Peace sailors: the naval commandos used violence and electric shockers
September 28, 2010 – "How can you demonstrate here, where a woman was killed by a Qassam? Why are you helping the Arabs and not us?" said a bypasser to the activists and family members who stood waiting and waving signs for hours across the street from the Ashdod police station. "The purpose of the ship was to deliver a message of peace and reconciliation, of an end to the conflict, so that no one will get killed any more, that no one will live in danger, neither here nor in Gaza."
The activists were actually waiting for the Israelis among the sailors. The other Jewish peace activists - from Britain, Germany and the United States – had been handed over to the Oz Immigration Police, which meant: deportation.[*]
Around 8:00 pm the police station doors were opened and four of the peace sailors emerged, Rami Elchanan, Reuven Moskowitz and the brothers Yonathan and Itamar Shapiro. They were received with applause, hugs and the flashing of many media cameras. On the pavement outside was held an impromptu press conference.
"The IDF spokesman announced the takeover of the ship was peaceful. That's not true. It was brutal and violent" said Yonathan Shapira, former helicopter pilot in the Israeli Air Force who was in 2003 among the initiators of the Pilots' Letter, whose signatories declared their refusal to bomb Palestinian cities. "When dozens of commandos boarded our small ship, we did not resist. We sat, holding each other and singing 'We bring peace upon you' and 'We shall overcome'. Suddenly one of them turned on me a strong electric shock, very painful, directly in the chest. For no reason. When it happened I thought 'If I were an Arab or Muslim, they would have now killed me." A right-winger present burst out shouting "Go to Gaza!" to which Itamar Shapira, Yonathan's brother, replied "Yes, that's exactly what we tried to do."
"Throughout the cruise I thought about my daughter Smadar, who was killed in a suicide bombing in Jerusalem. I did it also and especially for her. So that there will be no more deaths," said Rami Elhanan, who is active in "The Families' Forum" which brings together Israeli and Palestinian bereaved families, all of whom lost loved ones in the course of the ongoing conflict.
At Rami Elhanan's side stood his wife Nurit Peled - Elhanan, a well-known peace activist in her own right, also daughter of the late General Matti Peled, a member of the IDF General Staff in 1967 who later became a peace activist, Knesset Member and a pioneer of Israeli-Palestinian dialogue, together with Uri Avnery.
"When I was a kid I lived for years in a ghetto. When we sailed I thought of the children in Gaza, who are imprisoned there and cannot get out" said Reuven Moskowitz, the oldest among the sailors. "How can you make such a comparison?" asked a journalist. "Yes, I can make the comparison! I was in the ghetto, I know what a ghetto does to a child. I still have terrible nightmares about it, Maybe it's not quite the same, but don't you dare tell me that the siege does not affect children in Gaza!" And then, 82-years old Reuven Moskowitz took a harmonica out of a bag full of them which had been carried on board, intended for the children of Gaza. He began playing a tune written for the words of Psalm 34 The peace activists joined in singing the words, as did some of the journalists.
What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good?
Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking deceit.
Depart from evil, and do good;
Seek peace, and pursue it.
[*] Three of the international Jewish Peace Sailors - Captain Glynn Secker, Vish Vishvanath and Lilian Rosengarten - were deported immediately. The fourth: Dr. Edith Lutz of Germany, refused to cooperate with her deportation and ended up in the Giv'on Prison at Ramleh where it seems she will stay at least until Sunday.
Lutz who had started the idea of a Jewish boat to Gaza, is not alone. Nobel Laureate Mairead McGuire was detained on the same day at the Ben Gurion Airport, also refusing to accept deportation. Instead of attending a Peace Conference of Nobel Laureates from all over the world, held in Israel, the Irish laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize is for the time being also spending her days in Israeli prison.
The above was noted down by Adam Keller
Yonatan and Itamar Shapira’s testimony - on the Jewish Boat to Gaza website, where more testimonies will be posted soon
[Press release, earlier on same day:]
Dozens of peace activists gathered on the beach near Ashdod port, to which the Jewish Peace Ship is being towed by the Israeli Navy, to protest the capture of the ship and the continued blockade of Gaza, which has turned it into a huge prison with no entry or exit. The activists held signs with the captions: Medicines – A Security Risk? / Let Gaza Live / The blockade and the construction on settlements destroy us all / Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies. Later the demonstrators moved to the Ashdod Police where they currently remain.
The government does not miss any opportunity to present to the world the ugly, aggressive and brutal face of Israel.
Israel's security would not have been damaged in the least – quite the contrary – if the peace activists on the ship had been allowed to reach Gaza as the respected guests of its Palestinian residents. The sailors who are now shackled and led to detention for their support for peace, save a small measure of the dignity of the State of Israel and of Judaism, whose name Binyamin Netanyahu bears in vain.
Phone numbers for contact at Ashdod Port:
Nurit Peled-Elhanan (wife of Rami Elhanan who sailed on the ship and is now in detention): 054-757 8703
Zvia Shapira (mother of Yonatan and Itamar Shapira who were on the ship and are now detained): 054-747 4994
Adam Keller, Gush Shalom spokesperson): 054-234 9750