For immediate release: contact: US Boat to Gaza,
New York, October 21, 3pm EDT – More than 24 hours after their illegal detention in international waters at 10 AM local time Saturday, Israeli authorities are still holding 21 passengers who were on board the Estelle which was sailing to Gaza when intercepted by Israeli forces, of whom three are Israeli and eighteen are internationals. There were originally 30 on board the boat from eight countries: Israel, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Greece, and Spain. Six have been deported and at this writing three are in the process of being deported.
Passengers on the Estelle, including Israeli combat veteran Yonatan Shapira, have reported that the passengers were tasered when Israeli forces commandeered the ship.
Israeli officials have claimed that there were no humanitarian goods onboard. In fact, the items in the cargo room of Estelle were: 2 olive trees; 41 tons of cement; wheelchairs; walkers; crutches; midwifery stethoscope; children’s books; toys; 300 footballs; musical instruments; theatrical equipment; VHF radio (for a ship); 1 anchor (the last two items were for the Gaza’s Ark project.) The ship was inspected at many ports. A video of the cement being loaded onto the ship is here.
“We call on the U.S. to use its influence with the Israeli government to ensure the Estelle passengers and crew are treated with dignity, that their rights as non-violent protesters are respected and that they all be released immediately,” said Jane Hirschmann, organizer of the U.S. Boat to Gaza.
Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University, said today: “It’s striking that while the Swedish Foreign Affairs Ministry has the moral clarity to say that it agrees with the Ship to Gaza that the border crossings must be opened and that the ship should have been allowed through, the U.S. State Department is silent about this gross violation of human rights and international humanitarian law.”
“I should say that every time Israel stops a boat, that’s another blow to its diminishing legitimacy and another element of support, both to the those who are resisting internally and to those who are opposing the policies outside, and sooner or later the wave will sweep over the barriers,” Noam Chomsky, who was visiting Gaza, told a news conference at Gaza port.
(www.freegaza.org / 21.10.2012)