Laura Stuart recounts her experience of when Israeli forces attacked the Mavi Maramara.
Four and a half years on from the attack on the Freedom Flotilla in international waters by the Israel Defense Force (IDF), justice remains as elusive as ever. Last week some of the passengers, both Turkish and international were in the High Criminal Court in Istanbul for the 7th hearing of the trial.
Myself, and Ahsan Shamruk, a British/Israeli dual citizen of Palestinian heritage, were the first people to testify in front of a new judge that day. Later on, Kevin Neish, a Canadian citizen who testified last year, would be asked to take the stand to verify further questions about what he saw on board. Kevin’s photographs of the captured Israeli soldiers are very famous around the world. As footage of him explaining that captured Israeli soldiers had a booklet showing the photographs of the “most wanted” on each of the ships in the flotilla. Kevin was one of the last passengers to leave the Mavi Marmara at Ashdod 24 hours after the attack, and was not searched so he managed to keep his memory card.
There is no doubt that Kevin’s photographs of the soldiers, part of the “elite” IDF Special Forces unit Shayetet 13 were decidedly humiliating for the State of Israel.
Civilians overpowered then disarmed the soldiers the photographs were on the news and remain on the Internet for everyone to see.
It was absolutely our right to defend our boat against the invading Israelis, it was our home, we were in International waters with women and a child on board.
The soldiers were very lucky to only sustain light wounds in fact they were given treatment by one of our doctors and held later to be released back to their comrades.
During their release another Israeli soldier shot one of the doctors involved in the handover.
Quite a contrast to the humiliating treatment and degradation dished out to us by the Israelis when we were captives.
Ahsan’s disturbing evidence included his horror at being stripped and having to travel naked on the helicopter journey from the ship to hospital and the pain it caused him on his release from hospital a few days later on entering his home where his own mother didn’t recognize him and his sister fainted at the sight of his facial injuries.
You would expect that the British government would be pursuing justice on behalf of the 34 British citizens on board the Flotilla, but they are not. The reality is that our system of government is totally corrupted, no political party can function without money – donations have strings attached.
A lot of funds come from pro Israel individuals and lobby groups, it is clear our Governments hands are tied regarding attaining justice either for the Palestinians or for Flotilla passengers.
The same applies for all the European, Canadian and American passengers.
Buying politicians is cheaper and more expedient for Israel than spending millions defending their many human rights abuses, violations of International law and contraventions of United Nations resolutions in the courts of law.
In my testimony I related my experiences as a first aider trying to help with tens of men with bullet wounds, some bleeding heavily and little medical equipment. One of the men we gave heart massage to, the doctor shone a torch in his eyes and when no dilation occurred, the Doctor shook his head indicating he was dead. I also related how the Israelis had humiliated and made our time under their control as unpleasant as possible. All of the Flotilla passengers were kidnapped on the high seas, taken to Israel at gunpoint, strip-searched and ordered to sign a form saying we had entered Israel illegally or face prison. We went to prison of course.
During this visit to Istanbul I was alarmed and disheartened to learn that the judge for our case, Ümit Kaptan, has been demoted by order of the Ministry of Justice. A few days after issuing the arrest warrants for the four Israeli commanders at the 7th hearing last June Judge Kaptan who was then President of the 7th High Criminal Court 1st Degree was demoted to presiding in the 2nd Degree Criminal Court.
The arrest warrants were to be sent to Interpol where “Red Notices” should have been issued so that the fugitives could be arrested and brought to trial. Worryingly, the arrest warrants still sit at the Ministry of Justice apparently going nowhere. I asked as many people as possible as to why they believed this sad situation to be and all had the same reply: Turkey exists in a region of great turmoil with outside hands also making huge manipulations inside Turkey to cause schism and unrest, therefore there was a lack of will to create further turbulence particularly with Israel/U.S.A./U.K. which is one block in the eyes of the Turks.
An unjust world
Sadly this is the state of the world at present or at least the parts of the world where the Israeli government and its supporters have a strong influence. Murders, assassinations, injury and theft can take place in broad daylight and even in front of cameras yet justice will not be realised.
Our application to have our case heard at the International Criminal Court was turned down, at the same time they said it would be reasonable to say that a war crime took place on the Mavi Marmara, we are now appealing.
There are many examples of a rotten system that I can mention; Palestine, world banking, commodities speculation, CIA torture, child abuse in care by people in authority and the Government/MI5/police role in making sure paedophiles remained in their jobs.
Extra-ordinary rendition, drone assassinations, Guantanamo and so on. We live in times where political expediency predominates over justice. Tough luck for the victims.
My hopes, the hopes of the nine widows and many orphans and those with physical or psychological injuries from the Flotilla still have hope that our shuhadah did not die in vain. We are fully committed to ending Israeli impunity. We set out to break and end the siege of Gaza and we still have that intention, Erdogan made the lifting of the inhumane siege of Gaza one of the three conditions for normalising relations between Turkey and Israel. Israel has already met the first two after Netanyahu personally apologised earlier this year. Millions of dollars have also been offered to the widows but no one is interested in money whilst the siege remains.
No justice – no peace.
You can follow Laura on Twitter @gazaboatconvoy