David Heap, a Canadian professor and activist, and my friend and comrade, is being held in an Israeli prison.
David was removed from the Canadian boat Tahrir, in the latest attempt to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. He has been tasered and beaten. David's partner has not heard from him since Friday morning. [see update below]
Dear sisters and brothers, friends and loved ones,
I write to you from cell 9, block 59 Givon Prison near Ramla in Occupied Palestine. Although I was tasered during the assault on the Tahrir, and bruised during forcible removal dockside (I am limping slightly as a result) I am basically ok. We, Ehab, Michael, Karen from Tahrir, as well as Karen, Kit (US) and Jihan who we saw briefly this morning. We are most concerned about our Tahrir shipmate, Palestinian Majd Kayyal from Haifa, last seen by us at Ashdod being photographed and put in a police car.*
Although Michael and I (among others) were transported in handcuffs and leg shackles, let me stress that we are neither criminals nor illegal immigrants but rather political prisoners of the apartheid state of Israel. Four from the Tahrir are imprisoned with 12 Irish comrades from the Saoirse, who have more experience with such issues. The four of us, Ehab and I (Cdn), Michael (Aus) and Hassan (UK) have joined with the Irish in their political prisoners' committee in order to press our collective demands:
* association in the block - i.e. open cells
* adequate writing and reading material
* free communication with outside world - i.e. regular phone calls
* information about shipmate women held at same prison
We add one Tahrir-specific demand: that Israeli state recognize the professional status of Democracy Now journalist Jihan Hafiz in accordance with her credentials from the US government. All political incarceration is unjust but let me stress that in duration and conditions, our situation pales in comparison to the plight of thousands of Palestinian political prisoners and to the open air prison of Gaza.
If you have energy to devote to solidarity actions in the coming days, please concentrate on them. We must get Tahrir back and hope Freedom Waves continue.
Free Majd Kayyal! Free all political prisoners! Free Gaza! Free Palestine!
Anishnabe-debuewin, restons humaine, stay human, in love and struggle,
* Majd Kayyal was released, but it appears David [and] the other political prisoners weren't told where he was taken.
Al Jazeera English:
Israeli authorities have detained pro-Palestinian activists on board two "Freedom Waves to Gaza" vessels, foiling the latest attempt to break the four-year Israeli blockade of the territory.
The ships were forced to sail into the Israeli port of Ashdod, where all 27 passengers were handed over to the authorities and taken to an Israeli detention facility near Tel Aviv.
Al Jazeera's Casey Kauffman was among a group of journalists arrested late Friday when the Israeli navy boarded two ships sailing toward Gaza, he has since been released.
"The first two or three [Israeli navy personnel] that came on board were very aggressive," Kauffman said on Saturday.
"There were taser guns and water cannons used but once they were on board they realised there were non-violent activists and they had the ship under control.
"At that point everything calmed down."
The Canadian vessel Tahrir and the Irish boat MV Saoirse were in international waters, between 64km to 96km off the Gaza coast, when they were intercepted and forced to head instead towards the southern city of Ashdod.
Once the vessels carrying activists, journalists and crew members from nine countries reached Ashdod, they were transferred to the custody of the Israeli police and immigration authorities. . . .
The Saoirse - sailing under the US flag but carrying mostly Irish nationals - has 15 passengers on board, none of whom were journalists.
Heap told Al Jazeera that the activists chose to leave from Fethiye because of the strained relations between Turkey and Israel.
"The Turkish government has been creating more distance from Israel diplomatically and we know there is support from Turkish society for what we are doing.
"Our judgment was that the Turkish state would not interfere with us if we didn’t make too much of a public issue of our plan to depart from there," Heap told Al Jazeera.
Another eyewitness account:
“50! We're 50 miles away from Gaza,” he screamed to applause.
The previous night, we were expecting Israeli intervention at any point. Israel has a record of attacking solidarity boats in international waters as far as 100 nautical miles off Gaza’s shore. But when we woke up to a sunny day and found that our communications system was working, we thought that arrival to Gaza was imminent. Activists on board spent the first half of the day decorating the boat with pro-Gaza flags, signs and artwork.
The enthusiasm, however, didn't eliminate our expectation of Israeli intervention. Activists were working on English and Hebrew signs reading “this is piracy” and “this is kidnapping,” in anticipation of a possible attack in international waters.
We were right to temper our optimism.Towards the early afternoon, we saw three Israeli warships in the horizon. We knew that the moment had come.
At that point, some activists and journalists on board started throwing equipment into the sea, fearing that the information stored on their technology could be used by our potential captors to implicate other activists who were not on the boat.
Soon after, the Israeli presence in the waters around us intensified. We counted at least 15 ships, four of which were warships, and the rest a mix of smaller boats and water cannons. From inside the smaller boats, dozens of Israeli soldiers pointed their machines guns at us. This is when our communications system was jammed and we lost contact with the world. [Read more here.]
Statement from Tahrir.ca
Exclusive video from Al Jazeera English: Activists on Gaza-bound vessels detained
* * * * *
Sunday, November 6, 10:00 a.m.
David's partner, my friend Stephanie, was able to speak with David very briefly this morning (Sunday). After speaking with another family member of a Canadian Boat to Gaza delegate, Stephanie was expecting the call and had pen and paper at the ready.
David was being monitored, so he spoke in French, which did not please his guards and monitors - and they cut off the call.
Eventually David was able to call back. He is concerned that his statement (above) be widely distributed, and concerned for the well-being of his fellow shipmates, particularly the female delegates who have been separated from the others.
At this time, it is still unclear when David will be released. The delegates' release is contingent on their being "deported" from Israel. However, they never intended to go to Israel: they were kidnapped and forced there. David will fight anything that implies otherwise.
* * * * *
Wednesday, November 9, 1:00 p.m.
Fantastic news from Stephanie: David is being released and coming home! See here.