The take over of the Tahrir and the Saoirse was violent and dangerous. Despite very clear protests from the occupants of the two boats that they did not want to be taken to Israel, they were forcibly removed from the boats in a violent manner. The whole take over took about 3 hours. Many of those on the Canadian boat were beaten.
It began with Israeli forces hosing down the boats with high pressure hoses and pointing guns at the passengers through the windows. Fintan Lane, on the Saoirse, was hosed down the stairs of the boat. Windows where smashed and the bridge of that boat nearly caught fire. The boats were corralled to such an extent that the two boats, the Saoirse and the Tahrir collided with each and were damaged, with most of the damage happening to the MV Saoirse. The boats nearly sunk, the method used in the take over was very dangerous.
The Israeli forces initially wanted to leave the boats at sea but the abductees demanded that they not be left to float unmanned at sea, for they would have been lost and possibly sunk. David Heap, a Canadian delegate, was tasered and beaten. All belongings of the passengers were taken off them and crew and they still do not know if and what they will get back. 6 prisoners were released-both of the Greek Captains, 2 of the journalists and 2 delegates. The passengers remain in Givon detention center and many, including Kit Kittredge of the U.S., have not been able to make phone calls.
Those remaining are being asked to sign deportation papers which state that they came into Israel illegally and that they will not attempt another effort to break the Gaza blockade. If they sign they will not be allowed into Palestine, through Israel, for 10 years. Obviously their goal was to go to Gaza not Israel, and a signature could validate Israel’s right to blockade Gaza, so they refuse to sign. This will mean longer detention. Their continued detention is designed to force them to agree to abandon their legal rights and has nothing to do with the security of Israeli civilians – just like the blockade of Gaza’s civilians is clearly punitive and has nothing to do with the security of Israeli civilians
Our State Department has not been an advocate for its citizens. They would rather join Israel in stating that we are terrorists. Obama on Thursday said the passengers on these boats are defying Israeli and American law. He must have been confused. It’s the other way around. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the U.S. was renewing its call to Americans “not to involve themselves in this activity,” and warned of possible consequences.
WE NEED ALL OF YOU TO GET ON THE PHONE TODAY AND CALL:
U.S. Emergency Consular Services 202-647-4000
and the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv 011-972-3-519-7575
Tell them you want them to insist Israel free the prisoners immediately and end its siege of Gaza.
Just a few phone calls can make a difference.
Thanks for all you do.
Jane Hirschmann and Felice Gelman
Please distribute this press release:
November 6, 2011
Contact: Felice Gelman 917-912-2597
Passengers on boats to Gaza beaten, denied visits by lawyers and access to families; misled by U.S. consular authorities
Although Freedom Waves to Gaza organizers have not yet had direct communication with the people taken into custody by Israeli armed forces as they tried to peacefully sail to Gaza last week, information is emerging that Israeli armed forces tactics in confronting the non-violent activists have been violent and dangerous. This despite claims from the IDF spokesperson that “every precaution will be taken for the safety of the activists.”
Prisoners include U.S. citizen Kit Kittredge, a delegate on the Tahrir from Quilcene, WA, and Jihan Hafiz, a U.S. citizen and journalist from Democracy Now, the national news program. Both have been advised by the U.S. consul in Israel to sign an Israeli deportation agreement. Both have refused because the statement says they came into Israel illegally and will not attempt another effort to break the Gaza blockade. Both statements are untrue.
A letter from Canadian David Heap, smuggled from the Givon prison, states that he was tasered and beaten when the Israeli Navy attacked the Tahrir. Irish prisoner, Fintan Lane, in a telephone call from Givon prison, reported that the takeover of the Saoirse was also violent. The Tahrir and the Saoirse were forced by Israeli warships to crash into each other, crippling both ships.
Palestinian Israeli Mad Kayal, a delegate aboard the Tahrir, who was arrested and released confirms these reports. “As a Palestinian, I was not surprised at how the IDF treated us,” said Kayal, after his release, noting this kind of abuse is a daily reality for the 1.5 million people of Gaza, who are indefinitely detained in an open-air prison. “However, for the Canadians and other Westerners onboard, it was a complete shock.”
“Israeli brutality and the unnecessary use of force against non-violent protests are well documented. What has happened to the passengers on the Tahrir and the Saoirse is just a tiny fraction of the daily abuse directed at Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank as part of Israel’s occupation policy,” said U.S. coordinator Jane Hirschmann. “Nonetheless, all people – Palestinians under occupation and peace activists kidnapped and imprisoned – have human rights under international law that civilized governments must respect. The purpose of the boats’ voyage to Gaza was to demonstrate that Israel continually violates those laws, and that the U.S. government cares more about Israel than about its own citizens.”