It has been a dramatic few days, which accounts for the slight pause in blogging. The strategy of the Israeli state has become crystal clear. They intend to delay and disrupt the flotilla with any means at their disposal. At the start of this week, this had already resulted in a delay to the flotilla as ships in Greece were faced with complaints about their seaworthiness by the Israel Law Centre. So we began to settle in for a wait of a few more days in Gocek in Turkey.
On Monday, however, the crew took the boat out for a trip to get fuel. On the way, they noticed that there was something wrong with the propeller. It was clear that evening that they were concerned about it, but hoped that there was simply something caught in it. On Tuesday, a diver was sent down to look at it and it quickly became evident that something much more serious was wrong – the propeller shaft had been damaged deliberately in an act of sabotage. When the boat was lifted onto a dry dock yesterday, this was confirmed. You can see some photos and a video report of the damage on the Irish Ship to Gaza website.
We were fortunate that this had been discovered on this trip, otherwise our lives were all in danger. If we had been sailing, the damage would have gradually resulted in the propeller coming up through the bottom of the boat, breaching the hull, causing a flood in the engine room thereby causing the boat to sink. This incident dramatically brought home to all of us the absolute ruthlessness of the Israeli establishment.
As we were told this news at a meeting on the boat, people were understandably devastated and outraged. The repairs would cost €40,000, which could be raised by fundraising, but the repairs would take up to a month, which meant that the MV Saoirse was out of this flotilla. We vowed that it would take part in a future one.
The outrage was of course focused on the Israeli state. I would say it’s unlikely that definitive proof will ever be found that proves that the Israeli state is guilty of this, however, I think the circumstantial evidence pointing in the direction of the Israeli state is overwhelming. I have raised the call for an independent international investigate into the sabotage of the Irish boat and the Scandinavian / Greek boat.
There are three aspects to the evidence pointing at Israel. Firstly, the fact that the Scandinavian / Greek ship suffered exactly the same sort of sabotage while waiting in Greece. It would be some co-incidence if only these two ships participating in the flotilla suffered from this problem, while no other ships at the ports they were at suffered from it. Secondly, who benefits from this sabotage? It is the right-wing Israeli establishment that benefits which wants to impede the flotilla at any cost. Thirdly, this act is entirely in line with the rhetoric of the Israeli government. They have made it crystal clear in the Israeli media that they would do everything in their power to stop the flotilla from sailing.
So it’s my considered opinion that the Israeli state is responsible for this attack – presumably with divers swimming in and under the boat and damaging it. It sounds like something out of a James Bond movie, but we are dealing with a state which has no compunction with breaching democratic, human rights and international law. This is the same state that used Irish passports to murder people abroad remember!
Then, the Irish government’s response was pathetic. Unless massive pressure is built now, the same is likely to be the case this time around. If the Israeli state does not condemn these acts of sabotage, I think we should build pressure on the Irish state to expel the Israeli ambassador from Ireland as a mark of the opposition to the Israeli state endangering the lives of Irish citizens and others.
This sabotage was not only a threat to the life of all passengers on the flotilla, it was also an infringement of the sovereignty of both Turkey (as it was in a Turkish port) and the US (as the MV Saoirse was registered as an American boat).
What happens now? Thankfully, I am already in another Mediterranean port, waiting to leave on the Italian boat. I met with the people here and everybody was very welcoming and of course concerned about what had happened to the Irish boat. Five of the other Irish participants are on their way to join me – Fintan Lane, Trevor Horgan, Hussein Hamed, Zoe Lawlor and Gerry MacLochlainn. I am so disappointed for all those who won’t get to travel, in particular the crew who put so much work in to prepare our boat and team.
I am more determined than ever to sail as part of the Flotilla to demonstrate to the Israeli establishment that I will not be intimidated by their sabotage and threats. We should hopefully leave here in the next few days and get going. I look forward to meeting all those who were onboard the MV Saoirse when I return.