In an exclusive interview with Press TV, Kevin Ovenden, survivor of the Mavi Marmara Gaza-bound aid flotilla, tells us that the recently released UN report uses very mild language to explain Israel’s brutal slaying of eight Turkish citizens and one Turkish-American citizen aboard the Freedom Flotilla in May, 2010.
Press TV: First off, Kevin, before we get into the legalities or lack of them about this report, just recap for people what happened – you were there. You survived it – on the Mavi Marmara on May 31 of last year.
Ovenden: As you say, George, the ship was in international waters. It was well over 16 nautical miles away from the Palestinian coast.
The ship was boarded, brutally, by Israeli forces from the air and from the sea at about 25 minutes past four in the morning. It was pitch black. There were women, old men, and young people all aboard the ship.
Press TV: Archbishops? Top clerics of all kinds?
Ovenden: Archbishops. Top clerics.
The Israeli forces began opening fire almost immediately as they landed aboard the ship. First of all, with rubberized bullets – that’s rubber coated bullets with a steel core – and then seconds after that, with live bullets.
I, myself, saw a man, a very talented Turkish journalist who was holding a stills-camera who was shot through the forehead with a high-velocity bullet, blowing away the back third of his skull. There’s no conceivable way that anyone can claim that that man was a threat to the people who rang out those shots.
Press TV: The United Nations report, if we can glorify it with that title, does make the point that almost all of the victims were shot many times and, also, at close range…
Ovenden: And many of them in the back.
Press TV: …And in the back. So, the claim that the Israeli action used excessive force, it’s surely the mildest thing that could have been said in the circumstances.
Ovenden: Well, the language is incredibly mild. Talks of excessive force and unreasonable force, and then in a remarkable passage it says that they’ve not received a satisfactory answer from the Israelis as to how nine people were shot dead, some in the head, most in the back, and many multiple times.
Unsatisfactory is the kind of language that you get from your child’s math teacher if they’d failed the test. I think most people in the world would see this as something more than unsatisfactory.
Press TV: And how do they come up with the conclusion that boarding a ship and killing people on it in international waters is legitimate?
Ovenden: It’s important to return to the point you were touching on in the beginning which is that this is not really a United Nations report. It hasn’t emanated from the normal bodies which inquire into these things, the United Nations Human Rights Commission or the United Nations Human Rights Council, both of which have produced reports and recommendations which fly in the face of the worst suspects, the highly questionable aspects of this report.
This was a special report, politically commissioned and politically motivated to report directly to the UN General Secretary. And its aim, and this is the reason why it’s been repeatedly delayed, was to try to come up with a form of words which would be acceptable to Israel but that is also critical enough of Israel in order to be acceptable to the Turkish government and the Turkish public opinion.
Indeed, the report says that its main recommendation is that Turkey and Israel should restore full diplomatic relations for the interests of, well, “Justice, Peace, the Truth?” No, for wider stability inside the Middle East.
So, the underlying reason, I would say, why they could come up with this extraordinary claim is that this was a politically driven and a politically motivated report. And it flies in the face of the UN Human Rights Commission herself, and of the UN Human Rights Council which comprises 47 member states and produced a very thorough, comprehensive report last year.
The UN Human Rights Council actually booked up the trouble to interview 100 people who were witnesses to what took place on the Mavi Marmara. This report has interviewed nobody.
Press TV: If it’s purpose was to lash up Turkey and Israel back together, that’s been a total failure, hasn’t it, because on Friday, the Turkish expelled the Israeli ambassador. What do you think is going to happen next?
Ovenden: Completely. All that the Turkish government was asking for and has been asking for through this period of horse trading of the last nine months is for Israel to undeservedly apologize for killing eight Turkish citizens and one Turkish-American citizen.
The Israeli government has pointblank refused to apologize and, hence, the Turkish Foreign Minister this week has called for, and we believe the expulsion will take place next week, of the Israeli ambassador.
This is, I think, one of those instances where the supporters of Israel have done Israel no favors at all because instead of them being able to strengthen Israel’s position, in fact, it’s solidified Turkish public opinion behind the government which was freshly elected with a new mandate in wanting to secure justice for the victims of the Mavi Marmara, and, crucially, for standing by the position of the international community of the Red Cross and the UN Human Rights Commission which is at the siege on the people of Gaza is illegal.
Press TV: Well, I wanted to come to that because you are one of the main leaders of Viva Palestina and its siege-breaking convoys, five of which have set off from parts around the world. And I understand there’s a sixth about to do so. Tell the viewers something about that.
Ovenden: There is indeed a sixth convoy. It’s heading off from London and it’s picking up on route in December of this year. Its aim is to be at the gates at Rafah, between Egypt and Palestine, Gaza, on December 27 which will be the third anniversary of the beginning of Operation Cast Lead which cost the lives of over 1400 Palestinians in Gaza, most of them women and children, nearly all of them civilians.
And the convoy’s already picking up tremendous international support from South Africa, which will be a first for the Viva Palestina convoy, from Malaysia, again, from throughout the Arab region, and from the United States.
Press TV: And New Zealand, I think, are interested in coming again.
Ovenden: New Zealand, Australia already have a fundraising operation going.
So, what’s happening is, I think, that the reception that this report – this politically commissioned and politically directed report for Ban Ki Moon – will have around the world will further propel people into supporting missions to end this siege, to bring peace, and to bring humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza.
You know, it’s not asking a lot to say that just because people voted one way, you shouldn’t starve the women and children of that region because of the way they are.
Press TV: All the Viva Palestina convoys so far have entered Egypt under the period of the dictatorship. This will be the first Viva Palestina convoy to arrive in Egypt whether in Alexandria, as the organizers hope, or in worst case at Al-Arish, in the new Egypt, the free Egypt which will have elected a free parliament for the first time by then. What sort of response do you expect in Egypt?
Ovenden: Well, wherever we arrive in Egypt, and however much time we can spend in Egypt, we would like to spend some days there meeting the people in a way that we were previously unable to under the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak, I’m sure, and we are already getting this response from the people in Egypt, that the feeling of people will be overwhelmingly supportive.
We should remember that one of the great cries of shame in Egypt during the dictatorship was that just as Israel dropped the bombs nearly three years ago on the people of Gaza, Hosni Mubarak shut the door and turned the lock on the people of Gaza. And that wasn’t the position, the feeling of the vast majority of the people in Egypt.
Press TV: Quickly, tell me how the people join the convoy?
Ovenden: They should go to vivapalesina.org, they should look at the website, sign up for the information and fill in the registration form.
(www.presstv.ir / 07.09.2011)