I’m happy that I am back home safe and sound after a few days in Israeli prisons, but I would much rather be in Gaza right now, handing the Marianne av Goteborg to the Palestinian fishers.
On the 29th at 2 am, the Israelis attacked us, when we were over 100 nautical miles (185 km) from Israel, while we were still off Egypt, near the entrance to the Suez Canal. They used 4 warships full of hundreds of IOF (Israeli Occupation Forces) soldiers and sailors. They initially approached us in white Coast Guard zodiac boats, just for media spin purposes, and then attacked with military zodiacs full of heavily armed soldiers. We saw the Coast Guard zodiacs being lifted onto a warship after the attack, like movie props being stored away.
Three activists, including Canadian professor Bob Lovelace, were sitting or standing in front of the bridge door, and were all immediately and repeatedly tasered. Bob lost count after 6 taser hits. I was inside the bridge during the attack, assisting the captain and dealing with the engines. I believe it took the Israelis about 45 minutes to finally break through the locked and barred doors and hatches and into the bridge. While I was being marched out on to the deck I believe a soldier poked me in the ribs with a stun wand (cattle prod) just for fun, but it was nothing compared to the taser hits Bob got. The Norwegian 3rd mate was also tasered and beaten because he refused to remove his Palestinian scarf.
Just before the Israelis had taken over the bridge, on the captain’s order, I had disabled the engine, but only in a very simple manner. For the safety of the ship he required that the engine could be restarted within a minute, in case the ship were in any danger. The Israelis spent 3 hours trying in vain to restart the engine and then tried to order me to assist them, which I refused to do. We told them that as they had illegally hijacked the ship, it was their problem, not ours. So then they beat the captain and threatened to do the same to me unless we restarted the engine for them. At this point the captain wisely decided that it was not worth everyone being beaten, as the Israelis were getting very aggressive, and so he asked me to restart the engine. I went to the engine room, and simply reached down and turned on the battery master switch. As my Mom would say – these guys were not the sharpest tacks in the drawer, but they made up for that in brutality.
From this point on it was just a series of luggage and strip searches, interrogations and continuous attempts to humiliate us. It was obvious they were all very angry, which is a good sign. At the Ashdod port they took many things from me, and kindly gave me a receipt. And then at the prison they took more things away, including my earlier receipt, and gave me no receipt. In particular the Israelis wanted all the cameras, cell phones and computers, to prevent anyone from having video evidence of their brutal assault. But some camera chips were smuggled out, including mine, which will be used in an upcoming Swedish trial.
After 2 days in a filthy prison cell, with just a hole in the floor for a toilet and a pipe coming out of the wall for a shower, we were sent to the airport detention prison, which had a proper bathroom and shower. But as I finished my shower, I reached for one of the “clean” towels, only to find that an Israeli guard had soiled it with his excrement and then carefully refolded it. All I could think about at that moment, was that I had only gone through 4 days of abuse, whereas Palestinians have had over 68 years of continuous abuse. The Palestinians’ strength and “sumud” or steadfastness in the face of such brutality, is amazing and inspiring.
I’m sorry we were not able to get the Marianne to Gaza. But the 7 week, 5000 mile voyage, was a great success from the moment we sailed into our first port, with huge support everywhere we went. See www.shiptogaza.se for more info. Others in the future will build on our effort, and will end the siege and tear down the wall.
Venceremos, we will win.
We arrived in Messina Sicily yesterday afternoon to a welcome by the deputy mayor and many pro Palestinian supporters…and three police cars and various port authorities, but so far we are not being seriously bothered by any officials. We plan to leave later today, the 19th, and expect to arrive in Gazan waters in a week or so. I apologize for not having any photos, but we have been very busy with last minute repairs and preparations with no time to hardly look around let alone take photos.
So this may be my last blog post before Gaza. If the Israelis attack us, as they have already said they will, I would certainly appreciate any solidarity or support any of you can offer. Please keep an eye on our ship’s website http://www.shiptogaza.se and if it reports that we have been attacked, please contact your local media asking them to cover our story, and of course contact your local (Canadian) Federal politicians, asking them to ensure our safety and quick release from Israeli custody. We are not breaking any laws by peacefully entering Gaza by sea. We are simply following the dictates of numerous UN Security Council and UN General Assembly resolutions, the UN Charter and the Geneva Conventions. If Israel attacks us they will only have the unjust law of “might makes right”, the law of the jungle. Hopefully civilization has progressed beyond this kind of the 1800’s gunboat diplomacy. I guess we will see in a week or so in the waters off Gaza.
