The two Gaza-bound boats intercepted by Israel on Friday almost sunk because of the violent tactics used, passengers have stated in phone messages from prison.
Both the Tahrir from Canada and the MV Saoirse from Ireland collided with each other during Israel’s three-hour operation, according to Fintan Lane, coordinator of the Irish Ship to Gaza campaign.
“It began with Israeli forces hosing down the boats with high pressure hoses and pointing guns at the passengers through the windows,” Lane, who was onboard the Saoirse, said. “I was hosed down the stairs of the boat. Windows were smashed and the bridge of the boat nearly caught fire.”
Lane is one of 14 Irish people now being held in Givon prison. In a telephone call from there, he has described the Israeli conduct as “dangerous to human life,” adding: “The Israeli forces initially wanted to leave the boats at sea, but the abductees demanded that they not be left to float at sea, for they would have been lost and possibly sunk. All belongings of the passengers and crew were taken from them and they still do not know if and what they will get back.”
Denied our rights
His fellow passenger Paul Murphy, a member of the European Parliament, was allowed to make a three-minute phone call, which was monitored by the prison authorities. His message has been posted on his website. “Our boat was almost sunk by the manner in which it was approached and boarded by the Israeli navy,” he said. “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 timeframe 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.”
David Heap, a 45-year-old Canadian on the Tahrir, is known to have been assaulted. He has managed to smuggle a message out from prison, stating that he was attacked with electro-shock weapons and suffered bruising because of the heavy-handed tactics used against him.
In his message, he stated that he is walking with a limp but is “basically OK” and that the Canadian and Irish prisoners have joined together to demand that they are allowed to intermingle, that they be given “adequate writing and reading” material and phone calls with the outside world. The male prisoners are also demanding information about the female passengers, who are being detained separately from them.
Heap’s letter indicates that the Israeli authorities did not inform him what happened to the Palestinian passenger Majd Kayyal, who was “last seen by us at Ashdod [port in Israel] being photographed and put into a police car.” Kayyal has, in fact, been released.
The testimony from these prisoners exposes Israel’s claims that it intercepted the boats in a peaceful manner as blatant lies. Of course, the Israeli claims were reported verbatim by many media outlets, allowing the state that lies habitually to get its side of the story out first. Everything that the state of Israel says should be accompanied with a health warning along these lines: Israeli propaganda has been proven as dishonest more times than we could possibly remember.