Click below to read South African Clint le Bruyns’ personal account of the 2015 Gaza Freedom Flotilla…
Click below to read South African Clint le Bruyns’ personal account of the 2015 Gaza Freedom Flotilla…
Dr. Clint Le Bruyns describes how Israel tries to prevent his team from boarding the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and why they have to limit their communication.
Click on the link below to read his blog:
I also received the following update this morning (29 June 2015):
“4 hours 49 min ago:
News: The Israeli military (IDF) announces on their blog that they have boarded the fishing vessel Marianne of Gothenburg on it’s way to Gaza. All passengers will be transported to the Israeli seaport Ashdod within 12 to 24 hours. The fishing trawler Marianne of Gothenburg, a rebuilt trawler loaded with medical equipment and solar panels, was boarded in international waters. Ship to Gaza had last contact with the crew onboard 00.57AM (GMT+2).”
“Statement by Ship to Gaza Sweden
Press release Created Today at 09:32
Ship to Gaza’s Swedish-flagged fishing trawler Marianne of Gothenburg has been boarded by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) about 100 nautical miles from Gaza. Last contact with Marianne took place 00:57 Swedish time. According to information from the IDF, who does not deny that the attack took place far out in international waters, is the hijacked ship in this moment, along with the captured crew and passengers, brought to the Israeli seaport Ashdod, which they expect to reach during the day. Also this time there were active MPs among participants of the flotilla, as well as Tunisia’s former president.
Ship to Gaza Sweden protest against this flagrant abuse of the freedom of navigation. Israel’s repeated acts of piracy in international waters are worrying signs that the occupation and blockade policy extends to the entire eastern Mediterranean.
We demand that Marianne be returned, and that her crew and passengers will be immediately released, so that they can continue their journey to their destination in Gaza.
We urge our government and the international community to take immediate action against daily violations of international law and human rights under Israeli blockade and occupation.
The three boats Rachel, Vittorio and Juliano II who followed Marianne has now according to plan turned back towards Greek ports.”
Why does someone like fellow activist Clint le Bruyns* risk his life by sailing to Gaza? Did Israel not kill nine unarmed activists in a similar attempt?
When reading the news of Israel’s horrific attack on the 2009 Gaza Freedom Flotilla I was sitting at a desk in Berlin where I studied at the time. Then I had no idea that I would become involved in the plight of the Palestinians and that six years later the very person who introduced me to the matter would be on his way to Gaza in another Flotilla.
Dr Clint le Bruyns – theologian, scholar, Kairos colleague and human rights activist – is one of the more than 50 crew and passengers on his way to be part of yet another attempt to break the siege on Gaza and to provide much needed humanitarian aid. With him are a former Tunisian president, athletes, academics, parliamentarians, diplomats, journalists and a Catholic nun who want to reach the port of Gaza and call on the international community to open it:
According to the official website of Freedom Flotilla III their purpose is not to act against Israel, but against occupation:
Our actions would not be needed, if governments worldwide and international bodies like the EU and the UN would take steps to ensure accountability of Israeli governments for war crimes and collective punishment against the 1.8 million Palestinian population in Gaza Strip. We welcome voices from Israel who publicly state that the State of Israel is not threatened by the action against the blockade.
The international community should stop turning a blind eye on the blockade and occupation and take steps urgently towards the direction of ensuring the opening of the port in Gaza, the only port of Palestine to the rest of the world.
The Israeli-Arab Knesset member Basel Ghattas from the Arab Joint List, before boarding a converted fishing trawler the Marianne of Gothenburg, which is leading the convoy, said: “It is my right and moral obligation to tell the world, ‘Behold, look, in Gaza there is a closure and two million people are on the brink of explosion'”:
Israel’s right-wing is now moving to penalize MK Ghattas for his participation in a legitimate political action of people from all around the world.
The activists are not alone. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of activists from all over the world, sail with them in spirit.
