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November 20, 2011

Israeli Pirates capture two Canadians

The Canadian Charger

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Piracy has moved from the Horn of Africa up to the Mediterranean. On November 4, Israeli commandos boarded two vessels on the high seas, seized the passengers and crew, and took the vessels and cargo, which were en route to Gaza to deliver medical supplies, challenging the blockade.

This was the last of three flotillas to Gaza prevented from reaching the destination because of Israeli interdiction.  In May last year, a flotilla was halted and seized in international waters, and on one of the ships nine Turkish passengers were killed by Israeli forces in a struggle during the boarding.

Earlier this year, another flotilla was stymied while planning to embark from Greece.  Israeli saboteurs disabled some of the ships in port.  One which set sail was halted by Greek authorities carrying out Israeli wishes.  Greece is currently trying to stave off financial bankruptcy.  It already has shown itself to be politically and morally bankrupt.  As Ehab Lotayef put it, “Israel extended the blockade to Greece.”  The recent pair of vessels left from Turkey.

In distinguishing the present confrontation with last year’s blockade-breaking effort, Israel noted that the capture of the two ships was without violence.  David Heap would beg to differ.

Canadians David Heap and Ehad Lotayef, among the 27 on the two ships, spoke at a press conference on Parliament Hill on November 10, six days after the seizure.  When Israeli forces seized the vessels, these two resisted passively.

Lotayef was carried off the ship, while Heap was tasered, roughed up, and dragged bound and shackled.  They and the others were taken to jail in Israel.  They were never given any document indicating the reason for their captivity, but they were told verbally that it was for illegal entry into Israel.  Of course they had no interest in entering the country and were taken there against their will.

While the whole of Israel’s behavior in this incident was illegal in international law–seizure of peaceful vessels on the high seas–what was done to the passengers and crew on the two ships violated even Israeli law.  Under Israeli law, illegal entrants are to be deported in two days, so, as Heap relates, when he and Lotayef were brought before a judge beyond the two days, the judge was puzzled.  “What are you doing here?”

Heap and Lotayef spoke of Israel’s calculated cruelty.  They only provided Heap with writing materials after five days, in spite of his requests.  Lotayef was not given a Qur’an till after a few days, nor was his instrument to identify the direction of Mecca allowed, needed for prayer.  Heap also spoke of forced sleep deprivation.  “They changed their stories about what would happen to us all the time.”

Dylan Penner was the moderator at the press conference.  He is a member of the Canadian Boat to Gaza movement and of Independent Jewish Voices.  He added to the case for cruelty by discussing the fate of the seven Irish passengers.  They were taken to the airport and then promptly rearrested.  The following day they were again taken to the airport.  Five were put on the plane and the other two returned to jail.

Penner took particular aim at John Baird, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who told the protesters planning the trip that they should aid Gaza through “established channels.”  Said Penner, “He’s essentially doing the job of the Israeli ambassador.”

On a positive note, Heap praised the work of the Canadian consular authorities in Israel during their ordeal.  “They did a good job.”  Not so the Canadian government: “They’re tough on crime but soft on international crimes, on illegal acts by Israel.”

Photo: Heap showing the bruise he received at the hands of the Israel Defence Forces in dragging him from the boat, after tasering him.  This is the bruise after 6 days of healing.

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