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‘My hell in an Israeli jail’: 90% of Israeli prisoners are Black

July 23, 2009

by Janelle Oswald

Jamaican-British filmmaker Ishmahil Blagrove boards the Spirit of Humanity June 29, intending to take aid to Gaza. One of the Free Gaza 21, who were abducted by the Israeli Navy and held in Israel’s Ramle Prison for a week, he told Sky News via a cell phone provided by British consular services, “Africans, like Palestinians, are being persecuted by the Israeli government and the world needs to know.” He says the Israeli prison population is 90 percent Black.
Jamaican-British filmmaker Ishmahil Blagrove boards the Spirit of Humanity June 29, intending to take aid to Gaza. One of the Free Gaza 21, who were abducted by the Israeli Navy and held in Israel’s Ramle Prison for a week, he told Sky News via a cell phone provided by British consular services, “Africans, like Palestinians, are being persecuted by the Israeli government and the world needs to know.” He says the Israeli prison population is 90 percent Black.
Black British filmmaker Ishmahil Blagrove has launched an outspoken attack against the “racist” Israeli government after being abducted from the high seas and imprisoned for seven days.

Jamaica-born Blagrove, who lives in West London, was one of six British nationals taking part in a mercy mission to Gaza on who were seized from the vessel Spirit of Humanity on June 30 by Israeli military forces.

The ship, which Blagrove says was illegally boarded in international waters, was bringing a cargo of medicines, children’s toys and reconstruction materials to the devastated people of Gaza.

“I’m not concerned with the time that I spent in jail because I am now free; however, there are still thousands of people being persecuted as we speak,” said Blagrove.

“I went on the voyage to deliver medical aid and toys and film a documentary about Palestinians living in Gaza post the 22-day bombing last year; however, I was unable to fulfill my mission and have now returned with a bigger story to tell. Africans, like Palestinians, are being persecuted by the Israeli government and the world needs to know.”

Sailing from Larnaca, Cyprus, with a crew of 21 human rights activists and humanitarian workers and journalists from 11 different countries, those on board included Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire and former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney.

Blagrove told how Israeli warships surrounded their vessel threatening to open fire if they did not turn back.

“We were 18 miles off the coast of Gaza and 23 miles outside the international waters boundaries. The Israelis made contact with us via radio at approximately 1:30 a.m. Our ship had been given security clearance by the port authorities in Cyprus so we posed no threat, yet the Israeli government insisted that we aborted our journey.

“When we refused to be intimidated, they jammed our instrumentation and blocked our GPS, radar and navigation systems, putting our lives at risk.

“Before we knew it, we were surrounded by four Zodiac Special Forces, which are Israeli gunships, and helicopters were also flying over our heads. They stormed our ship and took us against our will to Ashdod Port in Israel.

“They confiscated and destroyed all our equipment, including all our medical aid and toys, and eventually we were all taken to Ramle High Security Prison where we were imprisoned.”

Describing his experience inside Ramle, Blagrove said: “Without insulting the memory of those that have survived the Nazi concentration camps, the prison we were kept in can only be described in that manner. But, most astonishingly, the prison was full of Black Africans. I was absolutely dumbfounded!

“Israel operates under a right-wing racist government that discriminates against anyone that is non-Jewish.

“The first day I was there, I witnessed 500 Africans, scooped from the streets of Tel Aviv, thrown into prison. The next day 300 more Africans were taken in and the prison population continues to grow daily with Africans falling victim to the Israeli judiciary system.

“There were Africans from the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Eritrea and so on. The prison population in Israel is 90 percent Black, which is why I was so welcomed by fellow inmates. There are thousands upon thousands of Africans inside the Israeli prisons.

“I was told atrocious stories. Real harrowing tales and countless inmates that have been transferred from one prison to the other informed me and that every prison is the same and the government is refusing to send them back to their own country.”

