Introduction: Gabriel Elizondo’s Al-Jazeera.net blog
Filmmaker’s unedited video of Gaza convoy raid
Over one hour of unedited, uncensored video from Israel’s raid on the Mavi Marmara Gaza Flotilla is now in the public domain, thanks to the efforts of Brazilian filmmaker Iara Lee.
Lee posted the video on the website Cultures of Resistance, the umbrella advocacy organisation housing her media production company, Caipirinha Foundation.
Lee, who has lived in the United States for many years, screened the video for journalists on Thursday [10 June 2010] at the United Nations, but has now posted the raw video online for viewing by anybody who is interested.
Lee was on the Mavi Marmara with a film crew shooting a documentary about the voyage.
She says after the raid, Israeli soldiers confiscated thousands of dollars of her video equipment and media, but that she smuggled out the images contained on a memory card hidden underneath her clothes.
Lee wrote an opinion piece in the San Francisco Chronicle titled ‘What’s happening to us is happening in Gaza’ [below].
Iara Lee’s UN press conference, introducing the raw footage taken on the Mavi Marmara and answering questions:
CoR director Iara Lee at the United Nations
Israeli Attack on the Mavi Marmara // Raw Footage
[IOA Editor: MP Haneen Zoabi is briefly heard and viewed at the start of the video.]
By Iara Lee, The San Francisco Chronicle – 5 June 2010
In the predawn hours of May 31, I was aboard the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, part of a convoy of humanitarian vessels aiming to deliver aid to besieged civilians in Gaza, when we were attacked in international waters by a unit of Israeli commandos.
Our ship had been inspected by customs agents in Turkey, a NATO member, who confirmed that there were no guns or any such weapons aboard. Indeed, the Israeli government has produced no such arms. What was aboard the ship were hundreds of civilian passengers, representatives of dozens of countries, who had planned to deliver the flotilla’s much-needed humanitarian materials for the Gazan people. These Palestinians have suffered under an illegal siege – first imposed by Israel in 2005 and strictly enforced since early 2009 – which Amnesty International has called “a flagrant violation of international law.”
The passengers on our ship – including elected officials, diplomats, media professionals and human rights workers – joined the flotilla as an act of peaceful protest. Israel’s powerful navy could have easily approached our boat and boarded it in broad daylight or pursued nonviolent options for disabling our vessel. Instead, the Israeli military launched a nighttime assault with heavily armed commandos. Under attack, some passengers skirmished with the boarding soldiers using broomsticks and other items at hand. The commandos and navy soldiers shot and killed at least nine civilians and seriously injured dozens more. Others are still missing. The final death toll has yet to be determined.
I feared for the lives of my fellow passengers as I heard shots being fired on deck, and I later saw the bodies of several people killed being carried inside. I had expected soldiers to shoot in the air or aim at people’s legs, but instead I saw the bodies of people who appeared to have been shot multiple times in the head or chest.
When it was over, the Israeli soldiers commandeered our ships, illegally kidnapped us from international waters, towed us to the port of Ashdod, and arrested all of us on board.
The Israeli government has confiscated all of our video equipment, hard drives with video footage, cell phones and notebooks. They detained the journalists aboard my ship, preventing them for days from speaking about what happened. Acting on Israel’s behalf at the U.N. Security Council, the United States has attempted to block a full, impartial, international investigation of the incident.
Nevertheless, even at this early stage the world has expressed outrage around a basic fact: There is no justification for launching a deadly commando attack in the dark of night on a humanitarian-aid convoy.
The Israeli government denies that its punitive blockade of Gaza is the source of hardship for civilians there. While its spokespeople actively work to create confusion in the media, the truth is clear for all who would care to see it. The overwhelming conclusion of highly respected human rights authorities is that the Israeli government, because it does not accept the legitimacy of the elected Hamas government, is pursuing a policy of what Human Rights Watch calls “collective punishment against the civilian population,” illegal under international law.
With regard to the flotilla I was on, the Israeli government says it would have permitted our humanitarian aid to enter Gaza by land had we submitted it through “proper channels.” But Israel’s “proper channels” – restrictive checkpoints that have repeatedly turned away World Health Organization medical supplies and rejected or delayed the delivery of U.N. food aid – are the very source of the humanitarian crisis.
Israeli spokespeople insist that the Gaza Freedom Flotilla was a provocation. It was, in the sense that civil rights protesters in the American south who sat at segregated lunch counters represented a provocation to segregationists, or in the sense that all nonviolent protests against the illegitimate acts of a government are by definition provocations. Under an illegal siege, the delivery of aid to civilians is a prohibited act; the intent of our humanitarian convoy was to violate this unjust prohibition.
At least nine of my fellow passengers were killed by the Israeli military for attempting to defy the ban on delivering aid. Far more Palestinian civilians have died as a result of the siege itself. What happened to our flotilla is happening to the people of Gaza on a daily basis. It will not stop until international law is applied to all countries, Israel included.
Iara Lee is a filmmaker and a co-founder of the San Francisco’s Caipirinha Foundation: www.culturesofresistance.org/caipirinha-foundation
The complete IOA coverage of the Gaza Flotilla