Friday, 4 June 2010
My partner and I sat up that night watching the live streaming from MV Mavi Marmara. We could see the faces of the activist live, as they grew more and more fearful of what was to come.
After spending quite some time watching all these people and closely monitoring the ships' whereabouts via GPS, as well as getting updates via Twitter from people in direct contact with the people on board, we had this unsettling feeling. We are used to seeing horrible videos of people getting shot by police so horrific war crimes are not new to us. My partner and I have friends from parts of the world where oppression and violence is part of daily life. Even though I grew up in Norway and have never seen violence outside the numerous demonstrations we have attended, I certainly know more than most of what is going on in the world around me. Like I have said before my freedom gives me not only the possibility to speak up for those who can't, it actually means I am obligated to do so. And I do, every single day, any way I can.
We watched as this tiny young female journalist had trouble with the technical equipment, while trying to broadcast what was happening. The lights went on and off, and for every time the lights came back on, we saw their faces turning more and more terrified. Up until this point the people had been smiling, giving each other comforting pats on the shoulders, and hugs. I felt rather in awe over their calm and compassion for each other. We never saw anger or weapons. We only saw smiling eyes being filled with fear. Some 700 people from 37 different nations.
And then the live stream got cut off... Seconds before we could se the people on board looking up, turning round, listening and people that saying helicopters were right above the ship.
Then nothing. We tried to get updates from our contacts via Twitter, but there was no news, nobody knew what was happening.
We were so tired, it was just after 02:00 in the morning, CET. We sat discussing if we should wait for another hour, but decided that we should go to bed. There was no news to be found anywhere. We did talk about what the outcome would be, Israeli soldiers boarding the boat most definitely, probably some violence during the takeover and arrest for sure. My partner was more calm because he had been following the boat on the map and the ship was miles away from Israeli waters. The people on the boats were safe, they had pulled back further into international waters so that people could sleep on shifts before morning. I felt assured by this, but still had this unsettling feeling as I was about to fall asleep.
When I woke up the next morning, the first thing I did was to check the internet. It took me a few minutes before it really hit me. My partner could tell something was up as he asked me from the bedroom what was happening. People had been killed by Israeli soldiers just minutes after that live stream got cut off. As I was falling asleep, people were brutally killed.
It made me physically ill, more so than ever before and I literally felt like throwing up. I felt really sick. My mind and body was prepared for waking up to headlines about arrests, maybe some violence, but never even anything close to a massacre of unarmed peace activists in international waters.
The rest of that day was spent online, gathering information form our contacts and trying to find out what had happened.
That was not a very easy task as Israeli press was the only one able to tell it's story. But slowly news got out. 9 people had been killed - shot dead. 5 shot in the head, one at very close range (2-14 cm), Most of them shot in the back: "The results revealed that a 60-year-old man, Ibrahim Bilgen, was shot four times in the temple, chest, hip and back. A 19-year-old, named as Fulkan Dogan, who also has US citizenship, was shot five times from less that 45cm, in the face, in the back of the head, twice in the leg and once in the back. Two other men were shot four times, and five of the victims were shot either in the back of the head or in the back, said Yalcin Buyuk, vice-chairman of the council of forensic medicine." The Guardian.
Evidently they were running away seconds before they died...
People from 37 nations were onboard the 6 ships and over 600 people had been brutally arrested. None of these were allowed any contact with their families, lawyers or their embasies. It took 2 days before people were released from Israeli custody and all cell phones, all cameras and all lap tops had been confiscated or thrown overboard by Israeli soldiers. 60 journalists was robbed of their equipment.
The question still remains: Why? If the Israeli soldiers had nothing to hide it seems illogical.
The international community was enraged. Condemning these grave crimes against unarmed activists in international waters. And at the same time the Israeli propaganda machinery was fully operational. Edited videos of activists defending themselves against rapelling Israeli soldiers were posted and shown all over the internet and on every TV station. Soon the pictures came too, the proof of weapons on board: Sticks, metal pipes, kitchen knifes and so on. The Israeli message was clear: the activists attacked first, they were in fact trained terrorists that chose to use sticks and metal pipes to attack trained elite Israeli soldiers, instead of live fire, in order to come across as "more humane". The Israeli solders were so surprised by the brutal force of the attack, they claim they had no idea they would be met by such anger and violence, so they panicked and acted in self defence. Shooting and killing 9 wooden stick bearing activists and wounding some 60 others. First firing rubber bullets, then a couple of minutes after that - live fire. Combined with gas and concussion grenades.
Mavi Marmara was in international waters. Once the Israeli army closed in the first time, Mavi Marmari went even further into international waters, so that people could sleep in shifts.
The ship had been followed by Israeli army for hours, and the people on board were tired, and needed rest.