The Gaza Freedom Flotilla is a public cry for peace and a plea for justice. It is a demonstration of all that is good in humanity. It celebrates unity across religious traditions, cultures, gender and race.
A year ago I sat nailed before my TV screen as Israel bombarded Gaza:
According to the UN Human Rights Council report, there were 6000 airstrikes on the Palestinian Gaza Strip including “targeted attacks on [Palestinian] residential and other buildings.” These Israeli attacks resulted in 142 Palestinians families having “three or more members killed in the same incident”. The report says that “in many of the cases examined…there is little or no information as to how [Palestinian] residential buildings, which are prima facie civilian objects immune from attack, came to be regarded as legitimate military objectives [by Israel].
Justice Mary McGowan Davisto, chair of the UN investigation commission said that Israel’s killing of thousands of Gaza civilians and their destruction to the lives of many more in the summer of 2014 were ”unprecedented and will impact generations to come.”
The Israel of today is more right-wing than on 30 May 2009 when the nine activists on the Mavi Marmara were killed, and even more right-wing than in the summer of 2014. The newly elected Netanyahu regime and its allies cling neurotically to an unjust system of discrimination and neglect. They tighten the desperation of their grip by instilling fear amongst Jewish Israeli civilians; by claiming that God gives them the right to dispossess and extinguish Palestinians; and by feeding the greed of power-hungry political and business players as fast as they can.
Meanwhile Israel has the highest poverty rate among countries in the developed world (see the findings of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development or OECD). In other words the Israeli government, with the financial and political help of the USA, spends billions of dollars on illegal, unjust warfare and occupation instead of building a just, sustainable society. Israel denies its own Arab citizens, the Palestinians in diaspora and those trapped in Gaza, the West Bank and in East Jerusalem decent lives and basic human rights. Who benefits? The politicians who for ever want more power and the business elites who militarize the world for profit. It is a shame. Then there are of course those who are led by the nose, or who are too self-absorbed or too scared to confront the injustices, and those who believe in a God who favours some lives more than others. This too is a disgrace.
Humanity can do better! Clint and the other activists on the Freedom Flotilla represent the moral voice of the global civil society. They can do with our support. They have had very good non-violent training, but of course we know what Israel is capable of. Let us take hands with these activists who want the siege of Gaza to end in a just, non-violent manner. We can do it with our energy – wherever we are.
* Dr. Clint Le Bruyns (second from the left) is Director and Senior Lecturer: Theology and Development Programme at the Pietermaritzburg campus of the University of Kwazulu Natal in South Africa. Ismail Moola of the Palestine Solidarity Alliance (SA) and others are providing logistical support for all activists on board the flotilla. (This photograph was taken at the Cape Town airport when comrades welcomed me home after Israel denied me entry without giving a reason.)
Some interesting findings from the newly released UN Gaza Report –
…all rejected together with the rest of the report by Israel and its funder, the Obama Administration:
An article in the newspaper Star (13 March 2014, by Solly Mapaila ) correctly argues that the Jewish democracy’s laws and practices fall squarely into the United Nations’ definition of apartheid. In other words, Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians is not defined in terms of the former South African situation, but in terms of international law which calls apartheid a crime against humanity (Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court 2002). The International Criminal Court’s definition of apartheid is
“the systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime” (2002:6).
In 2012 the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination found Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territories “tantamount to Apartheid” and that
“many state policies within Israel also violate the prohibition on Apartheid as enshrined in Article 3 of the Convention.” (Erakat & Madi 2012)
Prior to that, in November 2011, the Russell Tribunal in Cape Town articulated similar findings.
Human Rights Watch in turn published a report titled “Israel/West Bank: Separate and Unequal” (2010) which details Israel’s discriminatory practices against the indigenous Palestinians.
And in 2009, the South African Human Sciences Research Council (2009:277) concluded their in-depth report as follows:
“Both colonialism and apartheid are prohibited by international law. This Report has found strong evidence to indicate that Israel has violated, and continues to violate, both prohibitions in the occupied Palestinian territories.”
