Speaking from Ramallah on a radio interview with the Democracy Now radio program, Amira Hass gave one of the few accounts publicly available about what happened during the Israeli Navy’s interception and commandeering of the yacht, Dignity, that was tring to sail to Gaza.
NOTE: Amira Hass usually refuses to give interviews.
UPDATE: Her own account has been published by Haaretz, in English, on Sunday 24 July here — in which she describes “discomfort as an act of political rebellion”. And, she wrote in her article, about “the contradiction of which everyone was aware: The means (a sea voyage to protest the siege of Gaza ) had turned into the end itself. The adventure had become the goal. And this boat would sail!” Countering the accusations of “lying”, made by the IDF chief spokesman himself, partly to justify the commandeering of the yacht, Amira Hass wrote in Haaretz that “The official destination was Alexandria. The idea was to refuel there and then to continue to Gaza. That plan was abandoned out of a desire not to become involved in the sensitive political entanglements in Egypt”…
Amira Hass’ interview was aired by Democracy Now on Thursday 21 July, a day after 15 of the others on board were apparently deported [including the jounalists???]. The transcript of her remarks is posted here.
She told Democracy Now:
Some 60 miles away from Gaza, we got the signal from an Israeli warship asking where we were heading to. One of the—one on board said, “To Gaza.” Then they said, “It’s illegal. It’s not allowed.” The person—it’s Professor Vangelis Pissias, the Greek—tried to explain that this is a mission of peace and solidarity. There are no arms, no cargo, just wishing to reach Gaza. And they were replied again by, “No, this is not legal, or not allowed.” Immediately then, all communication was jammed. We could not call anymore. We could not get calls anymore. The internet did not work.
And soon after, we saw four commando boats, very quick, very fast boats, approaching us. Masked men were aiming their rifles at us. They were, of course, in uniforms, IDF uniforms. They were aiming all sorts of guns that I don’t even know how to name them. There were two cannon—two of them had—each of them had a cannon, a water cannon. Then, three more were added to the four. They distanced a bit, then returned.
At around 2:00, they approached, started to use the water cannon, and shouted something. One of on board, Dror Feiler, who is an Israeli, shouted back in Hebrew. Another activist, Claude Léostic of France, said, “This is—we are on the way to Gaza. This is international water. You have no right to impound us.” And yet, they managed to enter on board.
It was not violent as the former flotillas or the boats that were in past years, when they attacked people physically. But the very act, of course, is violent, the very act of—imagine 10 vessels, three warships and seven gunboats, attacking this small bucket. We looked like a bucket rocking in the sea. This was very violent. But physically, we were spared what—the fate that was the one of the Mavi Marmara…
Amira explained that because their point of origin was Corsica, not Greece, they could avoid all the Greek restrictions on the other boats in the second Freedom Flotilla:
they left—on the 25th of June, they left Corse. Then they stayed in the high sea for almost—for more than a week. Then they’re waiting for all the other boats. Then they waited near Crete. Then they entered one of the ports of Crete. Then they managed to get some—also with difficulty, some permits by the Greek coastal guard. The only reason is that it did not originate from Greece. All the rest were subject to very harsh Greek tricks, of course by order of the Israeli government. There is no doubt about it … The purpose was, of course, to accomplish the mission, even though it was already in Lilliputian measures—to complete the mission or to show the determination of people, not only of those 10 who were on board, of 10 activists, but of the entire group. And as—I have spent about a month with the activists, because at the beginning I was together with the Tahrir, I was staying with the people on Tahrir, the Canadian boat, which had some other delegations. And I’ve learned not only about these 10, but about the majority of the participants, that—in this flotilla, in this very flotilla, that they were really—really are motivated by, I would say, very clear emancipatory values and ideals and personal history of each person, not only in the Palestinian issue, in the Palestinian focalism in freedom, but in different issues that concern equality and rights and freedom. Many on the Canadian boat are involved in the fight for rights of First Nations. There are feminists, of course. There are people who are involved in—people from Australia who are involved in their struggles there against mistreatment and exploitation of refugees. So this was a very clear message of the whole flotilla. This emancipatory message was very clear for me.
The audio as well as the transcript of this interview are available here.