Local activists discuss Israeli raid

June 7, 2010 8:09:05 PM PDT
Three Bay Area activists on board the flotilla that tried and failed to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza met with reporters on Monday in San Francisco. So how did their peaceful protest turn deadly?

ABC7 has been following this story and has a bare bones idea of what happened with the flotilla off Gaza. Nine Turkish citizens were killed when the ship they were on tried to run the Israeli blockade. Israel is completely convinced it was within its rights to stop the ships.

The three Bay Area members of the flotilla, joined by a law professor from UC Hastings School of Law, are equally convinced Israel is wrong.

"The actions of Israelis are absolutely outrageous," says Paul Larudee of El Cerrito, who on the flotilla last week.

Larudee began by characterizing the flotilla simply as a peaceful attempt to bring aid to the people of Gaza.

"And we had to find another way to do this," said Larudee.

But moments later it was clear that was not the only reason.

"I don't believe the object of this mission was only to deliver humanitarian goods, no more than I believed it was the object of the civil rights activists to go have lunch at the counter in Montgomery, Alabama," says Professor George Bisharat from Hastings.

The purpose of the flotilla said the three was two-fold: bring aid and break the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

Israeli commandos intercepted the ships in international waters off the coast of Gaza and as a video -- supplied by Israel shows -- on at least one ship, the commandos were set upon and beaten by some of the passengers. The commandos opened fire killing nine.

ABC7 asked the three if they were in anyway dismayed when they saw that video.

"This is film that was provided by Israel. Israel is going to edit the film in such a way as to make its own points, so let's please be skeptical about all of this," says Larudee.

"Let me tell you, I was dismayed, sure. I felt badly, but I also felt that I wanted to see... I wanted to get the entire story just as I hope that you will investigate and get the entire story," says Gene St. Onge, who on the flotilla last week.

It was a begrudging admission that the peaceful mission was undercut by the actions of some on board at least of the ships. And at the Jewish Community Relations Council, ABC7 asked the director if there was any other way to inspect those ships for weapons besides landing armed commandos in the middle of the night.

"Clearly some serious mistakes were made in planning the operation. That's what I think happened," says Yitzhak Santis from the Jewish Community Relations.

"That's obvious to us. And that's one of the reasons why we're going to have an inquiry into our planning and into our execution," says Israeli Consul General Akiva Tor from San Francisco.

Tor is promising a transparent investigation into what happened with the flotilla and his country will have another chance, perhaps very soon to find another way. On Monday, Iran's Red Crescent -- their version of the Red Cross -- said it plans to send Iranian ships to run the Israeli blockade.

Tor says Israel will find another way to divert those ships and keep the blockade in place.


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