Mavi Marmara Accounts: Violence, Theft, Abuse

By Mamoon Alabbasi – London

As Israel continues to present its own account of what happened when its navy commandos raided an aid convoy destined to the besieged Gaza Strip and killed nine humanitarian activists aboard one ship, witness accounts of Westerners are emerging that discredit Tel Aviv’s version of events.

Journalists on board the ships said Israeli soldiers confiscated all cameras, computers and telephones they found, accusing Tel Aviv of editing the images to suit its own take on events.

The Foreign Press Association had strongly condemned Israeli military’s use of photos and video material confiscated from foreign journalists.

Sarah Colborne, director of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said "it was like a horror movie. There was a massacre going on. There was live ammunition being shot," adding that Israel had blocked an SOS satellite transmission before raiding the ship.

Srdjan Stojiljkovic, a New York-based Serbian cameraman, said Arab activists suffered "far worse treatment than us, from Europe or the West," adding he had filmed the scenes, but the Israelis "took everything but documents" from journalists.

"Panicking started, shots were heard and people on the boat, who were unarmed, grabbed one of the soldiers, disarmed him and took him below the deck," said Stojiljkovic.

"People were falling down covered in blood, others were screaming as they were hit by bullets," Stojiljkovic said. "One of them was shot straight between the eyes," he added.

While Australian journalist Paul McGeough from the Sydney Morning Herald was "pushed around" by Israeli commandos, his accompanying award-winning photographer Kate Geraghty suffered bruises and minor burns after being shot with a Taser gun by Israeli forces, despite explaining she was an accredited member of the press.

Bestselling Swedish crime author Henning Mankell said he witnessed Israeli commandos shooting activists "who were sleeping". 

"I think the Israeli military went out to commit murder", he said.

"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.

Michalis Grigoropoulos, a Greek activist, said the Israelis "fired rubber coated bullets, tear gas and then used electroshock weapons on some activists" aboard the Eleftheri Mesogeio, a smaller boat than the Mavi Marmara, which they had attacked earlier.

"They made me sign papers on my expulsion, without me knowing what was on the papers because I did not have the right to a translator, a lawyer or to communicate with my family," Grigoropoulos said.

Aris Papadokostopoulos, another crew member, said that two Greeks "were beaten because they refused to give their digital fingerprints" to the Israeli police.

A third Greek activist, Dimitris Gielalis, said a cameraman filming the raid was hit with a rifle butt in the eye.

Former German MP Norman Paech, 72, said the activists "had not prepared in any way to fight," adding that he had taken photographic evidence of the incident but that his camera was confiscated by the Israelis.

German Inge Hoeger, 59, and Annette Groth, 56, two current Die Linke MPs, felt like they "were in a war, like we were being kidnapped."

Kevin Neish, a Canadian citizen who was aboard the Mavi Marmara, said "a Turkish man, who was holding a camera …was shot directly through the forehead. The bullet, the exit wound, blew away the back third of his skull."

"I was trussed up with plastic handcuffs for twenty-five hours and refused access to any wash facility for fifteen hours. You had to beg, beg the Israeli captors. I had to grovel, basically, to get access to a bathroom… But you didn’t get up, you didn’t rise up, or you got threatened with clubs or a dog or a gun to your head," he said.

"After I got into prison, they didn’t let me sleep," he added.

Edward Peck, a former US ambassador, said the activists were defending their ship from an illegal Israeli raid.

"We had people on crutches and people with bandages and peoples with their arms in slings, and the captain had his neck in a bracelet," he said of some of the wounded. 

Ann Wright, a retired American army colonel and a former US diplomat, said one woman "was hit in the face, in the nose, with one of the liquid-filled balls. [The Israelis] were very excessively rough, excessively forceful," and "they’ve probably stolen over a million dollars’ worth of cameras, computers, cell phones."

"When we got out to the airport, I have never seen supposedly professional law enforcement people treat others with such disrespect. They were laughing, giggling, commenting on wounded and dead. It was a very pitiful, pitiful performance by law enforcement people," Wright concluded.

– Mamoon Alabbasi is an Iraqi news editor based in London. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: alabbasi@writing.com.

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