Piracy off the Promised Land: the Ramming of the Dignity with Clear Lethal Intent / David Halpin

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Piracy off the Promised Land: when piracy ceases to be piracy

By David Halpin, FRCS (Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons) | dateline: 4.23.09

“Piracy: 1. the practice of attacking and robbing ships at sea.”  (Compact Oxford English Dictionary.)

dignitydamaged-free-gaza

The Free Gaza movement Dignity boat was rammed by the Israeli navy in September 2008.

Wide publicity has been given to piracy in Somalian waters since Captain Phillips of the American-crewed “Maersk Alabama” was captured.  The arrival of a US missile cruiser and US destroyer added Hollywood tension and glamour.  The killing of three young Somalians and the release of the captain provided the blood and triumph for the star-spattered banner. 

Piracy in the Gulf of Aden and along the long shoreline of Somalia started in 1995 in response to rapacious fishing, mostly by Chinese, Taiwanese and Korean vessels (1).  The dumping of toxic waste by European nations stoked more resentment (2).  Foreign fishing boats were the first targets, but when these got protection from local warlords, the Somalian pirates turned to commercial and cruise shipping.  With at least 20,000 vessels on passage they had plenty to choose from.  Since the US navy Seals shot their men, over sixty more seamen have been taken hostage.

Why is it that little is heard of the piracy off the coast of the Zionist entity and the strip it dominates called Gaza?  In contrast to the actions of young Muslim fishermen from an impoverished and broken Somalian nation, the entity carries out its piracy under the aegis of the Israeli Occupation Force, from a country with great wealth and with the pretense of a fully fledged legal system.  And, its maritime law is largely British, a hangover from the British Mandate!

In response to the ‘greater shoah (holocaust)’ promised to the people of Gaza by the deputy defence minister Matan Vilnai in February 2008, Free Gaza advanced the sailing of its 66ft, 50-tonne MV “Dignity” from 6 January 2009 to 29 December. Israel’s massacre in Gaza had already started with the killing of over two hundred people within the first fifteen minutes of the blitzkrieg on 27 December.  The British master and the Greek mate had the boat readied as fourteen passengers joined in Larnaca.  Passengers included Cynthia McKinney, the former congresswoman and very recent presidential candidate, two surgeons and a Palestinian physician.  I was among them.  3.5 tonnes of medical supplies were loaded; the majority had been donated by the Cyprus government.  Cypriot customs and excise officers had inspected the vessel and its cargo.  The “Dignity” slipped its moorings in the dark at 07.00 hrs and the two Detroit 840 hp engines drove it hard and south towards Gaza.

At 04.55 hrs EMT on 30 December, searchlights appeared astern.  There were two Israeli gunboats.  They came abreast, circled and stayed with us.  These boats can do over 45 knots, carry ten tonnes of fuel and have sophisticated weapon systems including Hellfire missiles(3).  Tracer bullets were fired  skywards, forming ellipses; flares were put up.  At 05.30 hrs approximately, one gunboat was playing its searchlight on the port side of “Dignity.”  Suddenly there was a tremendous crash at the bow, and then another almost simultaneously, and another on the port beam across from where this author had sat vomiting for eight hours.  The bow dipped and it seemed the boat was breaking up.  It was dark, the wind force was 4 to 5 (on the Beaufort Scale) and there was a 10ft sea.  The master shouted ‘we have been rammed’.  It was feared the boat would sink.  He broadcast a Mayday distress signal;  there was no later response.

Cynthia Mc Kinney and Caoimhe Butterly could not swim; the life vests were rapidly deployed to all.  The hull was taking water but bilge pumps were working.  The first words from a commander of one of the gun boats came over the radio.  First there was the accusation that the ship’s company was involved with terrorists and that it was subversive.  Then there came the threat to shoot.  The master was forbidden from making for Gaza or further south to El Arish in Egypt.  The Israeli ordered the master to return for Larnaca – about 160 miles, though the boat was badly damaged and the Israeli did not know whether there was sufficient fuel–which there was not.  The master set a northerly course and the boat stayed buoyant in a moderating sea.  A crew member arranged with the Lebanese authorities for a safe harbour in Sour (Tyre) where jubilant crowds thronged the quays.

