Two South Africans, part of the recently-intercepted Freedom Flotilla that attempted to break an eight year Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip, returned to South Africa via OR Tambo Airport on Wednesday morning. Dr. Clint Le Bruyns was on-board a standby vessel, while Ismail Moola provided logistical support for three boats and 50 crew and passengers. Both Le Bruyns and Moola were representing the Palestine Solidarity Alliance (PSA), an affiliate of the National Coalition for Palestine (NC4P).
The Freedom Flotilla, led by The Marianne, a Swedish boat sailing to Gaza from Greece, was carrying humanitarian goods when the vessel was intercepted early on Monday morning by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). The boat was towed to the Israeli port of Ashdod, and crew and passengers on board The Marianne detained in Tel Aviv.
Passengers included Israeli parliamentarian, Basel Ghattas; former Tunisian president Moncef Marzuki, and Spanish Member of the European Parliament, Ana Miranda. Ghattas and Marzuki have been released, but most of the Marianne’s crew are now being held in Givon prison in Israel. Israel’s boarding of the Marianne boar ship in international waters is legally prohibited. This is an act of piracy by Israel. Taser guns were also used on crew members by Israeli soldiers.
A similar attempt in 2010 by humanitarian activists, including one South African journalist, ended tragically when Israeli forces stormed the Mavi Marmara ship, killing nine unarmed humanitarian activists. In 2012, The Estelle also tried to break the Israeli siege on the Palestinian Gaza strip, and activists on board were badly tasered and beaten with clubs.
“By intercepting these humanitarian missions, the Israeli government chooses to enforce an inhumane and illegal collective punishment of 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza. Israel’s repeated acts of state piracy in international waters indicates that its occupation and blockade policy extends to the entire eastern Mediterranean Sea,” said the National Coalition for Palestine (NC4P) in a statement.
The NC4P is demanding that the Israeli government cease and desist the illegal detention of peaceful civilians travelling in international waters in support of humanitarian aid. We call on the Israeli government to immediately release the passengers and crew from The Marianne, still being held in an Israeli prison. All civil society organisations must condemn the actions of Israel.
“We will continue to respond and react to this injustice, until the port of Gaza is open and the siege and occupation of Palestine ends.” VOC