An extended video has emerged of the Israeli navy seizing the Marianne, a ship in the latest freedom flotilla that tried to get to Gaza. The activist ship was carrying humanitarian aid, human rights advocates, an ex-president of Tunisia, an Israeli lawmaker, a European parliament member, and an almost equal number of journalists. The ten-minute footage that aired on Israel’s Channel 2 last night comes as a second installment of reporting by Israeli journalist Ohad Chemo who was aboard the Marianne, the lead boat in the four-vessel Freedom Flotilla III.
The first clip broadcasted two days ago on Israeli television and showed the navy using tasers against passengers who do not appear to be resisting the vessel’s takeover. The action contradicted an initial Israeli government statement that the interception was “uneventful.”
Chemo’s latest video, “Three days at sea on the way to Gaza” chronicles activists on the last leg of their trip, after the boat has picked up passengers off the shores of Greece. On camera they show Chemo their modest sleeping arrangements and discuss their twice daily “passive resistance” trainings on how to behave in the event that their are commandeered by Israeli forces while at sea. They pass time chatting in a main cabin filled with Palestinian national items decoratively displayed. They have light moments too. Swedish-Israeli passenger Dror Feiler plays a tune by famed Egyptian musician Umm Kultum on his saxophone. But mostly, the sea voyage is long and monotonous.
The drama picks up Saturday when the Marianne detects a number of unidentified boats in the distance. “I believe we are [being] tailed. They want to see what we are doing,” said one passenger.
The following evening, the crew again find boats in the distance. This time they made their presence known by delivering a radio message, “We are sending you two white boats closer to you to talk to you. Over,” said an unidentified voice.
Next Israeli navy boats approached. A siren rang. “Welcome” said a different voice in three languages through a megaphone of the side of the Marianne. “Your attempt to arrive Gaza is a breach of the international law. You’re requested to stop.”
A passenger calls back also through a megaphone, “We are in international waters and you have no right to board this ship.” Indeed the activists were floating more than 100 miles off the coast of Gaza and had not entered waters controlled by Israel’s military blockade of the occupied Palestinian territory. The army then asked if they could come aboard. The passenger said no. The Israeli navy boarded anyway, but not before dipping into politics with the former president of Tunisia, Moncef Marzuki, one of the Marianne’s notables.
“We were really sorry to hear this and I am surprised that you are on your way to support a regime which shares the same ideology of those who committed an act of terror,” said an Israeli commando, referencing a terror attack in Tunisia earlier this week when gunman killed 38 people on a tourist beach.
“Why this bullshit? We are not supporting any regime,” one of the passengers yelled back.
In the next scene the navy has taken over the Marianne. Chemo, the Israeli journalist, now in front of the camera, dutifully gives his last update while tasers buzz in the background. One of the passengers shouts “Help, help, help! Stop!” as he is surrounded by a ring of Israeli forces holding him against more tasers.
Chemo is the first Israeli journalist to embed with flotilla activists. His videos come as the only footage of the Israeli army commandeering the activists’ boat. “All of their personal possessions and technical equipment were confiscated during the attack on the ship – none were returned despite their release,” said Hareth Adlouni, a spokesperson for Al Jazeera who confirmed his network’s two journalists were released within 24 hours and “have arrived at their homes safely.”
“There is no criminal proceedings against anyone,” I was informed by Lymor Goldstein, an attorney in law offices of Gaby Lasky, who is representing the activists passengers who are being deported today and tomorrow via Ben Gurion airport. Goldstein said that four passengers said they had been abused with tasers by the Israeli navy.
All 18 who were aboard, including the seven journalists, are banned from returning to Israel for the next ten years.
One journalist with Russia Today, Nadia Kevorkova remains in Israeli custody.