At 04:00 in the morning, local time, many of the muslim men were gathered for prayer, as is customary. The Israeli army knew that the muslim men would be in prayer at this specific time. And that is why they chose to attack at this specific time. The Israeli army had no intention of boarding the ship in a calm and peaceful manner. They chose to board the ship during night, while men were in prayer and others were sleeping, rapelling down from muffled helicopters, and attacking from all sides in zodiacs. The solders were in full battle gear. This was not meant to be peaceful in any way shape or form.
The Israeli government demanded the ships inspected, unloaded, and the goods delivered via Israeli channels.
The ships' cargo was thoroughly inspected in turkey by neutral institutions, because the activists knew Israeli government would accuse them of carrying weapons and demand an inspection.
Now, some people say that if the ships had no weapons, they had nothing to hide and should willingly oblige the Israeli governments demands for inspections.
The answer to that is no, there is no reason why Israeli government should inspect the already inspected cargo, nor should the cargo be delivered via Israeli channels as Israel would deny cement into Gaza, as they claim it will be used to build tunnels, controlled by the terrorists in Hamas, not homes. Cement is banned in Gaza by Israel.
In the aftermath, Israel did send some of the confiscated aid to Gaza, but like the activists foresaw, Israel withheld 8.000 tons of building material. Hamas refused to allow the humanitarian aid into Gaza until Israeli authorities released all flotilla detainees and allowed building materials.
I want to address the Israeli soldiers' claims that they were scared for their lives and acted in self defence.
Israeli soldiers are known as one of the worlds best. This are not amateurs without training or experience. These are elite navy soldiers, most have seen combat and have years of training and experience on how to deal with violence, stress and chaotic situations. That is their job. Claiming a small group of young men with sticks and metal pipes, justifies killing 9 and wounding 60 more, is nothing short of a disgrace.
It's a lie, it's propaganda and we all know it. These are soldiers trained to react according to their training. They don't panic over wooden stick or metal pipes. They are trained to deal with lethal weapons and dangerous situations. This situation should have been easy to handle.
If that was what they wanted.
Why the Israel army wants to portray themselves as weak, inexperienced pussies is beyond me. But that is the story they are going for: elite soldiers, in full combat gear, with helmets, bulletproof vests, gas and concussion grenades, were scared.
There were no weapons on board besides kitchen knifes, angle grinders, wooden sticks, metal bars, and other supplies you would find on any large vessel.
The Swedish author Henning Mankell told the media his shaving razor was located in his room and confiscated as a weapon.
His shaving razor.
The Israeli government has released a video of activist throwing concussion grenades at them. Norwegian activists told at the press conference that the soldiers threw these grenades onto the ship, and the activists threw them back over board. Bear in mind that these Norwegians just got off the plane and had not seen any pictures, and videos or read any papers. They were in fact very surprised over how much media attention this had gained. Pleasantly surprised, as they now felt secure the massacre would not be left untold.
The israeli government put a close lid on all information. Meaning the names and nationalities of the dead and wounded was not revealed for days.
Leaving families all over the world terrified and feeling helpless. The embassies were refused information as well, causing anger in all the states involved in the peaceful action. 3 Norwegians were on board Mavi Marmara and the day before yesterday they were finally released and could tell us about their horrific ordeal.
At the press conference they were exhausted, as they had been subjected to sleep deprivation, little or no food and water. They had been subjected to brutal treatment, and told the media that the Israeli soldiers had a racist agenda. The people with Palestinian background were badly beaten. They told about Israeli soldiers with laser sights pointing at the head of those who tried to speak. They gave accounts about writing SOS messages in Hebrew on paper notes to the soldiers at the ship, during the boarding, requesting aid for the wounded and dieing. Aid was however refused They spoke about stairs covered in blood, about people being shot in the head right before their eyes and about walking over dead bodies. They told us about long interrogations, about being disoriented not knowing date and time. In short, torture. Norwegian Nidal Hejazi told us about an Irish American who got hit in the back of the head with a night stick, his face immediately covered in blood as he fell to the floor. This was not during the boarding mind you, this was as the activists were getting ready to be deported. He did not join the other activsts on the plane out.
Another got his arm and leg broken and when he screamed, the Israeli soldier actually put his foot into his mouth. At this point Hejazi was in tears and couldn't go on talking about his experience. I can't blame him.
I want to write a little about the psychology behind fear.
I mentioned this in an earlier debate as well. In my line of work there is a lot of violence. I have been to numerous courses instructing me on methods of preventing and handling violence. We have been drilled in these techniques, and I know by heart what to do. I have to, because if I fail I put myself, the other users, and my colleagues at risk. The moment a situation arises, I react instinctively. I know what to do and I do it fast. Usually a situation is over in 5-10 minutes. I am trained on not reacting with the instinctive fear once someone strikes out at me, I am trained to go into the situation and do what has to be done.
