When Israel’s navy captures the Gaza solidarity fleet, our reporter on the spot. On the “Eleftheri Mesogeios” he witnessed how the elite unit climbs on board and approaching with drawn weapons on civilians. An eye-witness account of Mario Damolin.
06th Juni 2010 June 2010
For four days, my colleague Marcello Faraggi and I on board the “Eleftheri Mesogeios” (Free Mediterranean). W. We have decided, at the stop in Rhodes from pure passenger vessel “Sfendoni” to move here because the freigh that has on board, what is it really – supplies for Gaza: 1400 tons of parts for a hundred prefabricated houses from wood, tile, two Container water treatment plants, hundreds of electric wheelchairs, drugs. We both have small HD cameras here.
Yesterday, early evening, is a writer Henning Mankell come together with the Swedish doctor Viktoria sand and the parliamentarian Mehmet Kaplan of the Swedish Open on board. “. The “Eleftheri Mesogeios” is the result of a Swedish-Greek alliance, called “ship-to-Gaza”. In both countries, money for the purchase of the freighter and its cargo has been collected, the Greek crew was taken over. Mankell intended to be a celebrity as a parliamentarian and chaplain to give the ship some protection. “Chef de Mission” is the 63-year-old professor of water engineering at the Technical University of Athens, Vangelis Pissias. Total now 29 people are on board.
About noon General Assembly on deck.. Vangelis Pissias will discuss the strategy for the next day when you expect an attack by the Israeli navy. Pissias is gray-haired, gray beard, thin, as if from a film by Costa-Gavras, with a gentle melancholy in some weather-beaten face. He is revered by his mostly younger riders almost Greek: a socialist, old school, in times of Greek fascism in the background, since that time a friend of President Karolos Papoulias, the company also supports this.
Henning Mankell is a little uneasy
There are fast line: You want to make any physical resistance. It is thought that the freighter be consistent with the relief supplies in the center of Israel’s interest. Dror Feiler, 58 years old, musician, composer and artist, says that the Israelis would hardly dare to attack a passenger ship like the “Mavi Marmara” Muslims with 500 on board. Feiler is something of a spokesman for the Swedish group on board, always ready for a fun, quick-witted. He comes from a Jewish family, was born in Tel Aviv and had three years to do with the Israeli paratroopers until he refused to be one of the first soldiers in the occupied territories. He then emigrated to Sweden. „ “I know the army, which will most likely do not enter such a venture. Finally, the Turks still something of an ally, “said Feiler. Yesterday he was standing in the middle of the cargo deck on his saxophone with Überblastönen and Hanns Eisler’s songs frenetically the merger of the celebrated Freedom Flotilla “, now he looks thoughtful.
The round of the Masters decided to drive after dark in formation: at the head of the “Mavi Marmara”, then, slightly to the side, we are, behind us the “Sfendoni”, then the two Turkish freighter and in between the small American Challenger II. The pace is determined by us, because we have the weakest machine: We make an average of 7.5 knots. We agree, we gather in the event of ENTER on the bridge and defend the pilot house by our presence as long as possible.Marcello Faraggi and I are to the side of the cab on the small terraces get enough space to make perfect shots can. Finally, still divided guards.
Pissias and his colleagues have prepared a small hurdle for any attacker: razor wire, they draw now, just before dark, at the railing around the ship. The 30-year-old Athens Evyenia operation, which has followed her boyfriend on the ship, and Naim, the exiled Egyptians with a Greek passport, prepare dinner in the small kitchen. Then, from ten clock is coffee to the guards, and all those who sleep not provided. The Greek journalist Maria has bonded with adhesive tape on their jacket very large “Press”. We do the same.
At midnight I took up my three-hour guard. Henning Mankell is on my front side toward the bow, he is somewhat uneasy. Most can not sleep, across the deck are small groups, talking, smoking a lot and laugh. In the darkness you can see off a clock lights that accompany us. It is full moon shines the Mediterranean matt black. It is strangely quiet. I go get a coffee, set my camera, spare battery, spare chip, microphone and put myself as agreed at the left side of the ship’s bridge. Pissias is the master, he has tired eyes.
Shortly after four clock: helicopter noise. From the darkness come from behind more than half a dozen small speedboats, each with about a dozen crew members. They rush past us as if there is no us. . Front left the “Marmara” – this is obviously their goal. . The helicopter begins to circle, pursued by bright search lights, which are of the “Marmara” on him. The ship is only in the lower part lit properly, where the cabins are, above it is quite dark. The speedboats orbiting “Marmara” in rapid speed. A little further on is an Israeli frigate – apparently the command center and home station of the speedboats. Pissias comes for a moment out of the cab and said shortly: “You are crazy!” We all put on our jackets.