Bye for now from the Marianne av Goteborg in Messina Italy.
Well the Ship to Gaza, the Marianne av Goteborg, is now in Palermo Sicily in Italy. We had a beautiful crossing from Motril Spain, our last port. Unfortunately I was not able to find time to send any report from Motril, as I was very busy repairing the air conditioning on the ship, which had been officially declared beyond repair by the Spanish repairmen. Luckily I’m good at resurrecting the dead, so we now have air conditioning, which is crucial, as it is extremely hot and humid. This old fishing boat form the North Sea was never designed to sail in such hot weather, and neither was I, Canadian polar bears like me do not like a 50 degree engine room temperatures.
Once again, as we are officially a “pleasure craft” we are moored in a very expensive marina surrounded by zillion dollar yachts, which as you can see, try to keep a safe distance from us!!
Many activists in Spain made references to the Internationale Brigades from Spain’s 1936 fight against Franco fascists in comparing them to us going to Palestine. As it happens I helped organize the placement of a memorial stone to two Canadian brothers from Cumberland, Gordon and Archie Keenen, who went to Spain in 36 with the Mackenzie Papineau battalion, where Gordon died at the battle of the Ebro River. The stone will be unveiled on June 18th during the Ginger Goodwin Miner’s Memorial event in the Cumberland cemetery. Unfortunately even though I purchased the stone and helped organise the event, I won’t be able to attend, as I was called away to sail on this ship to Gaza. I’d like to think that Gordon and Archie would understand. If you have the time please take in this wonderful weekend of progressive labour events in Cumberland.
Here is a rather poor photo of what the stone looks like, but it is the words that are important.
On our way from Lisbon to Motril we passed a huge fortified point of land which was the site of the last battle of the Republican Spanish fighters against Franco’s fascist forces. The democratic Republican fighters would not surrender despite being vastly overpowered by Franco’s forces supported by Nazi Germany and fascist Italian fighters and weapons. So they were actually driven into the sea.
Here’s a photo of myself with the last stronghold of 1939 republican Spain in the background.
One can only imagine what heroic battles took place on this cliff in 1939. And now today Spain is about to elect a progressive left wing government, so that is evidence that all evil eventually is defeated, as it will with the Zionists in Israel-Palestine. So we are on to Gaza in a day or so, with one more stop in Sicily and then on to Gaza Palestine.
Bye for now from Palermo.
We arrived in Lisbon Portugal yesterday. There was a huge swell coming in from the west (Canada ;), so we rolled and pitched quite violently for two days, but no damage was done, except for a few broken plates and glasses, and a couple of jars of jam that escaped from the fridge. Everyone is tired after a few days of this, as when we roll this much it’s difficult to stay in the bunk let alone sleep.
As we are officially a “leisure ship” we have to moor in fancy marinas, surrounded by million dollar yachts, the owners of which often don’t seem to appreciate our appearance or political objectives. Yesterday 80 pro Palestinian supporters tried to march into this marina to welcome us, but were stopped by the marina management because they said they would disturb the other yacht owners. So they held their rally on the public causeway outside the marina, closely watched by a half dozen policemen.
Tomorrow we set sail with a new group of passengers, to go through Gibraltar and into the Mediterranean Sea and to an east coast Spanish port, and likely another wonderful welcome.
Bye for now. Kevin
We crossed the Bay of Biscay safely and are now in the beautiful Spanish fishing town of Bueu. We were welcomed at the pier by the mayor and a great group of activists holding a huge Palestinian flag.
Today is the 5th anniversary of the Israeli assault on the Mavi Marmara, so the people of Bueu are holding an event to honour the Mavi Marmara. We had a showing of a film by my fellow Mavi survivor Laura Arua, which brought tears to mine and others eyes. Very sad and gut wrenching memories. But the solidarity and steadfastness of the supporters here is inspiring and brings me hope that we will break the blockade this time.