Was there lethal intent?  A gun boat came out of the black of night with no lights showing whilst a searchlight from the other gunboat displayed the port hull of its target.  It would have approached at about 30 degrees to the Dignity’s port and at speed.  The intention to sink the Dignity and thus to drown its company was clear (4).  If the hull had been GRP (Glass Reinforced Plastic) it would have shattered  and the boat would have sunk like a stone where it was rammed 53 nautical miles off Haifa.  Fortunately, the hull was constructed of marine ply with timber ribs and the company survived.  The Zionist entity greatly resents anyone coming to the aid of the native population, whatever its depth of suffering, and war lust had been growing by the day.

A Lebanese vessel, the Tali – 1500 tonnes gross, with food, medical aid, plasma, toys, mattresses, etc. in the hold steamed from Tripoli via Larnaca with Gaza its final port.  On February 5th, the entity insisted that it make for El Arish.  The master persisted in his aim and changed course for Gaza.  Warning shots were fired and the boat was boarded by armed soldiers.  It is alleged they beat some of the twenty on board.  The vessel was forced to dock in Ashdod from where it is said the 1000 units of plasma were transferred to Gaza.  The entity was to transfer the remaining aid later.  The ship’s company were repatriated except for a resolute Scot, Theresa McDermott.  She was imprisoned silently in Ramleh jail (5).  (When the British Consulate in Israel was contacted for assistance in finding Teresa, staff refused to help locate her saying they couldn’t provide assistance to a UK citizen unless she personally requested it.  She was released after six days, her probable ‘crime’: being a member of the International Solidarity Campaign–like the martyred Rachel Corrie before her.

These evil doings of the Zionist entity pale besides the piracy suffered by the fishermen of Gaza since the second intifada was triggered by Ariel Sharon striding into the Temple Mount with many dozens of border guards in September, 2000.  The disastrous 1993 Oslo Accords did ‘allow’ the fishermen to go out 20 nautical miles and south along Sinai.  Altogether they had access to 75,000 square kilometres of sea.  There has been a steady increase in the attacks on these men and their boats(6); now they are being attacked from shore.  Since 2000, 15 men have been killed and over 200 injured.  Precious high quality protein is being kept from the mouths of often malnourished children.  Some believe the discovery of over one trillion cu. ft of natural gas by BP off the Gazan shore is the prime reason for fencing in the fishermen by force(7).  Some in Gaza believe the gas is already coming ashore in Israel, at Ashkelon.

Since mid-March, 20 men have been snatched by the entity and one shot (8). They are forced to strip off and swim naked to the Israeli war ship.  They were all taken for interrogation in Ashdod and then released but some of the vessels remained impounded.  All of this is the maritime equivalent of the robbery being done in the ineptly named ‘West Bank’ and in Silwan, as well as the imprisonment of thousands in Israeli jails (sometimes without being charged) and the 1.5 million in the concentration camp which is Gaza.

The Somali pirates have netted about 100 million dollars per year but this is very small fry compared to the many billions burnt by the banks of the US and UK.  And no hostage has been killed by his captor.  The fourth Security Council resolution on Somali piracy to be passed in 2008 was brought by Condoleeza Rice.  ‘The U.N. Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution authorizing member states to fight pirates in Somali territory by land, sea and air’ (9).  As of December 18, 2008, naval ships from eleven NATO, four SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation), and 4 other countries were deployed in the region in order to serve as escorts and to deter acts of piracy. 

What are the UN and all the western nations doing about the more dangerous piracy of the Israeli state?  These nations are silent and lift no finger showing they approve of Israel’s murderous actions against the Palestinian fishermen and foreign nationals bringing aid.  This is grotesque hypocrisy and a sure sign ‘the powerful own the law’ – for the time being.

The greatest act of piracy by the Israeli state was the all-out attack on the communications ship USS “Liberty” on June 8 1967 (10).   Rockets, napalm and torpedoes killed 34, wounded more than 170 crew members and damaged the ship severely. The ship was in international waters north of the Sinai Peninsula, about 25.5 nautical miles northwest from the Egyptian city of El Arish.  There were inquiries and many words.  Crew members were silenced.

