Flotilla Eyewitness: ‘I Think They Went Out to Murder’

Posted on June 4, 2010


During the 3 days Israel held most of those detained in the attack on the Freedom Flotilla — including 60 journalists, according to Reporters Without Borders –Israel shaped the narrative of what occurred 70 miles off the coast of Gaza in the predawn hours of May 30.

Over the past few days, many of the international activists have returned to their home countries and a different picture is emerging. It’s the other side of the story.


British campaigner Sarah Colborne’s account of stunned surprise, flying bullets and death on board the Mavi Marmara is graphic and disturbing.

The weary activist – campaign and operations director for the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) – was visibly shaken as she recalled her ordeal, just hours after flying home from Turkey.

As she spoke, she was still wearing her grey prison uniform.

She speaks for about 10 minutes and then there’s some Q and A:

Henning Mankell is a best-selling Swedish novelist who says he accompanied the flotilla because he believes “so strongly in solidarity as an instrument to change the world, and I believe in dialogue, but it’s the action that proves the word.” He gave an interview to the Guardian:

In an exclusive interview with the Guardian in Berlin, Mankell, 62, described the “horrifying moment” when he realised the Israelis had chosen to attack the ships “deep in international waters”.

“Our idea had been a non-violent, non-fighting back method. But we soon realised the Israelis had chosen the real, real ugly solution to attack in international water ….

“I think the Israeli military went out to commit murder,” Mankell said. “If they had wanted to stop us they could have attacked our rudder and propeller, instead they preferred to send masked commando soldiers to attack us. This was Israel’s choice to do this.

“And it was the most stupid thing they could have done, because look around, Israel has never been so criticised in the world as of today, and if you ask me, this blockade will be over within the next six months.”

Mankell described being woken in the early hours of Monday morning with the news that Israeli troops were attacking the main protest ship, the Mavi Marmara, and an hour later abseiled from helicopters on to the deck of the Sofia, which was around a kilometre behind.

“We saw these black rubber boats coming with masked commando soldiers … they climbed aboard. They were very aggressive … there was an older man in the crew, he was perhaps a little slow and they shot him in the arm with an electric gun which is very, very painful … they shot another man with rubber bullets.”

The soldiers checked the boat and one soon returned saying they had found weapons, Mankell said.

“I have 24 witnesses to this, he showed me my razor, a one-time use razor, and a box cutter he’d found in the kitchen,” Mankell said. He said all his possessions were taken. “They stole my camera, my telephone … even my socks.”

Max Blumenthal asks, “was the raid really bungled? Did the Israeli military command and Netanyahu government have no clear strategy going in? Or was the violence they meted out against the flotilla activists deliberate and methodically planned?”

And asnwers:

Statements by senior Israeli military commanders made in the Hebrew media days before the massacre revealed that the raid was planned over a week in advance by the Israeli military and was personally approved by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak. The elite Israeli commando unit known as Unit 13 was tasked with carrying out the mission and its role was known by the Israeli public well before the raid took place. Details of the plan show that the use of deadly force was authorized and calculated. The massacre of activists should not have been unexpected.

On May 28, three days before the raid, top Israeli military officials revealed details of their strategy to Maariv, Israel’s most widely circulated paper. The caption of the Maariv article reflected the military command’s plan to use force: “On the way to violence; one of the boats is on its way.”