Israeli MP’s Night of Terror

Israeli MP’s Night of Terror
on Aid Ship

“Plan Was to Kill Activists and
Deter Future Convoys

Jonathan Cook
CounterPunch
June 2, 2010

Nazareth — An Arab member of the Israeli parliament who was on board
the international flotilla that was attacked on Monday as it tried to take
humanitarian aid to Gaza accused Israel yesterday of intending to kill peace
activists
as a way to deter future convoys.

Haneen Zoubi said Israeli naval vessels had surrounded the flotilla’s
flagship, the Mavi Marmara, and fired on it a few minutes before commandos
abseiled from a helicopter directly above them.

Terrified passengers had been forced off the deck when water was sprayed at
them. She said she was not aware of any provocation or resistance by the
passengers, who were all unarmed.

She added that within minutes of the raid beginning, three bodies had been
brought to the main room on the upper deck in which she and most other
passengers were confined. Two had gunshot wounds to the head, in what she
suggested had been executions.

Two other passengers slowly bled to death in the room after Israeli soldiers
ignored messages in Hebrew she had held up at the window calling for
medical help to save them. She said she saw seven other passengers seriously
wounded.

Israel had days to plan this military operation,” she told a press conference
in Nazareth. “They wanted many deaths to terrorise us and to send
a message that no future aid convoys should try to break the siege of Gaza.”

Released early yesterday by police, apparently because of her parliamentary
immunity
, she said she was speaking out while most of the hundreds of other
peace activists were either being held by Israel for deportation or were
under arrest.

Three other leaders of Israel’s large Palestinian Arab minority, including
Sheikh Raed Salah, a spiritual leader, were arrested as their ships docked in
the southern port of Ashdod. Lawyers said that under Israeli law they could
be held and questioned for up to 30 days without being charged.

Contradicting Israeli claims, Ms Zoubi said a search by the soldiers after they
took control of the Marmara discovered no arms or other weapons.

It was vital, she added, that the world demand an independent UN inquiry
to find out what had happened on the ship rather than allow Israel to carry
out a “whitewash” with its own military investigation.

Ms Zoubi spoke as Palestinians inside both Israel and the occupied
territories
observed a general strike called by their leaders. A statement from
the High Follow-Up Committee, the main political body for Israel’s
Palestinian citizens, described the raid on the flotilla as “state-sponsored
terrorism”.

Demonstrations and marches in most of the main Palestinian towns and
villages in Israel passed off quietly. Local analysts described the mood as
angry but subdued, not least because of the openly hostile climate that has
developed towards Palestinian citizens since crackdowns on their protests
during the Israeli attack on Gaza 18 months ago.

However, police were reported to have been put on high alert, with
thousands of extra officers drafted into the north, where most Palestinian
citizens live.

On Monday, clashes between protesters and police broke out close to the al
Aqsa mosque
in Jerusalem’s Old City and in the northern town of Umm
al Fahm after false rumours circulated that Sheikh Salah, the leader of Israel’s
main Islamic Movement, had been killed in the Israeli naval operation.

Even before the attack on the flotilla, the country’s Palestinian minority,
a fifth of the population, had been braced for a backlash from the
government and Jewish public for its leaders’ participation in the flotilla.
As the ships set sail, Ynet, Israel’s most popular news website, had asked
whether Ms Zoubi was an “MP in the service of Hamas”.

But faced with the severe diplomatic fall-out from Israel’s killing of peace
activists, Israel’s Palestinian leaders warned that they were likely to come
under even fiercer criticism in coming days.

Yesterday right-wing parties launched their first attacks on Ms Zoubi,
demanding the revocation of her immunity and her expulsion from the
parliament. Danny Danon, a member of the prime minister Benjamin
Netanyahu’s Likud party, called for her to be “tried for treason”.

In her statement on the attack, Ms Zoubi said that at 4am on Monday she
had seen at least 14 Israeli boats surround their ship 130km out at sea, in
international waters.

She said the passengers had been gripped with fear at the noise and
confusion as the commandos abseiled on to the deck. “I did not believe we
were going to survive more than five minutes,” she said.

Taleb al Sana, another Arab MP, supported Ms Zoubi’s contention that
Israeli claims that the commandos shot only at the passengers’ legs were
false. “I have visited the wounded in hospital and they all have shot
wounds to the head and body,” he said.

Adalah, a legal centre for Israel’s Arab minority, said nine lawyers had
been given limited access yesterday afternoon to the hundreds of activists
detained in the southern city of Beersheva and were trying to take
testimonies “in very difficult circumstances”.

Its lawyers and human rights groups were also trying to track down who
had been injured and where they being treated.

“Our view is that Israel is intentionally trying to obstruct this work and
is enforcing an information blackout,”* said Gaby Rubin, a spokeswoman
for Adalah.

A version of this article originally appeared in The National (Abu Dhabi).

Jonathan Cook is a British journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His reports
on Israel-Palestine have been published in numerous journals and websites
including the Guardian, the Observer, the Times, Al Jazeera, New Statesman,
International Herald Tribune, Al-Ahram Weekly (Cairo), The National
(Abu Dhabi), Electronic Intifada and Counterpunch. His latest book is
Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books,
2009). His two earlier books are Blood and Religion and Israel and the Clash of
Civilisations
(Pluto Books, 2006, 2008). Visit his website:
http://www.jkcook.net/index.html

http://www.counterpunch.org/cook06022010.html

Posted in Militarism and Foreign Policy