Rachel Corrie smuggled footage @ you tube
Saturday May 29th 2010,
10 people depart from Cyprus for Malta, the 11th would be passenger, Fiona, a documentary maker from Dundalk, Ireland joins us in Malta direct from Ireland along with Ciaran, our ship management, who came for a last meeting and to see us off.
For most of us, this was our first time in Malta and we were surprised to find the island cold and wet. We all sat down to a meal together and went to bed wondering what tomorrow would bring.
Thankfully, with no surprises thrown at us, Sunday 30th may, we boarded a bus at 2.30 pm, to transport us to the port. Here, we boarded the “MariaS”, the pilot boat that was to take us out to the Rachel Corrie which was anchored around the other side of the Malta for shelter as the seas were not calm all morning.
It was on this first boat many passengers were introduced to one of the disadvantages of “seafaring activism”….Seasickness……..Derek, myself, Fiona and Dennis, I think were the only ones spared!!!
We travelled aboard the Maria S, for about 2 hours, turned a corner and there she was, flags flying, crew waving!!!, For some passengers, this was the first time to actually see the “Rachel Corrie”, for others it was a return journey to her, but for Derek and I, having lived aboard her for over 40 days, it was almost an emotional return home to friends. So we clambered in high seas, from one boat to another, up a rope ladder, some nervous, some very very sick.
After adding water, food supplies and after a meeting with captain and crew, Ciaran and the pilot boat took off back to Malta and the “Rachel Corrie with her 8 crew and 11 passengers sailed hopefully towards Gaza.
Sunday night into the early hours of Monday morning was very rough seas, which really did not bode well with those suffering seasickness, in fact the seasickness for some passengers continued on for 3 whole days.
Early Monday morning we awake to the very sketchy and terrifyingly distressing information via phone calls regarding the massacre onboard the “Mavi Marmara. A scramble for information continued throughout the day via our 2 satellite phones, our only link to the rest of the world. A meeting of all passengers was called as we all sat in shock. Very quickly, a unanimous decision was made to issue a press release from the “Rachel Corrie” to convey our shock at the massacre, condemn the killings and injuries and to state our total determination to continue to Gaza as part of the freedom flotilla. We held a minutes silence and dropped our flags to half mast. The crew at all stages were kept up to date and although they are/were not activists, they agreed to continue this journey with us, for which we are all very grateful and full of admiration for.
The next 4 days were a mixture of conversations, media calls, silences, quiet reflection and sleeping in shifts, accommodation aboard the ship was very limited and we always kept one Irish, one Malaysian passenger available to answer phones 24 hours each day. Shock and disbelief was always on our minds, but we had a determination to continue to Gaza, for Palestine, for murdered and injured friends, for a sense of duty, for right!!!
The “Rachel Corrie” had somehow become the conscience of the international community, those on board felt our silence or our refusal to continue would have been complicit ands so we continued.
Thursday night was a long apprehensive night as we believed Friday/Saturday would be when Israel would attack and or board our ship if they did not respect the call from the international community for the safe passage of the RC to Gaza, but Thursday night we were approx the same distance from Gaza as the “Mavi Marmara was when illegally boarded in international waters.
Friday was a day off calls home, calls from media etc, but also a day again of quiet reflection, apprehension, sadness and meetings. We all agreed to stay together all night and so night fell, phone rang, people slept outside for only minutes at a time, the first spotter planes was seen, we drank tea, some people prayed, others answered phones. It was a damp night on mattresses with sheets around us in mid ships (between the cargo hatches) of the Rachel Corrie.
From the early hours of Saturday morning, we realised we were being followed by 2 large ships. Still we had no contact with Israel. We made really short calls to media and I made one to Freda of Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, who (I.P.S.C.) had become our lifeline and main contact for our families back home, as well as Alan, who Derek and I can never thank enough for taking such good care of our own families.
Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign
The Irish on board the Rachel Corrie will never be able to show these guys enough appreciation and immense gratitude. They are our heroes, were our lifelines, our support and all of our families wish to publicly acknowledge our huge gratitude them and to their determination and constant endeavour in the fight for justice. They kept our families and the media up to date and called the Rachel Corrie regularly so as to be factual in their reports.
Saturday morning. Dawn
As more boats began to surround us, our navigation equipment was jammed, our satellite phones were now also blocked and our amazing captain and crew continued on with charts and compass.