Haunted by the conditions of the prison, he said: “I shared a 7-foot by 7-foot cell with 14 others. We were constantly being barked at and threatened with physical abuse. If you disobey, prisoners are stripped naked and put inside a hole with no lights or heating. We were seen as sub-human.

“In the corner of the room there was a white plastic bag full of single slices of bread, which was our breakfast, lunch and dinner. If we were lucky, they occasional gave us a cup of yoghurt to share.

“The toilets are two tubes and to pass your waste you have to aim and squat. The smell was indescribable because it was a mixture of sweat, urine and feces.”

Explaining that the government officials tried to force him to sign documents in Hebrew, which is illegal, as all prisoners must be able to understand what they are consenting to, Blagrove said: “My fellow passengers and I were only kept for seven days because they knew the world was watching.”

Quoting Martin Luther King, Blagrove stated: “An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. I want people to realize that social injustice is an international struggle and one man’s suffering in any region around the world cannot be ignored by others.”

The filmmaker, who is currently make a documentary about African roots in Cuba, added: “The Israeli government has been very clever in stopping the truth being told about their regime, because whenever anybody speaks out they are instantly labeled anti-Semitic and anti-Jewish.

“I challenge anybody to go and investigate the crimes against humanity inside Israeli prisons and the people of Gaza.

“I am disturbed that the mainstream British media, and in particular the BBC, has chosen to ignore what is taking place in Israel.

“If we had been kidnapped by Iranians, it would have been front page on every newspaper and David Milliband would have made a public statement, including Gordon Brown and Barack Obama.

“There is a conspiracy of silence to protect Israel from the crimes it commits. The biggest lie ever told is that Israel is defending themselves from Palestinians who are trying to kill them. Until people broaden their minds and really unearth the truth this problem will not go away.”

This story originally appeared in The Voice.


Filed Under: Uncategorized

25 thoughts on “‘My hell in an Israeli jail’: 90% of Israeli prisoners are Black

  1. pontiacpride

    Seriously–all black? Did he take a poll of the Israeli prison system?

    I think this story is bullshit

  2. Odelia

    One should tend to the problems in their own homes, before looking into another’s yard and commenting on the changes that need to be made. I do not dispute this gentleman’s experience, and regret he had to endure such hardships. I would be curious to know what percentage of black inmates are part of the general populous in U.S. correctional facilities, and how they compare to the ratio of African American citizen’s that live in America, on the whole.

    Perhaps Mr. Balgrove is not aware that prisons are not designed with the comfort level of the inmates as a top priority. There is no excuse for inhumane treatment, but what about the prisons in other countries? Has Mr. Balgrove investigated the conditions in prisons in Turkey or Mexico? If not, why? How about Cuban prisons? I hear a stay in an Iranian prison is much like a stay in a desert retreat.

    I am surprised this gentleman was unaware of the risks he was taking, before embarking on his mission.

    Receiving security clearance from one country is not an automatic assurance of “…posing no threat…” to the host country one is about to enter. That is equivalent to a ship receiving security clearance from Mexico, and automatically granted entrance into the U.S. ; without any follow up investigation. If Mexico gave a thumbs up, why should America bother to look into it? Also, the definition of “threat”, is directly related to point of reference.

    Sorry to burst your bubble, and also ashamed to admit, but as I am a Jewish-Israeli-American, I can attest, that in fact, the statement that the Israeli government discriminates against anyone that is non-Jewish, is a blatant lie.
    They have no qualms about discrimination and double standard against Jews as well as non Jews alike. They are more than fair in discriminating against everyone equally. The main concern of the Israeli government is homeland security. A potential threat, is a potential. They are not picky about the origin of the threat, and are not afforded the luxury of time to see the “potential threat” actualized, before they act upon it.

    Dr King’s quote should never be forgotten. It is an, all too painfully true statement. No man’s suffering should be ignored by his fellow man. However, pain and suffering, in there very nature, cannot be quantified. Unfortunately, we live in a world where one need not travel far, to find a fellow man that is in a state of suffering, and in need of aid. It can even be done on foot.