Ansagen, Befehle, Durcheinander Announcements, instructions, confusion
All have gathered on the ship’s bridge. The Israelis are digging up carefully. The second memory I’ll take out as they enter the lower part of the bridge.
With guns drawn they go on unarmed civilians.
Who does not vary, such as the large, comfortable Michalis, a 65-year-old small business, is cleared to shortest distance from the road. Michalis falls as if struck by lightning at my side when he was a soldier No. 14 – all have numbers – from ten centimeters away with the stun gun.
The same Soldier hits me in the chest and wants to tear the camera out of his hand. I I think initially against it, then let go to me not to let the hand break, and will paid down. Although I have several times pointing out that I’m from the press and show my ID card.
Pissias do not want to hand over the control in the driver’s that simple. He holds himself is beaten and kicked, limping and bleeding on the foot. Gradually we all are brought down and crammed into two benches. Mankell is trembling with rage and impotence, mutters to himself. We will now issue our passports. Some Greeks refuse to be dragged and brutally by soldiers on the deck – on sharp iron stairs, metal pipes and nozzles. . Mehmet Kaplan, the Swedish parliament, protested, referring to his immunity, but the Marines did not know that word probably. Dror Feiler, a born Jew with a Swedish passport, comes from the captain’s cabin with a bleeding ear.
Our invaders are all young people, probably 19 to 25. You are masked, helmeted and for the military Outsider Thus armed, as if they wanted to win the third world war. In many eyes is sheer terror, mixed with a determination to be ready for anything.. Any wrong move can be dangerous, so do the Greeks noticed the impulsive and provoke with words alone.
About eight clock, the sun beats down on the deck, after brief negotiations will allow us to feed a plastic sheet. Water and food are offered to us. We reject it. Only a Greek sandwich takes the proffered – and throws it, spiced with a scornful remark into the sea. I wonder how do I secure my shots. Since I expect to be frisked as film-saving particularly journalist, I ask Henning Mankell. As a celebrity he would probably felted less. Mankell nods, takes the two chips and puts it in his pocket. Two hours later he says that now everything was quiet, and she pushes me down again. Victorian sand, the Swedish doctor, took his place – successfully, as it turned out later.
Soldier No. 23 is the stumbling block on the ship. SShe brings in the Greeks to high temperature. At intervals, at least five times, she comes with her small, private movie camera around the corner and wants to film the group. A great outcry begins. The soldiers should note that this is not allowed under international rules. They care little. Dror Feiler, the Jewish Swede, is for the soldiers of a double offense: first, his impudent flap, secondly, he understands everything they say and translate it promptly.
Suddenly, excitement: A soldier comes running to head the brigade and shows him, trembling with indignation, what he has just found dangerous: two large fruit knife. An arms find! . Loud laughter, even Mankell can not resist a grin.
Henning Mankell is free sooner
More than ten hour drive in the heat, then arrival at the Israeli port of Ashdod. We will first locked down in the small cabins. I must be the first to step up from the ship and see myself from a lot vielhundertfachen. Countless press photographers, TV crews, soldiers, policemen. W We will be presented to the Israeli public. Single.
Right at the quay: a huge tent wing, extra set up. A young officer pulls me by the arm to the first table. A form is submitted to me. I’m supposed to sign that I’m illegally and will be deported. Otherwise, I would come into prison and have to face a trial. I refuse to sign. A translator will be appointed, because I claimed to understand no English. An elderly man with a beard and tipping is a friendly next to me and tried in a mixture of Yiddish and Hebrew to formulate German. I say, I was kidnapped as a reporter. He: “Jo, jo kidnappers.” And he laughs heartily. A medical examination I reject and will then lead to the body search. Access from the whole body, I need to undress down to his underpants. As I step out of the study area, I see how the American piano tuner Paul is on the harbor floor, two men hold him. Then they drag him to a wheelchair. The way I learn that Paul should have jumped into the water, now he is regarded as particularly dangerous.
A young Israeli official told me that there had been on the “Marmara” sixteen dead: ten passengers and six Israelis. And looks at me and accusing it of significance. Another officer asks me where I came from. Germany? He turns in disgust from his face as he stood over a Nazi criminal. Henning Mankell I look at a special table to sit, he is negotiating with several civil-dressed men. He will be freed sooner than all of us. At the back door of the tent city waiting for a barred, darkened prison van on us. Time and again we are photographed and filmed. All calls and demands that to let it be acknowledged with a laugh. In prison vans, it is very hot and stuffy. Ask Only after half an hour, the door is left open, one of the policemen is very courteous and distributed water. Vangelis Pissias angehumpelt comes, he is in pain, his face is sunken. . As he sits in this ancient prison vans, he reminded twice to Costa-Gavras.