An international team of scholars and practitioners of international public law from South Africa, the United Kingdom, Israel and Palestine conducted the study.
As we benefitted from the world’s active support in demolishing apartheid, one would imagine that South Africans would now keenly respond to a plea to the international community for non-violent resistance against Israel’s discrimination, oppression and occupation of Palestinians.
What is so shocking, is that so many South Africans do not know, or are not willing to acknowledge Israel’s apartheid crimes. The very people who suffered under apartheid and those who used to support apartheid, but say they have since changed, are now focusing on their own lives, their own comfort and their own problems and they turn a blind eye to another people who also suffer under apartheid. They forget that Palestinians helped to campaign for justice in South Africa during the apartheid struggle.
Does it mean that our transition to a post-apartheid psyche has only been cosmetic? In other words, is the change in our society superficial and not principled? Are we settling for pragmatic changes? Or perhaps we are ignorant about Israel’s crimes against humanity? Are we too comfortable to rock the boat?
Why do we turn away and continue to romanticise Israel? Why do we confuse the modern state with the Biblical entity? Why do Christians travel to the Holy Land and then ignore the descendents of the first Christians in the old city of Jerusalem, in Bethlehem, Jericho, Nablus, Hebron and elsewhere in Palestine? For how long must these people suffer while we, post-apartheid South Africans, look away and/or support Israel as some hero? Can we really be happy, content and fulfilled as a new nation if we ignore a repetition of apartheid? Is it fair to hide behind our own national issues and forget the world’s (and the Palestinians’) support in demolishing apartheid here?
If you want to know more, make sure to attend and participate in this year’s Israeli Apartheid Week. Our national initiatives from part of a worldwide campaign.
Find the schedule of activities in more than 45 cities and towns here.
Erakat, N. & Madi, R. 2012. UN Committee 2012 Session Concludes Israeli System Tantamount to Apartheid. [Online]. Jadaliyya. Available: http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/5588/un-committee-2012-session-concludes-israeli-system. [2014, 13 March].
Human Sciences Research Council. 2009. Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid? A re-assessment of Israel’s practices in the occupied Palestinian territories under international law. Cape Town: HSRC.
Roadmap to Apartheid. 2012. Dir.: Ana Nogueira, Eron Davidson, Nathaniel Cunningham. Cinematography: Ana Nogueira. Narrator: Alice Walker. United States of America. ? ? min. English. Prod.: Ana Nogueira & Eron Davidson. Studio??
Russell Tribunal on Palestine. 2011. Executive summary of the ﬁndings of the third session of the RToP. A systematic and institutionalised regime. [Online]. Available: http://www.russelltribunalonpalestine.com/en/sessions/south-africa/south-africa-session-%E2%80%94-full-findings/cape-town-session-summary-of-findings. [2013, 21 September].
United Nations. 2002. Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. [Online]. Available: http://untreaty.un.org/cod/icc/statute/english/rome_statute%28e%29.pdf. [2012, 11 October].
Everyone should hear how a former IDF soldier explains the similarities of what his grandmother experienced in Auschwitz and why he has to speak out against Israel and the USA. Eran Efrati is a former IDF soldier who recounts his experience, assignments and killing protocols along with what he witnessed as a soldier to Aby Martin:
Click here for the YouTube interview.
It is not the first time that Banksy, a street artist revered by millions for his socio-political commentary on the walls of the world, has been to the occupied Palestinian territories. His graffiti are on the segregation wall in Bethlehem and in Ramallah, and now also on the ruins of Gaza:
There are different ways to position yourself as superior to others, but the message stays the same.
Some methods may be more sophisticated or subtle than others. Miroslav Volf (1996:74-75), for example, mentions both obvious forms of exclusion such as domination and more nuanced forms such as assimilation whereby others are expected to fit into the dominating or existing way of doing things. Yet another form of exclusion entails rejection by not taking cognizance of others. A subtle yet very damaging form of exclusion is symbolic exclusion whereby we refuse to engage with others in such a way that we really learn to know them but rather choose to serve our own interests.
