This statement was phoned by Cynthia McKinney from her high-security jail cell in Israel to WBAIX in New York City on July 3 and transcribed by the Free Gaza team the following day. The recording follows this transcript, along with an interview with Adie Mormech, a Free Gaza 21 comrade, a statement issued by the Israeli Consul General in Atlanta and a statement by Veterans for Peace. Cynthia was released from jail and deported July 6.
This is Cynthia McKinney and I’m speaking from an Israeli prison cellblock in Ramle. [I am one of] the Free Gaza 21, human rights activists currently imprisoned for trying to take medical supplies to Gaza, building supplies – and even crayons for children; I had a suitcase full of crayons for children. While we were on our way to Gaza, the Israelis threatened to fire on our boat, but we did not turn around. The Israelis highjacked and arrested us because we wanted to give crayons to the children in Gaza. We have been detained, and we want the people of the world to see how we have been treated just because we wanted to deliver humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza.
At the outbreak of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead [in December 2008], I boarded a Free Gaza boat with one day’s notice and tried, as the U.S. representative in a multi-national delegation, to deliver three tons of medical supplies to an already besieged and ravaged Gaza.
During Operation Cast Lead, U.S.-supplied F-16s rained hellfire on a trapped people. Ethnic cleansing became full scale outright genocide. U.S.-supplied white phosphorus, depleted uranium, robotic technology, DIME weapons and cluster bombs – new weapons creating injuries never treated before by Jordanian and Norwegian doctors. I was later told by doctors who were there in Gaza during Israel’s onslaught that Gaza had become Israel’s veritable weapons testing laboratory, people used to test and improve the kill ratio of their weapons.
The world saw Israel’s despicable violence, thanks to al-Jazeera Arabic and Press TV that broadcast in English. I saw those broadcasts live and around the clock, not from the USA but from Lebanon, where my first attempt to get into Gaza had ended because the Israeli military rammed the boat I was on in international waters … It’s a miracle that I’m even here to write about my second encounter with the Israeli military, again a humanitarian mission aborted by the Israeli military.
The Israeli authorities have tried to get us to confess that we committed a crime … I am now known as Israeli prisoner number 88794. How can I be in prison for collecting crayons for kids?
Zionism has surely run out of its last legitimacy if this is what it does to people who believe so deeply in human rights for all that they put their own lives on the line for someone else’s children. Israel is the fullest expression of Zionism, but if Israel fears for its security because Gaza’s children have crayons, then not only has Israel lost its last shred of legitimacy, but Israel must be declared a failed state.
I am facing deportation from the state that brought me here at gunpoint after commandeering our boat. I was brought to Israel against my will. I am being held in this prison because I had a dream that Gaza’s children could color and paint, that Gaza’s wounded could be healed, and that Gaza’s bombed-out houses could be rebuilt.
But I’ve learned an interesting thing by being inside this prison. First of all, it’s incredibly Black: populated mostly by Ethiopians who also had a dream … like my cellmates, one who is pregnant. They are all are in their 20s. They thought they were coming to the Holy Land. They had a dream that their lives would be better … The once proud, never colonized Ethiopia [has been thrown into] the back pocket of the United States and become a place of torture, rendition and occupation. Ethiopians must free their country because superpower politics [have] become more important than human rights and self-determination.
My cellmates came to the Holy Land so they could be free from the exigencies of superpower politics. They committed no crime except to have a dream. They came to Israel because they thought that Israel held promise for them. Their journey to Israel through Sudan and Egypt was arduous. I can only imagine what it must have been like for them. And it wasn’t cheap. Many of them represent their family’s best collective efforts for self-fulfillment. They made their way to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. They got their yellow paper of identification. They got their certificate for police protection. They are refugees from tragedy, and they made it to Israel – only after they arrived, Israel told them, “There is no U.N. in Israel.”
The police here have license to pick them up and suck them into the black hole of a farce for a justice system. These beautiful, industrious and proud women represent the hopes of entire families. The idea of Israel tricked them and the rest of us. In a widely propagandized slick marketing campaign, Israel represented itself as a place of refuge and safety for the world’s first Jews and Christians. I too believed that marketing and failed to look deeper.
The truth is that Israel lied to the world. Israel lied to the families of these young women. Israel lied to the women themselves, who are now trapped in Ramle’s detention facility. And what are we to do? One of my cellmates cried today. She has been here for six months. As an American, crying with them is not enough. The policy of the United States must be better, and while we watch President Obama give $12.8 trillion to the financial elite of the United States it ought now be clear that hope, change and “Yes, we can” were powerfully presented images of dignity and self-fulfillment, individually and nationally, that besieged people everywhere truly believed in.
It was a slick marketing campaign as slickly put to the world and to the voters of America as was Israel’s marketing to the world. It tricked all of us but, more tragically, these young women.
