Freedom Wave riders beaten, denied access to family; organizers demand accountability
November 5, 2011 – Freedom Waves to Gaza organizers have not yet had any direct communication with the delegates from the ships Tahrir and Saoirse. Organizers are demanding that Israel immediately free the remaining people they have kidnapped and are illegally detaining; that they be able to speak with their families; that they receive immediate medical attention for all injuries inflicted by the Israeli military and that they are not harmed further.
“We have heard indirectly from our governments’ ministries of foreign affairs (in Canada and Ireland), but that is simply not good enough. We want to speak with our people directly,” says Wendy Goldsmith, organizer with the Canadian Boat to Gaza. “Why will our governments not demand the delegates be able to speak to their families? We do not trust the Canadian government on this – as they have shown time and time again that they are complicit in Israel’s violations of international law and gross human rights abuses.”
The last direct contact that organizers had with any delegate on either boat is this text message, from Trevor Hogan (from aboard the Irish boat Saoirse) at 10:08 PM Nov 3, 2011 Palestinian time: “Kidnapped, being held against our will by Israeli Army in international waters. Boat nearly destroyed. Need government to press for immediate release.” Trevor then called girlfriend moments later and said, “Did you get the text? Send it out.” Then the phone line went dead.
Palestinian Israeli Majd Kayal, delegate aboard the captured Canada Boat to Gaza and recently released from Givon Prison, confirms the IDF’s “peaceful” take-over of the Tahrir was anything but peaceful. An IDF video clearly shows the Israeli military firing a water cannon at the Tahrir on rough seas, endangering the lives of those aboard. Delegates offering non-violent resistance to the takeover of the civilian ship in international waters were threatened and then beaten by soldiers. One delegate, 45-year-old David Heap, professor at the University of Western Ontario, was particularly badly beaten. Israeli prison authorities are continuing to prevent Heap’s family from contacting him by phone.
“As a Palestinian, I was not surprised at how the IDF treated us,” said Kayal, after his release, noting this kind of abuse is a daily reality for the 1.5 million people of Gaza, who are indefinitely detained in an open-air prison. “However, for the Canadians and other Westerners onboard, it was a complete shock.”
As of now, family members are still being prevented from having telephone contact with their loved ones. Lawyers were able to visit briefly with some of the delegates being held at Givon Prison in Israel. But for family members, it is the not knowing that is the hardest. Said the wife of one of the delegates, “We just don’t understand why Israeli officials are acting as they are. My husband’s youngest is putting a brave face on it, but I know that he is very upset and worried about how his father is doing.”
“I am sorry to hear about those that were roughed up which of course is always the way when it comes to the Israeli sentiment towards any human being,” said Kathleen Newton, mother of Jihan Hafiz, a Democracy Now journalist still being illegally held by Israel after her abduction from the Tahrir. “I stand proud to be the mother of a daughter that wanted to stand up and make a difference in this otherwise very unfair world.”
Family members who have been able to speak with Canadian Consular staff have been told that several delegates showed varying degrees of visible bruising when Canadian Officials visited them. Nevertheless, Consular staff said they felt that everyone was “O.K.”
Canadians are urged to contact Foreign Affairs Emergency Hot line in Ottawa at 1-800-387-3124 .
The UN Human Rights Council Inquiry Report of September 2010 concluded that the blockade is illegal and Israeli policies in Gaza are a form of collective punishment. There is no legal justification for stopping or in any way impeding the passage of the totally peaceful Freedom Waves boats from the international solidarity movement with Palestinian people.