Finally, the car drives off, it’s already dark. We will put in a prison. Where this is how it is, how long should be the will not tell us.
Henning Mankell, the renowned Swedish crime writer and author of the Wallander series, was on board the Sophia, which formed part of the Gaza Flotilla, when Israeli commandos raided the ship.
Speaking at a press conference in Berlin after spending 24 hours in an Israeli cell, Mankell accused the Israelis of “going out to commit murder” and says he witnessed the shooting an elderly passenger with a stun gun.
Mankell described how he was woken at 4am and told that the ship Mavi Marmara was under attack.
Passengers on the Sophia could see helicopter spotlights and hear weapons firing. They couldn’t find out exactly what was happening because communication had been stopped by the Israeli military.
Then, at 4.35am, the Israelis attacked the Sophia. Passengers and crew had decided not to resist, and stood on the bridge. Masked commandos landed, carrying submachine guns and forced them all below deck.
“We had elderly people among us, who perhaps weren’t so quick on their feet,” says Mankell. “One of them was shot in the arm with an stun gun and he fell to the floor in pain. Another man was hit with a rubber bullet and also fell to the floor.”
The soldiers then searched the ship. After a while they came back and said they had found weapons. “We said, ‘What weapons? There aren’t any weapons on board this ship.’
“Then they showed us a wet razor—my razor. Then they showed us a little knife from the kitchen, which the Egyptian cook used to open provisions.”
“When we got to land, something happened that I will never forget. One after the other, we were led into a prison—we had to run a gauntlet between two lines of soldiers.
“The soldiers never identified themselves but they filmed us the whole time, though Geneva Convention forbids treating civilians like this.
“And I can testify that they stole everything I had. They stole my camera, my phone, my money, my credit card, my clothes—everything.
“A policeman said to me, ‘Either we’ll deport you or you’ll go to prison.’
“I asked, ‘What am I accused of?’ He said, ‘You have entered Israel illegally.’
“I replied, ‘What are you talking about? I was kidnapped and forced to come here’.”
Mankell angrily rejects accusations that people who protest against Israel are anti-Jewish.
“I’m not an antisemite. I am against the current policy of Israel towards the Palestinians. I’m against it, because it’s a kind of apartheid. I was against apartheid in South Africa and I’m against apartheid today.”
“I prefer not to be one of the useful idiots who sit around and cynically assert that solidarity isn’t worth anything. I’d rather not belong among them.”
Mankell vowed to continue the fight to free Palestine.
“This time we came with six ships, and we’ve seen the Israeli reaction,” he said. “But what if we came back in a year with a hundred ships? What would Israel do? Bomb us?
“Wouldn’t it be a better idea for Israel to lift the blockade?”
Published: 2 Jun 10 08:14 CET
Updated: 2 Jun 10 13:38 CET
Swedish author Henning Mankell is one of a trio of activists which have arrived back in Sweden after being released by Israel following their participation in the Gaza-bound flotilla attacked by Israeli commandos.
Mankell arrived in Sweden late Tuesday together with Green Party member Mehmet Kaplan and senior physician Victoria Strand.
“What will happen next year when we come back with hundreds of boats? Will
they drop an atom bomb,”
the renowned author of the Wallander crime series said when he returned to Gothenburg airport on Tuesday night.
Mankell expressed concern over the Swedes remaining in Israel.
“We are worried about our friends who are still in jail,” the renowned author of the Wallander detective series told the Expressen tabloid onboard the flight to Sweden.
Sweden’s foreign ministry has said that four of the 11 Swedes who had been travelling with the flotilla when it was attacked early Monday – leaving nine
activists dead and scores injured – had been permitted to leave Israel.
Kaplan and Strand met the assembled media when they arrived at Stockholm Arlanda Airport. Strand said that it took eleven hours for the Israelis to tow the boat on which they were travelling, the Sofia, into Ashdod harbour. During this time the activists were guarded by masked soldiers.
The quay was lined with hundreds of soldiers past which the activists were forced to walk passed. They were then dispersed to various “stations”.
“The Israelis did all they could to humiliate us… They wanted to scare us into obedience,”
According to Strand the activists were accused of illegally encroaching on an Israeli military zone.
“Then I replied that “you detained us 79 nautical miles off the coast of Gaza and you do not have any right to a military zone there’”.
