It is great to be finally home after a week of detention in Israeli prisons. From the moment that our boat was violently boarded and nearly sunk by Israeli forces, we were told lie after lie by the Israeli regime. A representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs came onto our boat after we were kidnapped in international waters and brought to the Israeli port of Ashdod against our will. She promised that our return home would be expedited, that we would be given phone calls that evening and that we would not be strip searched – all lies.
Within prison, the conditions we faced were very poor. There was a deliberate attempt to keep the truth about the assault on our flotilla from emerging by keeping us isolated with only one three minute phone call to our family in the course of 7 days detention, which was monitored and explicitly told that it could not be political. All of our cameras, laptops and mobile phones were stolen from us by the Israeli military and have still not been returned.
The worst of the conditions in the prison – conscious sleep deprivation, being locked up 21 hours a day, no access to reading or writing material, and prisoners being forced to stand to attention up to five times a night – were improved through a combination of our protest action inside the prison, protests action outside, in Ireland and internationally, including outside Givon prison itself, and the work of the Irish embassy in Israel. Through those actions, we won political prisoner status, including the right to free association and the right to have access to reading material.
Of course, the conditions we faced gave a glimpse of the conditions faced by many Palestinians, in particular those imprisoned in the open air prison camp of Gaza by the Israeli regime. We were fortunate to have running water at all times, unlike 100,000 Palestinians in Gaza. The fact that the Israeli army felt the need to violently attack the boats of peaceful activists trying to break the siege of Gaza and then hold us in detention for a week underlines the criminal nature of their blockade. It is clear that the length of the detention and the conditions on the final evening in particular, where we were held in what could only be described as a hell-hole, were actions designed to forcibly dissuade activists from repeating the attempt to break the blockade. Once again, the Israeli regime has miscalculated –their treatment of us will bolster our commitment in fighting for an end to the oppression of the Palestinian people.
Conditions in Gaza
I want to thank everybody in Ireland and internationally for campaigning for our release. Since my release, seeing the videos and pictures of protests around the world, and reading the many messages of support and protest, has brought home the real meaning of and importance of solidarity. It underlines for me the importance of solidarity around the world with the Palestinian people, in assisting in the struggle to end the siege of Gaza and the occupation.