By Jason O’Brien
Tuesday June 08 2010
THE captain of the Rachel Corrie aid ship told yesterday how — despite reassuring his crew — he feared for his life as heavily armed Israeli forces boarded the vessel.
The other Irish aid workers on the ship — who were deported from Israel yesterday — said Derek Graham‘s calm authority and regular contact with the Israeli navy prior to the seizure on Saturday ensured that they did not fear being killed.
But Mr Graham, who was on board along with his wife Jenny, admitted yesterday he thought his own life was at risk as he was ordered to remain alone on the bridge after he had gathered all the crew and aid workers together in another area.
“So I’m standing there on the bridge by myself, with no protection,” said Mr Graham, who has entered Gaza on five of his seven attempts.
“At that stage, you start to get worried about what the navy might be thinking — ‘Take him out and everyone else will be subdued’?”
Each of the 35 or so Israelis who boarded the ship was carrying three weapons. “I was the head person aboard that ship,” Mr Graham said. “So if they’re taking down anybody, they’re taking down the head person.
“That is what appears to have happened on the Marmara last week — the captain was executed.”
On Saturday, however, Mr Graham was left kneeling with his hands tied behind his back for half an hour, before being taken to a detention centre with the rest of the staff and crew.
All five said they intended to try to get into Gaza again in the future.
“I expected to be scared but when you’re faced with it, the anger, the frustration, the outrage makes you courageous and the arrogance of these characters threatening Irish citizens on the high seas,”
Mr Halliday said. “This is a hijack and we were kidnapped. It’s bizarre.”
The five arrived back in Dublin via Frankfurt at 11.20am yesterday, after waiving their right to appeal the order of deportation. They had been held in a deportation centre in the port of Ashdod for two days.
Mr Graham confirmed that the ship remains under Israeli control in Ashdod.
“I will be organising getting my ship back because it was taken in international waters, not in Israeli waters,” he said.
Ms Maguire accused the Israeli government of committing “slow genocide” against the Palestinian people.
“Gaza has been cut off from the world for over three years. The people of Gaza don’t have enough basic things for their needs,” she said.
“It’s Israeli policies that are causing this – there is a slow genocide of the Palestinian people.”
“Regarding yesterday’s ship and five of the six ships in the previous flotilla, this process ended without casualties,” Mr Netanyahu said.
“Only on one ship, on which dozens of thugs from an extremist, terrorism-supporting organisation had prepared in advance, armed with axes, knives and other ‘cold’ weapons, were our soldiers compelled to defend themselves against a tangible danger to their lives.”
- Jason O’Brien