In a new book with the title “Palestine in Israeli School books” Israeli language and education professor Nurit Peled-Elhanan shows how an anti-Palestinian ideology is promoted in the minds of Israel’s youth through the use of exclusion and absence in Israeli school books:
“(N)one of the textbooks studied here includes, whether verbally or visually, any positive cultural or social aspect of Palestinian life-world: neither literature nor poetry, neither history nor agriculture, neither art nor architecture, neither customs nor traditions are ever mentioned” (49).
“The books studied here present Israeli-Jewish culture as superior to the Arab-Palestinian one, Israeli-Jewish concepts of progress as superior to Palestinian-Arab way of life and Israeli-Jewish behavior as aligning with universal values” (230)
Click on the link below to read the full book review on Electronic Intifada:
During my time in the West Bank I visited several schools and also did research for Save the Children. I never encountered an ideology in their education system that belittle Israelis. Instead my team members and I found children that are very scared of the Israelis. (I’ve written several posts about it which you can find by typing “Children in armed conflict” in my blog’s “search” facility.)
Below are some photos I took of Palestinian children:
Being searched by Israeli soldiers on their way to and from school:
Volf, M. 1996. Exclusion & Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation. Nashville: Abingdon Press.
Peled-Elhanan, N. 2014. Palestine in Israeli School Books: Ideology and Propaganda in Education (Library of Modern Middle East Studies). Tauris Academic Studies.
Whether you are non-religious, Jewish, Christian, Muslim or from another faith… please allow me to share with you wishes for goodness, inclusivity, compassion, peace and dignity in this festive time.
It is true, as Christians we often fail to live these values. But Christmas reminds us of what really matters in life – human dignity, peace, love and life for all. May we remember that we are co-creators of in our lives. How we live matters. Our thoughts and actions participate in the shaping of our realities. May we all experience more justice, peace and love in our lives.
I planned to be in Bethlehem this year for the illuminating of the gigantic Christmas tree on Manger Square, but as you can read in another post, I was denied entry by Israel. I share with you some links I found on the internet:
My friends Carol Martin, Clint le Bruyns and Terry Crawford-Browne and members of the Action Forum for Palestine and surprised me by being there when I arrived at Cape Town International Airport.
I also received many, many messages of support from all over the country, even from people whom I do not know. How very wonderful to experience such comradely support!
My camera captured the Allenby Bridge* as we crossed it at 11:00 on 1 December 2014. We were excited and on our way to the Kairos Palestine conference in Bethlehem in occupied Palestine.
On 10 March 2014 Raed Zuayter, a distinguished judge and PhD holder, was killed by Israeli soldiers while crossing in a similar bus to the one I was sitting in. Zuayter was a Jordanian citizen of Palestinian origin. He was unarmed and a-political. His family is part of the Palestinian diaspora—refugees who had fled ethnic cleansing in 1948, war in 1967, and the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. “How is his family and especially his wife coping?” I wondered. Judge Zuayter had travelled across the border to collect rental money to cover the medical expenses of their sick child. He never returned home and the child passed away in the same week. (Click here for more information.)
In reading the rest of this post you may find the style to be mechanistic, staccato and distanced. I am sorry about it, but right now, I struggle to phrase the unfolding events differently.
At the Israeli border post we had to put our luggage onto a conveyor belt that led into the building. Those of us from Africa had to remain outside to undergo Ebola virus screenings. After waiting for approximately half an hour an official told us to stand on the central ridge of the road. It felt odd: a number of people standing in the sun for a number of minutes before being summoned back. We returned to our seats and were called one by one. A doctor took our temperatures. Those who were declared healthy could enter the building.
At the counter on the inside I was asked where I was heading to, why I wanted to go there, and so forth. Behind the glass screen the lady pointed to something on her computer screen whereupon her colleague said I should be screened. This is what I did not want.