Under protest Strand decided to sign a document where she agreed to immediate deportation.
Mehmet Kaplan told how the Israeli commandos boarded the boat from both sides.
“It was if we had been attacked by pirates. When they approached our boat they got onboard via grappling hooks on on both sides. We retreated up to the bridge and engine room to protect them but the soldiers, who bore balaclavas, used stun guns against several people on the boat,”
Kaplan underlined that nobody that he travelled with, neither the crew nor the activists, offered any resistance.
“We had undertaken anti-violence training and we retreated the while time as they advance, fully equipped,”
Kaplan only first found out that activists had died at the hands of Israeli commandos on Tuesday. He reserved warm praise for the foreign ministry and the Swedish embassy in Tel Aviv.
“Without their help we would perhaps still be there. It is a lifeline for those who remain,”
Henning Mankell completed his journey in Gothenburg and on arrival at Landvetter airport he told the Expressen daily that he had not regrets over his participation, but elected to reserve further comment until later.
“For the simple reason that some of our friends remain in custody in Israel,”
The Israeli government said on Tuesday that it plans to release all of the foreigners who were involved in the Gaza-bound flotilla. Hundreds were expelled on Wednesday.
The six ships in the Freedom Flotilla, carrying more than 700 passengers, were on a mission to deliver some 10,000 tonnes of supplies to Gaza, which has been under a crippling Israeli blockade since 2007.
Politics – Published Wednesday, 02 June 2010 14:21 | Author: AFP / The Swedish Wire
Top Swedish crime writer Henning Mankell accused Israel of “piracy” during its attack on a Gaza-bound aid fleet and denied weapons were stashed on the ships.
Mankell, the author of the popular Wallander series of detective novels, said Israeli commandos shot people who were sleeping during Monday’s raid on the flotilla, in which nine activists were killed and dozens injured.
“The Israelis transformed their navy into a pirate enterprise,” Mankell told reporters after he returned to the southwestern Swedish city of Gothenburg late Tuesday after taking part in the aid operation.
“All the ships (in the flotilla) were hijacked, and this was really piracy,” said Mankell, whose comments were broadcast by Swedish public radio Wednesday.
“What will happen next year when we come back with hundreds of boats? Will they fire a nuclear bomb?” he asked.
Mankell was one of 11 Swedes who participated in the operation, which involved a total of 682 people from 42 countries aboard six ships.
He and three others who were aboard the flotilla, including member of parliament Mehmet Kaplan, arrived in Sweden Wednesday.
The seven others were on their way from Israel to Istanbul, where they would spend the night before flying to Sweden Thursday, foreign ministry spokesman Tobias Nilsson told AFP.
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, in Istanbul for a conference, would try to meet the Swedes at their arrival in Turkey, his press secretary said.
Mankell said the passengers “had expected to run into trouble when we reached the border (of Israeli territorial waters), but we were mistaken.” “Far from the limit, in (international) water, we were attacked… by helicopters, speedboats and other vessels and lots of commando soldiers who came onboard and hijacked ship after ship.
“They did not hesitate to attack using lethal force. They shot people who were sleeping,” he said.
Mankell said the Israelis’ claim that large numbers of weapons were found on the vessels was “nonsense.”
“On the ship I was on, they found one weapon: my razor. And they actually came up and showed it off, my razor, so you see what level this was at,” Mankell said.
The author further accused Israel of kidnap when it towed the ships to one of its ports and detained those on board.
“At the moment they started taking the boats towards Israel, we were all kidnapped. It is that simple,” he said.
Despite the aid flotilla’s failure to break Israel’s blockade against the Gaza Strip and deliver some 10,000 tonnes of supplies, Mankell said the operation was a partial success.
“Today we know that Israel is on its knees. No one could predict that the rest of the world would react in this way. They are completely isolated,” he said, adding “people are completely fed up with this brutality and this violence that the power (Israel) has on its conscience.”
He said he was in “despair” over the killings and added that he was also saddened to think of “some of our friends who are still sitting in some very uncomfortable prisons in Israel, where they are being beaten.”
Swedish Foreign Ministry spokesman Tobias Nilsson told AFP seven other Swedes who were participating in the flotilla were on their way to from Israel to Istanbul, where they would spend the night before arriving in Sweden Thursday.
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, in Istanbul for a conference, was hoping to meet the Swedes at there arrival there, his press secretary said.
Israel said Wednesday the hundreds of activists detained on the boats and diverted to Israel had all been released for deportation. The activists were all taken to Tel Aviv airport or the Jordanian border.