An independent commission on the incident reported on Capitol Hill in October 2003.  Alison Weir reported this in Counterpunch but the US media buried it (11).  These key findings are to be noted:

 * That the attack, by a US ally, was a “deliberate attempt to destroy an American ship and kill her entire crew”

* That the ally committed “acts of murder against American servicemen and an act of war against the United States”

* That the attack involved the machine-gunning of stretcher-bearers and life rafts

* That “the White House deliberately prevented the U.S. Navy from coming to the defense of the [ship]; never before in American naval history has a rescue mission been cancelled when an American ship was under attack”

* That surviving crew-members were later threatened with “court-martial, imprisonment or worse” if they talked to anyone about what had happened to them; and were “abandoned by their own government”

* That due to the influence of the ally’s “powerful supporters in the United States, the White House deliberately covered up the facts of this attack from the American people”

* That due to continuing pressure by this lobby, this attack remains “the only serious naval incident that has never been thoroughly investigated by Congress”

* That “there has been an official cover-up without precedent in American naval history”

* That “the truth about Israel’s attack and subsequent White House cover-up continues to be officially concealed from the American people to the present day and is a national disgrace”

* That “a danger to the national security exists whenever our elected officials are willing to subordinate American interests to those of any foreign nation” and that this policy “endangers the safety of Americans and the security of the United States”

Nothing has changed.  The flag of the Zionist entity is blue and white.  Blue and white leopards do not change their spots!

drdavidhalpin2bDavid Halpin is a retired British orthopaedic and trauma surgeon.  He was outraged by the bombing of Afghan families by B52s from 32,000 ft. He decided to act for Palestine which he sees as being at the hinge of humanity and in Febuary 2003 chartered a Danish cargo vessel which took him and three other Britons to Palestine. 50 tons of good food etc were in the hold – a symbol of common humanity.  The voyage of the Dove and Dolphin was a cry for Palestine in its agony and a shout against the looming assault on Iraq.  The voyage led to the foundation of a charity with the same name.  http://dhalpin.infoaction.org.uk/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1

••••


1.  Jay Bahadur  http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/africa/article6100783.ece

2.  BBC News  Roger Middleton    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/8001183.stm

‘However, people who have been forgotten by the world and who hear of toxic waste being dumped on their beaches and foreigners stealing their fish have difficulty being concerned when representatives of that world are held to ransom.’

3.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Dvora_Mk_III

4.  http://sydney.indymedia.org.au/image/dignity-rammed-israeli-patrol-boat

5.  http://www.freegaza.org/en/home/740-disappeared-free-gaza-activist-theresa-mcdermott-found-in-israels-ramleh-prison 

6.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=87NrkNV_owM

7.  http://www.freegaza.org/en/links-a-gaza-info/stealing-gazas-gas

8.  http://www.williambowles.info/isrl-pal/2009/0309/gaza-abductions060409.html

9.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Somali_pirate#cite_note-115

10.  http://www.gtr5.com/

11.  http://www.couterpunch.org/weir06232007.html


2 comments on “Piracy off the Promised Land: the Ramming of the Dignity with Clear Lethal Intent / David Halpin
  1. This came through from the Free Gaza movement today. They will not give up and are planning a flotilla to Gaza on June 1st. I think the Arab word for them is soumud – steadfast.

    You Cannot Sink our Dignity

    This afternoon, Derek, Fathi, Eliza and I went down to the marina in Cyprus to see the Dignity. I’m not sure what I expected, a gaping hole still in the port side, a huge gash down the front, water seeping into the lower rooms. But Derek and Denis and some of the other people in Cyprus have done a supurb job of patching the wounds on this wonderful yacht.

    It’s not fixed. Not close, But it will be repaired enough to go on the flotilla, June 1. She can take 16 passengers including three crew, and we will put many of the high-profile people on board. We have had several already confirm that they will be coming. The media will be on the boat as well.

    When we were looking at the damage on the side, Derek asked us, “Do you want us to paint the wood along the bow and the bottom of the deck?” “No, leave it,” we insisted. Eliza turned to us and said, “Let the boat be our banner…we will paint in huge black letters…YOU CANNOT SINK OUR DIGNITY… in English and Arabic.”

    And that’s what we’re going to do. Those of you on these lists are the first to know one of our media strategies… the Dignity will go back to Gaza, and the world will see what the Israeli Navy has done. Yes, the boat is safe. Yes, it can travel the distance. And… yes, it will be an announcement to Israel and to the world that the Free Gaza movement will not be sunk nor will our boats.