We must cast an informed vote about better candidates seeking to represent us. I have read and re-read Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s letter from a Birmingham jail. Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever imagined that I too would one day have to do so. It is clear that taxpayers in Europe and the U.S. have a lot to atone for, for what they’ve done to others around the world.
What an irony! My son begins his law school program without me because I am in prison, in my own way trying to do my best, again, for other people’s children. Forgive me, my son. I guess I’m experiencing the harsh reality which is why people need dreams. [But] I’m lucky. I will leave this place. Has Israel become the place where dreams die?
Ask the people of Palestine. Ask the stream of Black and Asian men whom I see being processed at Ramle. Ask the women on my cellblock. [Ask yourself:] What are you willing to do?
Let’s change the world together and reclaim what we all need as human beings: Dignity. I appeal to the United Nations to get these women of Ramle, who have done nothing wrong other than to believe in Israel as the guardian of the Holy Land, resettled in safe homes. I appeal to the United State’s Department of State to include the plight of detained UNHCR-certified refugees in the Israel country report in its annual human rights report. I appeal once again to President Obama to go to Gaza – send your special envoy, George Mitchell, there – and to engage Hamas as the elected choice of the Palestinian people.
I dedicate this message to those who struggle to achieve a free Palestine and to the women I’ve met at Ramle. This is Cynthia McKinney, July 2, 2009, also known as Ramle prisoner number 88794.
Cynthia McKinney is a former U.S. Congresswoman, Green Party presidential candidate, and outspoken advocate for human rights and social justice. The first African-American woman to represent the state of Georgia, McKinney served six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, 1993-2003 and 2005-2007. She was arrested and forcibly abducted to Israel while attempting to take humanitarian and reconstruction supplies to Gaza on June 30. For more information, see http://www.FreeGaza.org.
Cynthia McKinney, Prisoner 88794, calls from her prison cell in Israel
Listen to Cynthia McKinney speaking from her prison cell in Israel to WBAIX in New York.
Interview with kidnapped passenger Adie Mormech from his prison cell in Givon Jail, Ramle, Israel
Adie Mormech, one of over 21 human rights workers and crew taken prisoner on Tuesday, June 30, when their boat was forcibly boarded by the Israeli navy, has spoken by mobile phone from his prison cell at Givon jail, Ramle, near Tel Aviv.
Amongst the other prisoners from the Free Gaza Movement boat, “Spirit of Humanity,” are Nobel Peace prize winner Mairead Maguire and former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. A message from McKinney on July 2 condemned Israel for its “illegal” action in “dismantl[ing] our navigation equipment” and confiscating both the ship and its cargo of medical aid, childrens’ toys and olive trees.
McKinney went on to say that “State Department and White House officials have not effected our release or taken a strong public stance to condemn the illegal actions of the Israeli navy of enforcing a blockade of humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians of Gaza, a blockade that has been condemned by President Obama.”
The Free Gaza campaign succeeded in entering Gaza by sea on several occasions in 2008, carrying humanitarian aid, medical personnel, journalists and human rights workers. However, later attempts have been met with aggression by the Israeli navy, with one boat, the “Dignity,” having to seek refuge and repairs in Lebanon after being rammed three times by an Israeli warship.
In a brief interview with Andy Bowman of Manchester’s Mule newspaper, Mr. Mormech gave the following account:
Andy Bowman: How are you being treated?
Adie Mormech: It’s bad, but the conditions are OK for me. I’ve not been beaten up. They’re a bit nasty sometimes and when they boarded the boat we had our faces slammed against the floor. It was bad for the older women like Mairead.
The four other U.K. nationals are in the cell with me. There’s 14 of us in the 7-by-7-meter cell which includes the toilet and shower, so very crowded. It’s very hot and there’s only a tiny window. We get awakened at 6 in the morning for an inspection and have to stand to attention, and then they repeat that at 9 a.m., and we are only allowed out of the cells for a few hours each day. They keep giving us forms to sign but they are in Hebrew so we don’t. Although I’m able to cope here, other people are less comfortable than me in the situation. If we’re here for a long time – like some of the other people in here have been – then it will be tough.
Andy Bowman: Have you had access to a lawyer yet?
Adie Mormech: We have, and at the moment we’re discussing what to do about our deportation. They’ve taken our personal items – laptops, cameras, phones and many other valuables, and we want to find out where these are. They obviously want to deport us as quickly as possible, but some of us are thinking about fighting the deportation. Firstly on the basis that if we get deported we won’t be allowed into the occupied West Bank or Israel for another 10 years, but also because we didn’t intend to come here to Israel – we intended to go to Gaza, and went directly from international waters into Palestinian waters.
There is nothing legal about what Israel has done to us grabbing us like this. We’re considering fighting the deportation on the grounds that we shouldn’t accept and legitimize this barbaric military blockade of Gaza.
