When the Israeli navy attacked Free Gaza'a boats on May 31, 2010 in international waters, assassinating ten of our passengers, the PR machine was turned on, ready to spin the Israeli terrorist attack on the high seas before the boats had even been hauled into Ashdod. Four women and one man in our Cyprus office, Hedy Epstein, Mary Hughes Thompson, Audrey Bomse, Fathi Jaoudi, and me, Greta Berlin, fielded the media questions in five languages.
Israel spent millions on PR; we spent time and passion and presented the facts. Several of those facts have been documented in Audrey's (she is the Free Gaza attorney) comprehensive article, essentially stating that the Palmer report has no authority.
One of the most important aspects of this article is that the Palmer report was put into place AFTER the UN report. Audrey's opening sentence is quite clear.
"Almost all the factual findings, as well as the legal analysis and conclusions of the recently leaked UN Secretary General’s Panel of Inquiry into the “Flotilla Incident” on May 31, 2010 (Palmer/Uribe Panel) directly contradict those of an earlier UN report of the Human Rights Council Fact-Finding Mission (FFM, whose conclusion that Israel’s blockade of Gaza, including the naval blockade is illegal, was just reaffirmed on September 13, 2011 by five independent UN rights Special Rapporteurs. In line with all statements Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon has made about Gaza, the Goldstone report, and statements by other international agencies, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), these UN international law experts rejected the Palmer/Uribe conclusions and demanded that “[t]he Israeli blockade of Gaza must end immediately and the people of Gaza must be afforded protection in line with international law.”
We find it interesting that Jonathan Ofir fails to acknowledge Free Gaza's five successful voyages to Gaza in 2008. We hope this isn’t another case of an Israeli rewriting history.
In August 2008 Free Gaza defied the Israeli Foreign Office by refusing to submit to its demand that we abandon our challenge of Israel’s blockade of Gaza. Though warned our boats would not be allowed to pass through the blockade, we left from Cyprus and set sail for Gaza. After 33 hours, FREE GAZA and LIBERTY were greeted by 40,000 overjoyed Palestinians who had waited all day at Gaza port for our arrival. We then made four more successful voyages, taking in members of the European Parliament, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, journalists like Amira Hass, Palestinians who just wanted to go home, and activists who remained in Gaza to work with the International Solidarity Movement.
It was the attacks on the DIGNITY, our third boat, in December 2008 and on the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY in July 2009 that motivated the Free Gaza board to organize the first large Freedom Flotilla in May 2010. Concluding we could no longer send just one or two boats at a time to break Israel’s unlawful siege, we spent the next year organizing a flotilla, along with partners we recruited to join the initiative. These partners included the Turkish charity, IHH, The European Campaign to end the Siege, the Malaysian Initiative of Mahathir Mohamad
and the Swedish/Greek effort. All of them contributed boats, supplies and passengers. This voyage was to become Freedom Flotilla 1.
Israeli pirates firing from attack helicopters executed ten of our passengers, including Furkan Dogan, an American while we sailed in international waters. Many passengers on board all six boats were injured by gunshots and flying glass, Dozens of passengers were beaten, resulting in many broken bones. One passenger's nose was deliberately broken. All passengers were violently robbed of cameras, cell phones and computers to cover up all evidence of the attack. In addition, over a million dollars in cash, valuables and equipment was confiscated and never returned.
Passengers were then brutally kidnapped, forcibly transported to Israel and imprisoned, Many of the survivor testimonies can be found here: http://archive.freegaza.org/en/boat-trips/survivor-testimonies.html
Although the Mavi Marmara ship was far bigger than all the other boats , it was not leading the initiative which was organized by the Free Gaza movement.
We set a precedent that it was possible to break the blockade and enter the port of Gaza. If it weren’t for out five successful trips, there would have been no other boats sailing to that small slice of the Mediterranean.
Greta Berlin and Mary Hughes Thompson, Co-Founders, the Free Gaza movement