    Greta Berlin
    Media Team
    Free Gaza Movement
    310 422 7242
    http://www.freegaza.org
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/29205195@N02/

  2. Finally and sadly Israel get their wish –
    04 May 2009
    AN URGENT APPEAL TO HELP BREAK THE SIEGE OF GAZA

    “From the groundbreaking work of Gandhi and King to the ongoing example of the Free Gaza Movement, we can discern the transforming power of nonviolence at a crossroads in our history.”
    -H.E. Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, President of the UN General Assembly

    Dear Friends,

    We desperately need your help. It’s with heavy hearts that we have to inform you that the Free Gaza ship, the DIGNITY, has been lost outside Larnaca port in Cyprus. Fortunately, no one was injured in the accident.

    On 30 December 2008 the DIGNITY was rammed by the Israeli navy while on a mission of mercy to deliver critically needed medical supplies and doctors to the war-ravaged Gaza Strip. Thanks to the heroic efforts of its captain and crew, the DIGNITY was able to find safe harbor in Lebanon, later making its way to Cyprus for repairs. Early this morning we received a call from the Harbor Master in Larnaca, informing us that the ship was taking on water. While attempting to tow her to safety, the ship went down. An inquiry has begun into the circumstances surrounding her demise, possibly due to storm damage suffered during the night.

    All of us in Free Gaza are deeply saddened by the loss of the DIGNITY. Since the Free Gaza Movement was founded in 2006 we have worked hard to overcome the siege of Gaza. Israeli policies of racism, ethnic cleansing and the brutal military occupation of Palestine demand our determined & direct resistance. When our governments fail to act, we – the citizens of the world – must stand up and make our voices heard.

    To date, the Free Gaza Movement has organized seven voyages to Palestine, successfully arriving in Gaza Port five times. We have brought dozens of human rights workers, journalists, parliamentarians, and others to Gaza, as well as tons of desperately needed medical and humanitarian supplies. Free Gaza boats are the first international ships to sail to the Gaza Strip since 1967.

    None of this would have been possible without you, our friends. Your emotional, political, and financial support is the foundation of all our successes.

    We’re turning to you today, because we need your help now more than ever. Please visit our website, at http://www.freegaza.org/en/donate, for more information on how you can help ensure our continuing missions to Palestine. Please give generously.

    Despite our loss today, we will not be deterred. In one month we will return to Gaza with the HOPE FLEET, a flotilla of cargo and passengers ships carrying significant amounts of humanitarian and reconstruction aid. Thanks to your support, we will go to Gaza again and again, until this siege is forever ended and the Palestinian people have free access to the rest of the world.

    This is our solemn promise.

    Sincerely Yours,
    Huwaida Arraf
    Greta Berlin
    Eliza Ernshire
    Derek Graham
    Fathi Jaouadi
    Ramzi Kysia
    Vaggelis Pissias
    The interim Board of Directors for the Free Gaza Movement

    PS: We’re suggesting a donation of €50, but please give what you can. Your contributions will go directly toward the purchase and overhaul of new ship that can break through the siege of Gaza and help connect Palestine with the rest of the world.

    * DONATE to Free Gaza by credit card through PayPal:
    Visit our website for more information, or send donations directly through PayPal at “donations [at] freegaza.org”

    * DONATE to Free Gaza by check: To donate by check, please mail to:
    F.G. Human Rights Projects, Ltd (Free Gaza Movement)
    c/o Centaur Trust
    122 Athalassis Avenue, POB 28779
    2082 Nicosia, Cyprus

    * DONATE to Free Gaza by wire transfer: To donate by wire transfer, please send to:

    EURO Account
    Account name: F.G. Human Rights Projects Ltd
    Account number: 0155-01-096552-00
    IBAN: CY06 0020 0155 0000 0001 0965 5200
    Bank Name: Bank of Cyprus Public Company Ltd
    International Business Unit, Nicosia, Cyprus
    SWIFT Code: BCYPCY2N

    US Dollar Account
    Account name: F.G. Human Rights Projects Ltd
    Account number: 0155-40-768398-06
    IBAN: CY04 0020 0155 0000 0040 7683 9806
    Bank Name: Bank of Cyprus Public Company Ltd
    International Business Unit, Nicosia, Cyprus
    SWIFT Code: BCYPCY2N

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