Our crew consisted of 8 men, 6 from Philippines, 1 from Cuba and a Scottish captain. As stated earlier, these men were not activists, but are certainly heroes and friends for life. They continued this journey with us to the end and we last saw them being boarded to a plane in Ashdod. We wish to thank them, our crew and our friends!
Saturday. Just after dawn
Rachel Corrie now surrounded by 2 warships and 2 patrol boats. They would approach us at speed, then pull back but not before we were made aware of their weapons pointed at us. Fiona kept her video going; Derek kept radio communication open, the rest of us watched the seas and the skies. And we waited………During radio contact, although constantly corrected by Derek, they refused to call the ship Rachel Corrie and instead referred to her former name, MV Linda.
On the horizon, we could see 6 zodiac’s (inflatable’s) , with armed commandos aboard, making their way towards our boat, our unarmed boat with your aid and carrying 11 peace activists and a professional crew of 8 .
They ordered Derek to stay alone in the bridge. The rest of us, crew and passengers stayed in mid ships.
We were in international waters, 34 miles off the coast of Gaza.
After boarding, 30 -35 commandos, in full riot gear, balaclavas, guns pointed at us and with an array of other weapons strapped to their bodies, searched us all individually, went through our luggage and ordered captain, first mate and chief engineer into the bridge.
By Now, Derek was hand cuffed, and put face down on the floor, he was then put alone to the back of the boat, still handcuffed and with up to 6 guns directed at him. They proceeded to go through each room of the boat. 2 of the doors they could not open despite having the keys. I went downstairs with 3 commandos “escorting me” with guns, (and a dog) to open the doors while they were shouting about having to break down doors!
Derek and the crew were then allowed into the mess while myself and the other passengers were taken upstairs to the captains quarters, where for the next few hours we made our way , under armed forces, after being hijacked in international waters, to Ashdod.
The sight awaiting us there was heartbreaking. We, the Rachel Corrie, were pulled in right behind the Mavi Marmara and all the other aid ships, moored like trophies in the port of Ashdod. We were then taken of the boat, forced to pose for pictures and to the applause of the Israeli army, bags searched again, bodies frisked and in my case strip searched. Then we were taken to a processing centre, finger printed, photographed, asked to sign ridiculous forms, (which we refused to sign), shouted at and taken to Ben Gurion detention centre, where we were finally given access to our consulates, and then taken to our cells, men and women separated.
We chatted and slept sporadically throughout the night with little or no contact from our jailers. Again, most of the next day we were pretty much left alone apart from a visit from our consulates. Fiona and I were let out for a cigarette, (NOTE: a cigarette, no lighter!!) we spoke to Derek through his cell window, assured him we were all ok as he did regarding all the men. The next time we would all meet was when we were taken to be processed for our flights, hours before we would actually be boarding so we would have no contact with the public. Our Malaysian comrades and our crew members were all put on planes home which is when we, the Irish, had accepted flights from the Irish government to be repatriated. Back to detention centre, to cells of an even lower standard than before, until we were all collected again at 4 am and taken, not to the airport but to the back end of a plane to take us home via a stopover in Frankfurt.
Tired, dirty and still in the same clothes 3 days later, we arrived in Dublin to an amazing homecoming organized by the I.P.S.C., flags flying, camera’s flashing interviews, hugs tears etc…..
Although on board the boat, we were aware of the huge support we had, we were overwhelmed at just how big that support really was when we reached home.
There are so many people and organizations we wish to thank and may never get the chance to personally, we hope this account will go someway to thanking you. Of Course, a huge thank you has to go to our families who gave us unfaltering support throughout even as we put them through sleepless nights and torturous days…XXXXXXXXXX
Derek and I, along with our Malaysian comrades and Denis, mairead and Fiona will continue to fight to break the siege on Gaza and plan to work together again very soon.
Derek and I are proud to continue this work, this duty in the name of the Irish people. To do this, we need your help and support. To help us continue to do what we do as Irish for Gaza, we have a donate page on this blog at the top of the page.
In solidarity and with grateful appreciation,
Derek and jenny
PS. Hopefully , a time will come, a good time, to tell you the good , heart warming stories from MV Rachel Corrie, stories of friendships formed, relationships strengthened, stories of fishing, including the “ one that got away” etc……………