International

'Freedom Flotilla' Protestors Vowed Not To Use Violence, Organizer Tells NPR

Organizer Huwaida Arraf rejected Israel's claim that protesters on the so-called "Freedom Flotilla," a group of six vessels that tried to break Israel's blockade of Gaza, were carrying weapons and had planned to use violence against Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).

"We had agreed as a coalition that we are not going to use any violence," she told NPR's Robert Siegel. "I can't guarantee or say that some people didn't try to fight back, but we didn't have any guns."

The video above, which the IDF filmed and released, shows a cache of slingshots, sticks, knives and gas masks. Israel says they were found aboard the Mavi Marmara, a passenger vessel flagged in Turkey.

Arraf, co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement, now chairperson of the board of directors of the Free Gaza Movement, was aboard the Challenger 1, an American ship. She spoke to Siegel by telephone, from Jerusalem.

According to Arraf, who said that she hasn't had an opportunity to speak with any of the demonstrators on the Mavi Marmara since the raid, protesters repeatedly told Israeli authorities they were not carrying any weapons. She said all of the boats were checked by customs authorities repeatedly.

"We reiterated that we are unarmed, urging Israel not to attack us," Arraf said. "However, we knew that was a possibility. We knew that they would threaten us, and possibly use violence against us, and we told them we would not turn back."

Siegel asked her to respond to Mark Regev, the spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has said that the demonstrators were looking for a confrontation above all else.

"We were there to reach Gaza, to deliver this aid, but also more importantly to draw the attention of the world to the illegality of the blockade," Arraf said. "It lets in the bare minimum to keep people on a lifeline, just barely not starving. And this is unjust, immoral and illegal."

We did not want a confrontation. The thing that we wanted was to make it safely to the Gaza Strip.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.