After waiting for about an hour I was taken to a room. They locked the door and asked me to unpack my handbag and my small backpack with my tablet and a few personal items. My body was searched by a female soldier. I was told to take my purse, to hand over my phone and to leave everything else in the room. A man guided me to another room.
The fairly polite man made lotso of notes on a computer while a young woman with an incredibly smooth, beautiful cappacino-coloured skin questioned me. She kept her hands in the pockets of her jacket as if she was cold. It was winter, but I could not feel any cold. “Why are they not googling me?” I thought. Before leaving South Africa I closed my social media accounts, but I could of course not shut down the internet. They asked lots of things including why I returned to Israel for a third time, what I did on my previous visits, who I know there, and what were in my luggage. There were many questions, but I think I’m blocking some of them out of my memory.
The man called another young woman. She ignored me and they spoke in Hebrew. She left. The questions continued. They wanted to know what I do for a living. I told them I am a researcher and I spoke about the piece on policy making processes in South Africa that I finished days before my departure. They did not know that South Africans still struggle to build a better life for all. The questions continued. I felt calm knowing very well that they were constructing a profile of me on their system.
The second woman re-entered. Her tone was markedly different. She was visibly angry and irritated. It is perhaps correct to say that she was hateful. She fired groups of questions at me. When was the last time I saw so-and-so? Why do I have only stamps of Ethiopia and Namibia in my passport besides those of Israel? Where was my old passport? Why didn’t I have it with me? Whenever I answered, she interrupted me or sneered at what I had said. It was clear that she had done an internet search whilst the other two had recorded my personal details. Still, she wasn’t sure exactly where I fit in. She knew about NC4P (South Africa’s National Coalition for Palestine) and the Cape Town March for Gaza. They were also very aware of BDS (the international boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign), but said nothing about our local boycott of Woolworths.
She wanted to know exactly what roles I play. I told her that besides being a member of Kairos Southern Africa and a researcher at Stellenbosch University, I hold no other positions. She was doing her best to intimidate and unnerve me. I remained calm and polite. She was so very desperate to find an enemy in me and I refused to be it. All of this went on for about four or five hours. I don’t remember how it ended or at which point they gave up on me. However I do remember asking if having my profile on their system meant that I cannot enter Israel now or in future. The man said it is not up to them to say, they are just doing their job. He offered me something to drink and I asked for tea.
With my phone, but without my passport they took me to a narrow corridor with a row of chairs. After a while someone brought me about 100ml of weak tea in a white plastic cup. At last it was just me and a Palestinian woman with two young people – perhaps her children – sitting on the chairs. When the woman asked me if I was cold I realised that my legs were shivering uncontrollably. Even with effort I could not still them. I was still not feeling any cold.
The woman was summoned inside. While a man shouted loudly at her, her daughter stood listening on our side of the locked door. The woman came out, went back in, came out, went back in, waited once more and after a while the three of them were taken away. They received no tea. I don’t know where they were taken to.
All the while soldiers entered the doors to the left and to the right of the corridor. They slammed the doors loudly. We seemed to have been reduced to invisible particles of dust.
More time passed.
I sent a text message to the South African Ambassador in Jordan to say that I may need his help in fetching me and/or my colleagues later that night. At that stage my biggest worry was about them. Where were they? What happened to them? We agreed to not text one another in case one or more of us were interrogated.
At around 22:00 yet another woman instructed me to fetch my handbag and backpack, to follow her out of the corridor and to sit in the hall. The image on the wall was to say the very least, totally out of place and deceiving – there was nothing normal, free or colourful about the situation:
I went through my hand luggage. My tablet was switched on and my book mark was missing.
I now started to remember my two pieces of luggage that entered the building on the conveyor belt when the sun was still shining. From where I sat I could see that they were not on the moving belt. By now I was indeed shivering from cold. I asked an official how and when I could try to find my bags and she opened a side gate and accompanied me to the other side of the hall. Finding both pieces and being able to put it on a trolley that I could push gave me a sudden sense of belonging. I had stuff. I had a life, a history, a place, a face.