    Pardon my ignorance, but I was unaware that Jamaica (Mr. Balgrove’s country of origin) has reached a point where men experiencing the hardships of suffering and injustice are few and far between. I suppose the same can be said about Great Britain. I infer this from Mr. Balgrove’s burnig desire to help his fellow man in need. I commend him for traveling such a great distance to find one he can help. I am happy he did not come across anyone in Jamaica or Great Britain that was in need of assistance. Again, suffering is not something that can be quantified.

    It is true that the world is watching. The world has always kept a keen eye on both the Jews as a people, and Israel as a nation from its’ inception. What I find fascinating is how, depending on the spectator, they both watch and turn a blind eye, at the same time, depending on their objective. Is that justice?

    Being a Jew in Israel is not a free ride. The country is roughly the size of Rhode Island, and flanked on all sides by hostile neighboring countries whom have openly admitted their ultimate objective is to drive the Jews into the sea.

    Let us not forget Chamberlain’s famous words, “peace in our time”. I hope we have not forgotten where that led us. I believe in peace, but not “a little piece here, a little piece there, until there is not a piece left.

    I would think the Arabs would be happy with a country that frowns upon anti-Semitism, as they are Semites themselves.

    I am astounded at Mr. Balgrove’s unmittigated gall, in describing a prison he was incarcerated in, by comparing it to something he knows nothing about; Nazi concentration camps. It is not only an insult to those that survived the horrors of the Nazi regime, but a mockery of the memory of the ten million
    ( Jews and non-Jews alike) who died, while the world remained silent and watched. Only after the fact, the cries of “we did not know”, echoed throughout the world, in hopes of receiving absolution.

    Unless Mr. Balgrove was unfortunate enough to have had endured spending time in a Nazi concentration camp, or at least was an eye witness to the goings on in such camps, how can he make reference to something he did not experience, in order to describe something he did experience? If the man did, in fact, endure both experiences, then he has every right to comment, and I would like to apologize to him, so please correct me if I am mistaken.

    I am in a state of euphoria upon hearing that it is a lie that Israel is trying to defend themselves from Palestinians who are trying to kill them. Phew, what a relief! Just a silly little old lie, made up in order to force the young Israeli men and women to serve in the army, and keep them out of harm’s way.

    I will make it a point to inform my cousin, who lost her only child in a suicide bombing at an Israeli disco, that the intent of the Palestinian suicide bomber was not at all to kill anyone. It was not an act of violence, he was only trying to get in the club without having to pay the cover charge. Kids these days can be so silly. He forgot he had a bomb in the car, and was only trying to park. The car lurched, no harm intended. I am sure it will help to ease the pain of her loss.

    I am the first to admit I know very little about the ways of the world. I attempt to make reference to things of which I have first hand knowledge. Please feel free to correct any misconceptions I may be operating under. I mean that in the utmost sincerity. I only ask you do not waste anyone’s time with sweeping generalizations, which lack facts that can be corroberated to support your point of you.

    It is sad but true, that the “sins of the fathers will visit the sons” The particular meaning I glean from this quote, is that hatred and wrongdoings are passed from generation to generation, until the cycle is broken. Children are brought in to this world with a blank slate. They do not know from hatred, they are taught to hate. They do not know from fear, they learn to be afraid.

    Perhaps it is time for the adults to step aside. Enough time has passed with a gross lack of progress. Maybe we would all be better served if resources; energy, time and money, which are not of infinite supply, were to be focused on opening a dialogue with the future generations now, before they are influenced by the rhetoric of their elders. There is still hope for a better tomorrow, if one starts today.

