News Release

Israeli Forces Commandeer Gaza Boats

The group U.S. Boat to Gaza has just released a statement that begins: “Canadian and Irish ships, the Tahrir and the Saoirse, sailing with Freedom Waves to Gaza have been illegally boarded by the Israeli military in international waters, about 50 nautical miles from the coast of Gaza, around 9:30 am EDT. The IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] spokesperson confirmed that the vessels were taken to the port of Ashdod, and the passengers were taken into custody by the Israeli police. Although the IDF spokesperson claimed they took ‘every precaution to ensure the safety of the activists,’ Freedom Waves to Gaza organizers have been unable to communicate with the ships since soon after the vessels were approached by Israeli warships earlier this morning.”

JANE HIRSCHMANN, kaneri46 at gmail.com, also via Felice Gelman, rosahill at gmail.com
U.S. coordinator of the group, Hirschmann said today: “Had the passengers been permitted to proceed to Gaza rather than being stopped on the high seas by armed force, there would have been no threat to their safety. The IDF’s statement is like the mugger promising to escort his victim home safely.” The group states: “The Canadian boat Tahrir confirmed that the Israeli navy had contacted them asking for their destination at around 7 a.m EDT to which Ehab Lotayef, an activist on board the ship, replied ‘The conscience of humanity.’ When the Israelis again demanded to know the destination of the ship Lotayef replied ‘The betterment of mankind.’ … Passengers on the boats are citizens of Canada, Ireland, the U.S., Australia, and Palestine. The U.S. citizen on the Tahrir is Kit Kittredge of Quilcene, Washington. She is a massage therapist and emergency medical technician.” The passengers of the boats are now apparently being detained by the Israeli military.

ROBERT NAIMAN, naiman.uiuc at gmail.com
Currently in Cairo, Naiman is policy director of Just Foreign Policy. He intended to sail on the Canadian boat Tahrir, but was blocked when the Turkish authorities limited the number of passengers allowed on (the boat sailed from Turkey). Naiman said today: “As the Red Cross has clearly stated, the blockade of Gaza’s civilians is illegal under international humanitarian law. And as long as the blockade remains, civilians of other countries will continue to challenge it.” Naiman recently wrote the piece “Shalit Is Free. Lift the Siege of Gaza Now.

RAY McGOVERN, rrmcgovern at gmail.com
McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He served a total of 30 years as a U.S. Army officer and then a CIA analyst, and is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. He was a passenger on the U.S. Boat to Gaza the Audacity of Hope that was blocked in July. McGovern recently wrote “Israel’s Window to Bomb Iran,” which examines Israeli policy in light of its actions against peaceful flotillas.