Flotilla Passengers Huwaida Arraf of Free Gaza Movement and Retired Army Col. Ann Wright Respond to Israeli Claims on Deadly Assault
There is a protest in Gainesville against this attack on Monday June 7th 4--6pm at 34th Street NW and Williston Road. Details here
Huwaida Arraf, chairperson of the Free Gaza Movement, and retired US Col. Ann Wright were on the flotilla when it was attacked. They join us to describe the assault and their subsequent detention in Israeli prison. We also speak to Sawsan Zaher, a staff attorney at Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, who interviewed many of the activists in detention.
From the transcript:
"HUWAIDA ARRAF: Sure, I’ll tell you what I can. Thank you for having me, Amy.
I was on the Challenger ship, which is the American flag vessel, and we were one of six ships that were on the flotilla. At approximately midnight, the Israeli navy started radioing us, asking for information, which we supplied to them, as to who we are, what flag we were flying under, where we came from, where we were going. Then they started issuing threats against us, demanding that we turn around and saying that they would be willing to use all necessary force in order to enforce the blockade on Gaza. To this, we replied that the blockade is illegal, and we are unarmed civilians, we are carrying only humanitarian aid, and therefore they would not be justified in using force against us. And we urged them over and over again not to use force against us as we continue on our way to Gaza.
A few hours later, while it was still dark, approximately 4:00, 4:30 in the morning, we saw their naval vessels quickly approaching just around our vessels. On our ship, we had approximately seventeen people, five of them which were American citizens. We all went outside, because we had planned to try to prevent them from boarding our ship as best as we can just using our bodies. Going outside allowed me to see the beginnings of the attack on the Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara. We were traveling very close alongside it on its left side. And I saw Zodiacs filled with armed commandos coming up upon the ship, then heard explosions, which I take to be tear—sorry, concussion grenades or sound bombs. And then there were—opening fire. And because we didn’t have any guns or weapons on our ships, fire came from the Israeli commandos. There was also a helicopter overhead. As far as the people on the ship, I could see them at first try to use just water hoses to keep the Israeli soldiers back, but that’s all I was able to see before our ship decided to take as fast as we could.
Although we had initially agreed that we would all stay together and help each other, the captain of the Marmara told us to go on ahead and try to radio out, try to tell the world what was happening, that we were under attack. So we put our boat in full speed and tried to prevent or at least delay them boarding our ship. Unfortunately, we could not get any word out, because our satellite communications systems were jammed. So after about fifteen—ten or fifteen minutes or so, they were able to surround our boat and proceeded to board it.
We tried to put our bodies in the way. We repeated that we’re on an American flag vessel, we are unarmed civilians, don’t board. They had masks and guns, and they proceeded to violently board. They threw concussion grenades onto the boat. They used tasers on people and then, in general, just beat people down that tried to put themselves in the way. We had—we tried to prevent them from getting inside the boat. They broke the glass doors to get access to the wheelhouse. Anyone that stood in the way, they just beat them down. A young Belgian volunteer ended up with a bloody face. Just to give you an example of how they treated us, you know, they grabbed me by the hair and rammed my head into the deck and then were stepping on my head in order to cuff my hands behind my back and then put a sack over my head. And this is the kind of violent treatment that we were subjected to, as Israel says that, yeah, they were as nonviolent as possible and they were the ones under attack.
They immediately went for any kind of media recording equipment, telephones, cameras, that we had and confiscated those, and then proceeded to do their own recording, which I’m presuming is the only recording that’s coming out from their takeover of the ship.
AMY GOODMAN: Colonel Wright, I wanted to get your response to Vice President Biden. He was on the Charlie Rose show last night, and he was questioning what the big deal was getting this humanitarian aid directly to Gaza. This is the Vice President.
VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: You can argue whether Israel should have dropped people onto that ship or not, but the truth of the matter is, Israel has a right to know—they’re at war with Hamas—has a right to know whether or not arms are being smuggled in. And up to now, Charlie, what’s happened? They’ve said, “Here you go. You’re in the Mediterranean. This ship, if you divert slightly north, you can unload it, and we’ll get the stuff into Gaza.” So what’s the big deal here? What’s the big deal of insisting it go straight to Gaza? Well, it’s legitimate for Israel to say, “I don’t know what’s on that ship. These guys are dropping eight—3,000 rockets on my people.”
AMY GOODMAN: That was Vice President Biden last night. Colonel Ann Wright, your response?
ANN WRIGHT: Well, I think our vice president needs to take another look at this thing. The ships were open to inspection beforehand, and I’m quite sure Mossad had their little agents that were all over that place. These groups are humanitarian groups that are bringing in goods that are needed for the people of Gaza. They’ve had plenty of inspections on them.
If you talk about violence, it’s not 3,000 rockets Hamas is putting on Gaza; it’s a twenty-two-day attack that the Israelis did that killed 1,400 people, wounded 5,000, left 50,000 homeless. And here we are a year and four months later, and the Israelis will not let any sort of reconstruction materials in. And then, when reconstruction materials start coming that way, instead of waiting until—if they have a zone that they are trying to protect, let ships come into it and stop them.
But I would say that there are ways that you can stop them without killing people. There are ways you can stop even passenger ship like that ferry boat, and certainly like our little thirty-foot craft. You don’t have to use commandos with—I mean, you can use commandos with excessive force, which they do, but there are other ways to do it, if you want to kind of preserve a sense of civility, humanity, and meeting the international law, quite honestly.
And going outside a boundary, going into international waters, I mean, what they are are pirates. They are pirates. They kidnap people, and they’re stealing stuff. They’ve probably stolen over a million dollars’ worth of cameras, computers, cell phones. I mean, I’m in Istanbul. We just got here early this morning. Some luggage is here. There’s not a thing in it. Everything has been taken. The Israeli military said, "Oh, yes, we have to count this. You know, we have to take it." Well, what they’ve done, they’ve stolen it. And if we have any friends that are in Israel, I hope that they go down to the black market and see where our stuff is, because somebody is making a killing on this thing. "