Nobel laureate aboard Rachel Corrie: 'We were kidnapped' by Israeli navy
Mairead Corrigan Maguire was one of five Irish activists who challenged the Gaza blockade aboard the Rachel Corrie just days after a fatal Israeli raid on the "Freedom Flotilla." She shared her account with the Monitor.
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When we got 30 miles outside Gaza we were told by the Israeli navy that we would not be allowed to go on. They threatened us with force if we did not turn back. At 11 a.m. they appeared with Zodiacs [Israeli navy boats], and there were two navy ships on the horizon. Then, about 35 Israeli navy soldiers came on board. They had a sniffer dog with them.Skip to next paragraph
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Our captain took the lead to coordinate with them. He said, "If you are coming on board it will be totally without violence." None of us were armed and it was done in peaceful way. We just stood there on the deck. The soldiers then came on board with full combat gear, faces blackened, and they were carrying hand guns and rifles. They took our passports. We stood there for about two hours as all this happened, and then we were taken to sit in the captain’s lounge and later to Ashdod, and from there to the detention center at Ben Gurion Airport [in Tel Aviv] where we were put in cells.
We were kidnapped. From 9 a.m. that Saturday morning, when they knocked down our radar, until the moment we landed in Germany and then in Ireland at 10 a.m. Monday no one knew where we were. They took away our phones and our cameras.
It was not a nice experience. To begin with, we were kidnapped in international waters and everything was taken off of us. One of the girls was strip-searched.
Then, the detention center was not clean, and the people there gave us the cold-shoulder treatment. If you smoked you were allowed to go outside, but it you do not smoke – and I don’t – you had to stay indoors. For those who smoked, the guards would not give a light for the cigarettes. And when we asked for water, we were told to drink the tap water.
What about the offer on the part of the Israelis to deliver the aid on board your ship to Gaza themselves, once the cargo had gone through a security check in Ashdod? Was that not a fair or genuine offer in your opinion?
We refused that offer because we are trying to challenge the blockade. The blockade is illegal and in violation of the Geneva conventions. You are denying Gazans their basic human rights.
Also, in our cargo, we had humanitarian aid that is not allowed by the Israelis into Gaza. For example, we had 20 tons of paper for printing schoolbooks that was donated by Norway. Under the current list of basics allowed in, school supplies are banned. We also had 550 tons of cement to help rebuild Gaza – but cement is not allowed in either.
We felt that if we were to give our humanitarian aid to the Israelis in Ashdod we had no way of knowing whether it would be passed along to Gaza.
When we were forcibly brought into Ashdod, we saw the Turkish ships from the flotilla in the port, sitting with millions of pounds of confiscated material still on them. So we have asked the Irish government to see what they can do about getting all our aid into Gaza and getting our ships back as well as our personal possessions such as cameras.