During the course of the eleven hours they detained me, I passed through the hands of fourteen or more people. All seemed to just do their job without anyone accepting responsibility for the person or the situation. A Palestinian friend who is well acquinted with this situation described it in an email to me as “a sea of uncertainty, temporality, emergency and hopelessness.”
I texted my colleague Rev Edwin Arrison in South Africa. He told me that my two colleagues went through after seven hours of interrogation. Two more sets of people came to ask questions. I was relieved to hear that my visa was about to be issued. I waited.
Then a young man summoned me abruptly to follow him. As I stood up to follow the man who was already metres away, I realised that he was walking in the wrong direction. With a voice like the bark of a dog and without eye contact he said I was not allowed to enter Israel, but must wait outside the building. And there I was, one middle-aged woman dressed in pink with no sharp objects or explosives in her luggage (they searched my other bags too) under the guard of five armed soldiers, waiting in the cold of the winter’s night for the bus to return to the Jordan border post.
It all happened in such an abrupt, disjointed way. Perhaps similar to the way I tell the story. But actually it was a carefully orchestrated process, designed to humiliate, to provoke, to intimidate and to punish. Why not refuse me from the start and let me go? They seemed so desperate to find an enemy in me. Yet I refuse to allow the behaviour of others to dictate my own.
I am convinced that not all Jewish Israelis are bad people even though so many of them do bad things to other people. I do not hate them. I see their desperation to cling to an outdated narrative of a small, threatened people in a sea of hate. What they don’t realise is that they are held captive by their own choice!
It was cold outside the building. I asked to use the bathroom. A porter with an Arabic accent, a man who is no longer young (perhaps an Arab Palestinian Israeli?) rushed to my side from nowhere. He insisted on taking my trolley as a gesture of help and directed me to an opening in the wall of the building that was next to the hole of the conveyor belt. Like a real gentleman he parted plastic panels so that I could walk through it. He helped me pass the security gate and he watched over my things while I went to the restroom. When I returned, he helped me out again in a similar manner. He made me feel as if I was the most honoured person to have ever visited that border post.
When the bus eventually departed, I was the only passenger in it. Dr Molefe Tsele, South African Ambassador to Jordan, and one of his colleagues, met me around 01:00 on the Jordan side. He brought me a flask of hot tea and some biscuits.
By that time my passport carried two red stamps, but it was back in my handbag. I am still South African. I am free.
If you have read up to here, you probably realise that this post is a raw account. When I’m ready I shall try to reflect on the experience more coherently and perhaps also share some details of my simply wonderful encounter with family members of the murdered Judge Zuayter on my second day in Amman.
Finally – here is a short video recording made at Cape Town International Airport on my arrival – click here to listen to it.
* Allenby Bridge is called King Husain Bridge by the Jordanians.
Brands and share value are, to a large extent, based on sentiment and perceptions.
In this case, whether the issue is about a few pretzels and pomegranates as some argue, or about people who are killed, robbed, tortured and oppressed as others argue, is not the only issue. The Woolworths arrogance is now pushing the #BoycottWoolworths campaign to the main stream media – a disaster for the Woolworths brand.
Listen here what happened at the Woolworths Annual General Meeting:
Woolworths declined SABC’s invitation to participate in this and in other media discussions.
It is alarming that Woolworths refused to meet with BDS before a court ordered them to do so. Moreover, their arrogant refusal to talk about their ethical stance at the AGM for shareholders express their disregard of consumer and shareholder needs.
As shareholders we thought the Woolworths campaign is about a just freedom for Palestinians. But now it seems as if the matter is also about corporate governance!
All shareholders, those who fight for pretzels and pomegranates from Israel as well as those fighting for Palestinian rights should expect Woolworths to resolve the matter with BDS and to uphold the kind of ethos they say they stand for.