By Yanir Yagna
Israel Defense Forces soldiers used excessive force while taking over a Gaza-bound aid ship organized by Jewish and Israeli activists, the boat’s passengers said Tuesday, countering the military’s official version claiming that the takeover had been uneventful.
Irene Gaza boat – AP – Sept. 26, 2010
A boat with 9 Jewish activists aboard sets sail from Famagusta harbor in the Turkish-occupied north of ethnically divided Cyprus in a bid to breach Israel’s blockade of Gaza, Sept. 26, 2010
Photo by: AP
Earlier Tuesday the IDF reported that Israeli naval commandos peacefully boarded the Jewish aid boat attempting to break a naval blockade on Gaza, saying “IDF naval forces recently boarded the yacht ‘Irene’, and it is currently being led to the Ashdod seaport along with its passengers.”
However, testimonies by passengers who were released from police questioning later in the day seemed to counter the IDF’s claims, with Israeli activist and former Israel Air Force pilot Yonatan Shapira saying that there were “no words to describe what we went through during the takeover.”
Shapira said the activists, who he said displayed no violence, were met with extreme IDF brutality, adding that the soldiers “just jumped us, and hit us. I was hit with a taser gun.”
“Some of the soldiers treated us atrociously,” Shapira said, adding that he felt there was a “huge gap between what the IDF spokesman is saying happened and what really happened.”
The former IAF pilot said he and his fellow activists were “proud of the mission,” saying it was organized “for the sake of a statement – that the siege on Gaza is a crime, that it’s immoral, un-Jewish, and we have a moral obligation to speak out. Anyone who stays silent as this crime is being committed is an accessory to a crime.”
Eli Usharov, a reporter for Israel’s Channel 10 affirmed Shapira’s version of the events, telling Haaretz that the takeover was executed with unnecessary brutality.
“They used a taser gun against Yonatan. He screamed and was dragged to the military boat,” Usharov said, adding that both Yonatan and his brother Itamar were handcuffed.
The Channel 10 reporter also said that the activists managed to have a serious heart-to-heart conversation with the troops once they were all placed on board the military vessel, and that “overall the atmosphere was good.”
Reuben Moscowitz, a Holocaust survivor who took part in the mission, expressed his disbelief that “Israeli soldiers would treat nine Jews this way. They just hit people.”
“I as a Holocaust survivor cannot live with the fact that the State of Israel is imprisoning an entire people behind fences,” Moscowitz said, adding that “it’s just immoral.”
“What happened to me in the Holocaust wakes me up every night and I hope we don’t do the same thing to our neighbors,” Moscowitz said, adding that he was comparing “what I went through during the Holocaust to what the besieged Palestinian children are going through.”