And I am no soldier.
Another thing I want to point out is what we call the threat of potential violence. This means that the threath begins before entering my work place, knowing that during my shift I will most likely be hit, yelled at, kicked and sometimes subjected to grave violence. We are trained to deal with this feeling, venting it, and being aware of it. This is very difficult, but I can tell you that the people who don't have my kind of training, feel more fear, react much more violently, the situation lasts much longer, and their reactions are much stronger.So these elite soldiers with years of training could deal with this in an efficient and humane way - if that was their will and intent.
The activists reacted with the same kind of fear and stress as the people I work with who have no training. The activists were quite obviously not trained in handling fear, and they defended themself. That is the psychology of what happened.
Now onto the legal aspects:
Israel has not signed United nations convention on the law of the sea (UNCLOS).
While they have not signed not ratified the convention counts as international law as it has achieved 60 ratifications and thereby becomes law for all UN members. This means that Israel was in fact violating international law. (Specifically paragraphs 92, 94 and 96) Ergo making the argument that the Israeli soldiers were attacked false.
The activists were in international water, with no weapons on board. They were attacked by Israeli soldiers. The ones who used wooden sticks and metal bars, acted in _self defence_.
They were not in violation of any international law.
Another argument is that their intent was to break a blockade. While this argument is valid, the blockade is legally questionable and has come under heavy criticism for failing to meet international standards for legal blockade.
In 1909 an attempt was made to regulate the legality of blockades in the London declaration concerning the laws of naval war. How ever the law failed as it did not receive enough signatures to be made international law. Still it has been used and cited as the standard for blockades.
the law states clearly that a blockade needs to provide sufficient medical aid and food for the blockaded area. It also states that in order to intercept anyone breaching the blockade, they must be _actively_ doing so. Proven, or simply stated _intent_ is not enough. However since this law never became international law, blockades are regulated under chapter 7 of the United Nations charter, article 42. Witch states that the legality of a blockade must be founded on the security council. The Israeli blockade fails to met these standards, both according to the 1909 declaration and article 42. In fact the security council has called for the immediate cease of the blockade.
Who were the organisers of the Free Gaza flotilla?
(Free Gaza Movement has been arranging similar actions since 2008.)
Free Gaza Movement in collaboration with several other NGO's such as Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) , the Perdana Global Peace Organization from Malaysia, the European Campaign to End the Siege of Gaza, and a Swedish and Greek Boat. 6 boats in total.
All with one common goal: To aid the 1.5 million suffering people in Gaza.
The cargo consists of paper for school books, wheel chairs, cement, medication, toys, food, water purifiers and so on.
Not weapons, nor terrorists.
Some claim, particularily the Israeli government, that IHH has links to Al qaeda and islamism. While these links have been present, they are not as strong or developed as one might suspect. After reading a a Danish report on IHH it is evident that the IHH has made some bad judgements in the past, and that for a period during the nineties the organization was in fact infiltrated by terrorist groups. However the organization itself is _not_an islamist group nor engaged in terror activities. Most of the evidence against them is clearly circumstantial and speculative. For instance the fact that IHH has participated in demonstrations against the American invasion of Iraq is counted as islamist behaviour. Many of my friends, including myself, demonstrated against the invasion of Iraq - and we are certainly not islamist.
I strongly want to point out that this action was not a terrorist action. And when people link IHH to a vague and outdated past, they fail to realize that this has nothing to do with Hamas, the Jewish people or politics. This was humanitarian - period.
I also want to state that being opposed to the Israeli government and it's politics, is not the same as being opposed to the Jewish people.
Supporting the suffering Palestinians is not the same as supporting Hamas' politics and bombings. I do however recognise Hamas as the legally elected civilian authority.
I want to state that Mister Obama, Mister Nobel Peace Prize, should be ashamed. I hope his nights are filled with nightmares. So much for "change" and "hope", so much for reaching out an open hand to the muslim world.
Take a long hard look at my open hand, Mister Obama, as I flip you the bird.
You let everyone down, and the great people before you, are turning in their graves.
This was not about religion, politics or ethnicity.
This is about right and wrong.
And the Israeli government has to stop their suppression of the Palestinian people, and lift the blockade.The time has come, and the world is watching. The eyes of the world are on MV Rachel Corrie that got boarded by IDF today.
Named after the young American woman killed by a bulldozer in 2003, attempting to prevent IDF forces from demolishing the home of Palestinian Samir Nasrallah.
I was just told that a jewish ship will sail for Gaza mid July.
What now, Israel?
Free Palestine.Lift the blockade.