  3. Valmont63

    Judaism is an ancient and interesting religion while Israel is something more along the lines of an urban squat. It is not, nor can it be, anti-semetic to report facts about the political entity called Israel, if they are indeed facts. It cannot even be said to be anti-semetic to prefer one middle eastern group to the Israelis because they are all semetic.
    It can however be considered anti-Jewish for Israel to repeatedly attempt to make Judaism and Israel fungible while continuing the hubristic policies that we are continually hearing about and which can no longer be kept hidden from the world because of the ability for the victims to communicate worldwide

  4. StanWilk

    Here we go. I guess I am the only one willing to take this article at face value. The man was just reporting what he saw. I do not know where all this hate and animosity is coming from, but he was there and I wasn’t. So I tend to believe him. All these long comments that people submit only confuse those that try to understand what is being written. Make it short people! KISS…
    The mission was to bring aid to the bombed out regular folks over there. Nothing else! The rest comes from someone always trying to make it seem like it is a conspiracy or plot to rule the world. They had food, toys, building materials for God’s sake! Stop it.. Some people just care..

  5. ezesinachi

    Evil doers never changes. Mr. Blagrove it baffles me that you can be a racist unto your own race, what you have committed is a taboo by allowing yourself to be dragged into an anti-Semitics politics and prejudices thus using you to insight the black people against the Jews. oh am sure you are looking at black African as primitive an non educated people who have no sense of reasoning therefore cannot be able to burst your package of lies, cannot be able to figure out the fact that when one is arrested he/she is not given the duty of a receptionist to start counting the number of people arrested in one day. My dear Blagrove, you came up with figure of 500 people for the first day and 300 people for the second day, which means an average of 400 black Africans daily. This implies 12,000 monthly. you also mention that an inmate told you that the government is refusing to send them back to their respective Countries, have you taking pains to find out the financial cost of taking care of 12,000 inmates( i.e. only in the prison where you were detained) Mr. Blagrove you are a blatant lair and a disgrace to your race. You quoted Martin Luther King when you said “that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice every where” if I must be realistic with you I can no longer waste my time to analyse what you have done, but I want you to understand that you have sold yourself and betrayed your race. This is difficult to forgive for those who understood what you have done.

    I wish to assure the Israeli and the Jew’s community that this Mr. Blagrove of a man is blatant lair and he is only been used to insight the black Africans, unfortunately his propaganda report lack conviction and intellectual ability to insight people therefore should be ignored.

  6. Powwah

    Im willing to bet that all of these negative retorts are from so call jews.Blagrove reported the truth,there continues to be world wide anti-african laws.READ THE HISTORICAL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN AFRICA AND jews.secondly travel and see for yourselves.EYES DONT LIE

  7. Peter Bailey

    I’ve been surfing the net on this story and it would appear that the zionist republican guard are out to discredit this story as they do anything that criticises israel. Ishmahil Blagrove was incarcerated in an Israeli prison and spoke of his experience. If you visit any site with this article you will read the same feedback and criticism almost verbatim without any logical focus.

    You ask has he investigated the prisons of Turkey or Mexico as though he has no right to criticise Israeli prisons until he visits a few more. Could you imagine sugesting to a British citizen who was critical of Iran after just being released from an Iranian prison, that their criticism is unwarranted because they hadn’t visited a Brazilian or Congolese prison. I suppose the logic escaped you.

    Someone on another forum pointed out a very important and clear fact which I think people should spread word about. The Zionist movement has groups and individuals that float around the internet, visiting forums and blogs criticising and attempting to discredit anyone who dares to criticise Israel.

    Check out the voice online where the article first appeared. The two main bloggers are Joy Wolfe and a woman named Lisa Richlen. Well check this out.

    Joy Wolfe is the President of the Zionist Federation as well as a member of many other Zionist organisations and it would appear from my sojourn on google, that she attacks anyone who criticises Israel.

    Lisa Richlen is the webmaster for the World Zionist Organisation.

    Something is very fishy, including the posts on this site. SPREAD THE WORD.

  8. Angel

    I am not and never have been a Jew or a black person but what this man is saying is ludicrous … but he has got the media and people in general attention and I think as a non-entity, unknown and probably struggling film maker he has achieved his aim in becoming known and obtaining finance for his further defamatory stories.

    He would be better off researching his ”stories” before phoning the media again and stirring more problems than is needed.