Press Release on the Jewish Boat to Gaza

This went to the Scottish newspapers (Herald, Dundee Courier) today (we sent a similar letter to the Scotsman):

Jewish Boat to Gaza boarded by Israeli forces and taken toward Ashdod port – press release issued 28 September, 2010

(This boat is cosponsored by the British Organisation Jews for Justice for Palestinians and has been actively supported by SJJP)

The Irene, a boat carrying nine passengers and aid for Gaza’s population has been taken over by the Israeli navy and denied access to Gaza.

The boat is flying a British flag and its passengers include citizens of the US, the UK, Germany and Israel. Two journalists are also on board.

Last contact with the boat’s captain, Glyn Secker, was at 0937 GMT, when their path had been cut off by a Destroyer. Recent reports from other news sources indicated that the boat has been surrounded and boarded. At this point they were less than 20 miles from Gaza’s shore. Since then all phones went dead.

The occupied Gaza Strip’s territorial waters end 12 nautical miles from shore, but the Israeli blockade is enforced at 20 miles from shore.

Israeli attorney Smadar Ben Natan who is representing the passengers has asked to see her clients immediately.

Local group “Physicians for Human Rights-Israel” has asked for permission to send an independent doctor to visit the passengers immediately, after hearing from organizers that at least one passenger suffers from serious chronic health problems and is in need of medical care.

Speaking from London, a member of the organizing group, Richard Kuper of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, has condemned the Israeli army’s apparent action and said that this boat and its fate are a symbol of the chances for peace in the region. The way it is being treated by Israeli authorities indicates that they have no real intentions of reaching peace, he said. He called for worldwide support for the boat and its message of protest against the siege of Gaza and the occupation.

This tiny vessel is sailing under a British flag and is carrying a cargo of symbolic aid for the trapped people of Gaza–children’s toys and text books, musical instruments, water coolers, nets for Gaza’s fishermen.

All bar one of the people on board are Jewish. Two are British citizens, one is German, one American and the rest are Israeli. Two are very elderly and frail–one was taken as a baby as a refugee from Germany in the late 1930s while another survived the war in a horrific Rumanian ghetto and then emigrated to the new Israeli state. Yet another passenger is a leading member of the highly respected Jewish/Palestinian reconciliation group, the Bereaved Families Forum, which brings together people from both communities who have lost close relatives in the conflict.

The organisers have chosen to locate the mission on such a very small boat in order to emphasise the symbolic nature of the journey. In addition, from the outset, they made it clear that passengers and crew would not engage in any physical confrontation and would not present the Israelis with any reason to use physical force. These principles have been strictly observed.

They are now extremely concerned for the well being and safety of all on board, and are asking the British Government:

  • to provide full consular support to the British citizens on board–Glyn Secker, retired social worker and the Jewish captain, and Vishal Vishvanath, who is a photojournalist;
  • to urge the Israeli Government to release everyone as soon as the boat reaches dry land;
  • to make it clear that Her Majesty’s Government supports the message of the boat, passengers and crew; that the siege of Gaza should be lifted and Israel should engage in genuine negotiations with all the elected representatives of the Palestinian people so as to achieve a just and lasting peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict.