A South African pro-Palestinian activist detained in Israel has been released and will arrive home on Friday. Leigh-Anne Naidoo was taken into custody along with 12 international activists, who formed part of an all-women crew aboard a vessel attempting to break the humanitarian blockade on Gaza. The delegation was arrested by the Israeli Defence Force when their boat, the Zaytouna Oliva, was intercepted in international waters on Wednesday, a few miles off the coast of the Gaza Strip.
Speaking to VOC on Friday morning, the South African coordinator for the Women’s Boat to Gaza (WBG) Zeenat Adam said they were relieved that Naidoo was finally released. The Wits academic is currently on a flight home, and will arrive at OR Tambo international airport by 3pm. However, Adam expressed concern at the lack of political will displayed by the South African government.
“The South African embassy did not go to see here. Fortunately, we had great Palestinian lawyers who managed to visit all the women and negotiate their release,” she said.
At least 7 IDF members, both male and female, boarded the Zaytouna-Oliva and commandeered the sailboat. In the course of their capture, the women persisted in telling the IDF that Israel’s interception of their boat was illegal and that they were being taken against their will to Israel.
On Thursday, Nobel peace laureate Mairead Maguire, who was onboard the vessel, described her ordeal.
“We were arrested, kidnapped, illegally, in international waters and taken against our wish into Israel,” she said.
“This has happened to me before. We will be deported and tragically not allowed back to see our friends in Palestine and Israel. This is totally illegal.”
Maguire, 1976 Nobel peace prize winner for her work to unite communities in Northern Ireland, pre-recorded a video message with other women on the boat expecting to be detained at sea.
In a statement, the Media Review Network (MRN) said the Freedom Flotilla, as in previous years has managed to deliver its message, even without physically docking in Gaza.
“Those blockaded there under inhumane conditions of siege, have been tracking its passage and are thus aware that the eyes of the international community are trained on their plight and that people, from around the world, are prepared to take substantial risks on their behalf,” said the MRN.
A number of Palestine solidarity activists and members of the Wits students movement are expected to welcome Naidoo at the airport and the public is urged to join. VOC