Andy Bowman: If you challenge the deportation, could you remain in prison for a while longer?
Adie Mormech: Yes, we could. There’s some people that need to get home, but some will challenge. And for those it will be a few more weeks in prison at least, we expect.
Andy Bowman: And you?
Adie Mormech: I’m veering towards challenging it on the basis that it’s a scar on my name to accept that I shouldn’t have been here, but in fact I have every right to go to Gaza just as everyone else does. That’s the whole point of these voyages and that’s the principle we want to stick to.
Andy Bowman: Have they told you what has happened to the cargo of the boat?
Adie Mormech: No, we don’t know what they’re doing with it. We’ve been told a lot of lies so far about where we’re going and what’s happening to us, so we just don’t know. They’re already prepared to deprive the people of Gaza of a lot of aid anyway.
Andy Bowman: What is your message to people back in the U.K.?
Adie Mormech: This is not about us here in the cells; it’s about the denial of human rights to the people of Palestine, and in particular the inhumane blockade of Gaza. People must not forget about what is happening to Gaza. At the moment they are even being denied food and medical supplies. After the carnage of the 1,500 people killed in January, we won’t forget and we’ll keep on going and keep fighting for the human rights of the people of Palestine.
Statement of the Atlanta-based Consulate General of Israel
This is the full statement, released Tuesday, June 30, from the Consulate General of Israel to the Southeast United States, based in Atlanta, originally published by Atlanta’s Channel 11:
“Earlier today an Israeli Navy team boarded and took control of the cargo boat ‘Arion’ as the vessel illegally attempted to enter the Gaza Strip. In accordance with internationally recognized agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the waters along the Gaza Strip are under Israeli security control and foreign vessels are not permitted to sail into the territory. The Israeli Navy attempted to make contact with the ‘Arion,’ but its repeated warnings were ignored. No shots were fired during the boarding of the boat and the vessel was rerouted to the Israeli port of Ashdod. Humanitarian goods found aboard to boat will be transferred to the Gaza Strip, subject to authorization. We expect the vessel’s passengers to be flown home shortly.
“Israel continues to make the humanitarian relief efforts in Gaza one of its top priorities. Humanitarian aid is shipped into Gaza regularly through multiple ground crossings and those who wish to transfer humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip can do so through these existing channels. In 2009 alone, the Gaza Strip has received over 300,000 tons of humanitarian supplies. Hundreds of aid trucks enter Gaza daily. In some cases, this has led to a surplus of humanitarian aid, with reports of Gaza civilians selling extra aid they possess.
“Once again former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and her fellow travelers have taken it upon themselves to disregard their own safety, as well as the safety of the vessel’s crew, by leading a boat into restricted waters. Ms. McKinney ignored the available and legal means for the delivery of aid to the Gaza Strip and instead chose to make a reckless political stunt.”
U.S. military veterans condemn Israeli seizure of aid boat in international waters off Gaza
Veterans ask, ‘Is this not piracy on the high seas?’
Veterans For Peace issued the following statement from their national office in St. Louis regarding yesterday’s (June 30) seizure by the Israeli Navy of the “Spirit of Humanity,” its passengers, crew and aid supplies bound for Gaza:
Veterans For Peace forcefully condemns the Israeli Navy’s seizure of the “Spirit of Humanity,” a converted tugboat loaded with medical supplies, children’s toys and reconstruction kits, en route from Cyprus to Gaza. We urge our 8,000 members in 120 chapters across the country to … demand the release of the 21 crew, passengers and journalists and the safe delivery of their aid supplies.
Israel’s bombing and invasion of Gaza early this year not only killed and wounded thousands of Palestinians, but destroyed and damaged thousands of buildings, water systems and other vital infrastructure in the highly crowded territory. A blockade enforced by Israel since then has prevented most supplies from reaching Gazans so they can survive the blistering climate and begin to rebuild.
The 21 people on the boat when it was seized in pre-dawn darkness included crew, journalists and passengers, among them Mairead Maguire, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work in northern Ireland, and former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney.
VFP salutes them for insisting they are not “the story” and asking their supporters around the world to focus on Palestinians suffering devastation, blockade and imprisonment as a result of the Israeli occupation. They ask people to “adopt” a Palestinian prisoner and advocate for his or her welfare and release.
Founded in 1985, Veterans For Peace is a national organization of men and women veterans of all eras and duty stations spanning the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), World War II, the Korean, Vietnam, Gulf and current Iraq wars as well as other conflicts cold or hot. It has chapters in nearly every state in the union and is headquartered in St. Louis, MO. Our collective experience tells us wars are easy to start and hard to stop and that those hurt are often the innocent. Thus, other means of problem solving are necessary. Veterans For Peace is an official Non- Governmental Organization (NGO) represented at the U.N. Visit Veterans For Peace at www.veteransforpeace.org.