As we write, the last of our wonderfully brave participants from the Women’s Boat to Gaza are either home with their loved ones and supporters, or on their journey home. They have been greeted with signs (see above) and in some case with singing and dancing: http://www.maoritelevision.com/tv/shows/te-kaea; https://www.facebook.com/TeKaea/videos/vb.133906693412887/878992222237660/?type=2&theater. Since being released from Israeli detention, they have begun to tell us about their their experiences on board and in detention. They report hours spent on the Zaytouna-Oliva sharing and caring for each other, singing, making meals together and deep discussions about politics and life experiences, before being suddenly and illegally boarded in international waters by Israeli commandos on the afternoon of 5 October.
When Zaytouna-Oliva was surrounded by Israeli war ships, Mairead Maguire stated: “This is Israeli state piracy” and she continued as the yacht was illegally boarded and commandeered. While being taken to the port of Ashdod against their will, the women sang their “Women’s Boat to Gaza song” (also available here in full on Facebook) and waved towards the shores of Gaza, where they knew Palestinian women had been waiting to greet them. Ann Wright explained that while Gaza remains dark, they could see two oil rigs in the distance: “Israel deprives the people of Gaza of their resources, no electricity and no water”.
The women were detained for two days – a relatively short time compared with previous flotillas. We believe that this is due to the enormous support from individuals, organisations, MEPs and high profile personalities (including rock band Pink Floyd) as well as extensive media coverage, such as this summary video on Al Jazeera +. After being taken to Israel against their will, some of them report that the Israeli authorities prevented them from sleeping during their time in detention.
While the world media celebrate another Nobel Peace Prize awarded in Oslo, they somehow managed to ignore that the 1976 Nobel Laureate Mairead Maguire was among a group of women illegally detained while taking a stand for human rights. We are glad our sisters are finally home, and we know our work is not done until the illegal blockade is lifted and our governments’ complicity with the Israeli occupation ends. Please continue to support the work of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, and help spread our message of hope.