Mavi Marmara eyewitnesses speak

Issue 
In May, Israeli commandos attacked the Mavi Marmara and shot dead nine Palestine solidarity activists. Cartoon: Carlos Latuff

On May 31, Australian activists Ahmed Talib and Jerry Campbell were on board the Mavi Marmara, in international waters, en route to Gaza to deliver much needed aid to its besieged residents. Israeli commandos attacked the ship and shot dead nine solidarity activists. Talib was one of several activists shot and wounded. He and Campbell described the attack at a September 22 forum sponsored by Justice For Palestine.

Talib said: “The Israeli siege of Gaza had continued for three years, with world governments and international organisations not really doing anything against it.”

Campbell added: “We were not going to leave it to governments. It is up to the ordinary people of the world to deal with this urgent human rights issue.”

“We were told that the people of Gaza were preparing a big welcome for us when we arrived”, Talib said. “Morale was high aboard the Mavi Marmara. No one expected the slaughter which followed.”

In the middle of the night, Israeli zodiac speedboats surrounded the ships, firing gas bombs and stun grenades. The people on deck on the Mavi Marmara shouted, "We're not letting you on!"

“Then suddenly, helicopters arrived overhead, and immediately live shots were fired from the air, with no warning”, Talib said. “I was shot through the leg, and later passed out. Some of the activists who'd been shot, later bled to death because we just didn't have enough medical supplies.”

"The Israeli troops were there for a fight, for a bloodbath," Campbell said. "Yet those Israeli soldiers who were captured were being treated by the ship's staff, for minor wounds like cuts. There were no weapons in the hands of the activists, no guns or other weapons except sticks.”

Talib said: “The Israeli soldiers brought in dogs, machine guns, threatened the people, and threw the wounded onto the floor, kicked me and other injured people. I was forced to crawl up the stairs, even though I was still bleeding badly.

“They tried to humiliate us, to brutalise us, but we were defiant. They denied us water and treatment, all the way from the ship by helicopter, and by ambulance to hospital after we arrived in Israel. The Israeli military and police tried to interrogate us, but we refused to answer them.”

Campbell explained that the rest of the activists aboard the Mavi Marmara and other vessels were seized, handcuffed very tightly, searched and left for hours on the deck in the glaring sun.

“They tried everything to break us down, but were unsuccessful”, she said. “I kept asking where Ahmed was, but the Israelis wouldn't say. They interrogated us, accused us of all sorts of crimes, but a number of us refused to sign any document or leave the prison until we got answers.

“No one from the Australian government has spoken to us, no legal support has been provided.”

“Of course, we would go again if we have the chance”, said Talib.

“People around the world have responded to the attack on the aid flotilla. What happened to us has only made us stronger in our determination to assist the Palestinian people.

“There is now a change in public opinion about Gaza and Palestine. The oppression of the Palestinian people is related to other forms of injustice in the world. Palestine is now a symbol of resistance to oppression internationally.”

[Visit www.justiceforpalestinebrisbane.org .]