ship. Grigoropoulos said the commandeered ship was taken to the Israeli port of Ashdod where he was kept incommunicado, denied access to a lawyer and made to sign papers he did not understand. Grigoropoulos described “the wretched detention conditions at Ashdod (where) 500 people were packed in together” and said that at least “two Greek activists were beaten up” by Israeli police.
“They made me sign papers on my expulsion, without me knowing what was on the papers because I did not have the right to a translator, a lawyer or to communicate with my family,” he said.
Activists “were kept in a detention facility in the port of the town of Ashdod in southern Israel. The port area was declared a closed military zone,” reports the Ethiopian Review, “therefore, lawyers were not allowed to access the activists yesterday. According to the most recent information, the majority of the activists are being held in ‘Ella’ prison facility in the town of Beer Sheva.”
“A day after the Israeli raid on the aid flotilla bound for Gaza, nearly 500 passengers remain locked up in an Israeli jail, at least 9 bodies are lying in a morgue, and dozens of wounded activists are getting treated in hospitals,” the Palestine Video blog reports, citing Aljazeera.
It appears Israel had planned to hold detainees for a period of time. On Tuesday, however, the state buckled to international pressure to immediately release and deport the activists.
“The Jewish state caved in as world leaders demanded an investigation into Monday’s commando assault in international waters and the swift release of the detainees,” reports AFP. “All foreign nationals who were on board the fleet and were arrested will be deported from Tuesday night,” the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement.
If the Israeli military arrests and detains Corrigan-Maguire and Halliday it may end up experiencing more international pressure and condemnation.
A popular Swedish author, Henning Mankell, was detained by Israel after the raid and subsequently released. “Rumors swirled yesterday that Mankell had been shot during an Israeli raid that lead to the death of nine protestors. However, the Expressen, a Swedish newspaper, reported today that the writer was on a plane back to Stockholm,” the National Post reports today.
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