There are marching bands, street performers, singers and clowns all celebrating Marianne av Goteborg’s voyage to Gaza and the Freedom Flotilla III. So I should be on my way and join the fun, and then I have to return to the ship to prepare her for the next leg of our journey to Lisbon Portugal tomorrow, and from there…I have no idea, as we can’t make it too easy for the Israelis to sabotage our ship.
Goodnight from Bueu Spain.
Sorry for the lack of reports from the Marianne av Goteborg, but my engineering work load has been quite heavy and there has been very few access points to the internet as we have been at sea a lot. We have already gone through two gale force North Sea storms which certainly tested the crew and ship, ripping the two name plates from the bow of the ship (as my Dad would say “a ship of wood, with a crew of iron”). We arrived in Brest France yesterday, with the local port Police waiting for us as we tied up to board the ship interrogate the captain. We have already been stopped by the French coast guard off of Dover, and were thoroughly searched while at sea, as well as the German police stopping us while were in a lock in the middle of the Kiel Canal. Some of these officials have admitted that they were ordered to specifically stop us and try to find an excuse to detain or turn us back. Fortunately all our papers are in order and as we are officially a “leisure ship” and not a fishing vessel anymore, the regulations are much easier. It is rather unheard of for a leisure ship to attract so much attention from the police and port authorities, but of course it is our destination of Gaza that has brought the Israeli government to demand that our ship be repeatedly stopped and searched.
Tomorrow we set out to cross the Bay of Biscay with the next stop being a very pro Palestine Spanish fishing village. There we will honour the 5th anniversary of the Israeli assault on the Mavi Marmara on may 31st, with a grand community dinner and celebration.
I will likely have very little opportunity to make many more blog entries, so please keep an eye on our ship’s website https://shiptogaza.se/en/ for regular updates.
Thank you all your interest and support. I suspect I will need it all in the near future, as the Israeli Occupation Forces have already declared that they will violently attack our ship somewhere off of Gaza. We should arrive in Gaza, or an Israeli prison in mid to late June.
Bye for now. Kevin
The Swedish ship to Gaza, the “Marianne av Goteborg” sails tomorrow, Sunday night, with me as engineer. I will be busy all day tomorrow doing last minute stowing of donations and various preparations until the lines are cast off. Next stop is Malmo Sweden and then Copenhagen Denmark, and then France and then various ports on route to Gaza. We should be sailing into Gaza City in about 6 weeks or so, or into a racist Israeli prison. I might not have much access to the internet during this trip, so if you want to keep track of our progress please watch our website https://shiptogaza.se/en/.
I see that the Canadian government has posted a very specific travel advisory, warning all Canadians to not join the flotilla to Gaza. Here is the text-
“The security situation along the coast of Gaza remains dangerous and volatile. In May 2010, an attempt to breach the naval blockade along the coast of Gaza was intercepted by Israeli security forces and resulted in deaths, injuries, arrests and deportations. Similar attempts to breach the naval blockade have taken place since. You are strongly advised against participating in any attempt to break the naval blockade. Canadian officials may not be able to provide you with consular assistance if you choose to participate in the flotilla. Participants may be detained by Israeli officials prior to their deportation. In cases of deportation, local authorities are not obliged to notify the Canadian embassy.”
I find it interesting to note that the Canadian Conservative government in 1936 gave a very similar warning to all Canadians to not travel to Spain to fight against Franco’s fascists in their civil war. And now Spain is on the verge of electing a socialist government. All evil will eventually pass, we just need to work at it together, to help speed it along a little faster.
The Swedes have often asked why am I, a Canadian, on a Swedish ship to Gaza. Of course the first answer is that I am an internationalist, like the Canadian MacKenzie-Papineau volunteer battalion fighting in Spain in 1936. But of course I have a very solid Scandinavian connect, with my Communist red Finnish great Grandparents on my Mom’s side, so I’m a 4th generation red Finn. There is even some speculation that my Lenin looks somehow come from Finland, as he spent time there before the Russian revolution. Food for thought.
So bye for now, and I am looking forward to seeing my friends in Gaza very soon.