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Archive for June, 2010

       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.

CREW

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.

PLEASE NOTE.

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……………

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Rachel Corrie Returns

If you once thought
that when you crushed her bones
and stopped her mouth with sand and stone
murder would bring silence,
then think again.

If you once counted
on distance in time and space
to wear away the memory and in its place
leave blank acceptance,
then think again.

If you once believed
that your great lie could hold
back the tide until by virtue of its growing old
it could be taken for the truth,
then think again.

See how proudly she breasts
a merciful sea,
defiant of your tanks and jets and mines,
laden with the best in all of us,
full of love for Palestine.

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Merging with Rachel Corrie – A Dedication to Non-violence – By Matthias Chang (16/6/10) 

 Sailing on MV Rachel Corrie has changed my life and my perspective on many issues that I hold dear. I am humbled by the experience and have learned so much from everyone on board the ship.

MV Rachel Corrie was previously known and registered as MV Linda, a 43-year old cargo vessel abandoned by her owners. Her crew was left in a lurch when the owners failed to pay their wages for over a year. The crew took her to the port of Dundalk in Ireland for refuge. Rejected and in disrepair, she was dying of neglect. She had much to offer but no one cared.

On the 22nd January 2010, I received a letter from the solicitors for the Free Gaza Movement that she has been identified as a potential cargo ship to bring aid to Gaza and preparations were made to purchase her. I was elated, as it was only six months ago that like-minded activists from the Free Gaza Movement and the Perdana Global Peace Organisation, headed by the fourth prime minister of Malaysia, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad gathered in Cyprus to explore the suggestion that a flotilla of cargo ships and passenger boats would be more effective in breaking the horrendous blockade imposed by Israel on Gaza than despatching a single boat as had been the previous missions organised by the Free Gaza Movement.

Within three weeks, we were able to raise, with the assistance of the wife of the prime minister of Malaysia, the sum of RM1.5 million and a month later another sum of RM90,000 to purchase aid for the Palestinians. The monies were sufficient to buy a cargo ship and two passenger boats. The flotilla became a reality. The rest as they say is history.

 MV Linda was auctioned for €70,000 and immediately was nurtured back to health by the remarkable Irish activist couple, Derek and Jenny Graham. For six weeks, sleeping in dilapidated conditions, they lovingly cared for her and imbued her with the spirit of Rachel Corrie. It was therefore apt and proper that she was renamed MV Rachel Corrie.

Rachel Corrie, an American, was a member of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and in March, 2003 was crushed to death in Gaza by an Israel Defence Forces (IDF) bulldozer when acting as a human shield to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home. She was only 23 when she gave her life in selfless devotion to the cause of the Palestinians in their struggle against injustice and oppression. Her courage and depth of compassion for the downtrodden and oppressed is revealed in an interview with the Middle East Broadcasting network. She said, “I feel like I’m witnessing the systematic destruction of a people’s ability to survive… Sometimes I sit down to dinner with people and I realize there is a massive military machine surrounding us, trying to kill people I’m having dinner with.”

Rachel Corrie personifies the very best of America even though the image has been sullied by the war criminals in their barbaric invasion of Iraq and the slaughter of the millions of innocent men, women and children. In memorials held in Gaza after her death, Palestinian children and adults honoured her by carrying a mock coffin draped with the American flag. She believed in non-violence. She said so in her letters to her mother. She was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. but died a violent death at the hands of an oppressive regime. In February, 2007 Malaysians honoured her in their special way when they queued to pay their respects at the Perdana War Crimes exhibition held at the Putra World Trade Centre in which her violent death was depicted.

In death, Rachel Corrie continues to inspire the young and the old. There are many in the corridors of power who wish that she be forgotten. There were even attempts to demonise her. But today, her spirit is reincarnated in the ship that bears her name – MV Rachel Corrie – flying the Irish and Malaysian flags, having a Scottish captain, a Cuban chief engineer and six Filipino crew members. She set sail for Gaza with five Irish and six Malaysian peace activists to continue her struggle to free the Palestinians from oppression and bring a message of hope and peace. There is not much one can do while sailing in a cargo ship in the Mediterranean Sea en route to Gaza. You can sunbath only so much in the sizzling open deck, a temporary respite before facing the wrath of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF). Others took to reading and contemplation.

My good friend, Denis [1] brought along a book, Gandhi, Naked Ambition by Jad Adams, essentially an occidental perspective of the great leader, focusing mainly on the private life of Gandhi. Jad Adams pride himself as a historian but his biography of Gandhi was pure muckraking. The Bhagavad Gita teaches us that everything happens for a reason and as such I took the presence of Jad Adams’s biography as a pointer that I should contemplate on Gandhi’s teaching as he had inspired Rachel Corrie and the reason why I am sailing on the ship named after her towards Gaza.

Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. were advocates of non-violence, yet both fell to an assassin’s bullet. There is a common thread running through the lives of these three advocates of non-violence. They had died as they had lived – as private citizens, fearless individuals without power or position, great wealth or possessions. But they all had courage, integrity and humility, and an abundance spirit to serve humanity. It has often been said that Gandhiji had no need of possessions. He was contented to have just his simple clothes – loincloth and the angavastra, his shoes, a pair of spectacles and his personal copy of the Bhagavad Gita. He did not consider his opponents as enemies, but people with a different point of view. I recalled the story when Gandhiji was jailed in South Africa by General Smuts. While in prison, he made a pair of leather sandals as a gift to the general who received it with great pride as it was from an adversary. Much later, the general met up with Gandhi and returned the sandals to Gandhiji, saying, “I have been using these sandals during many summers, though I have to admit that I don’t feel worthy of wearing the shoes of such a great man.”

It is with humility that one conquers the hearts and minds of one’s opponents not the force of arms or violence. Was there a need for Jad Adams to demonise Gandhiji under the pretext of historical revisionism? Gandhiji never considered himself a saint or that he was a great man. He did not seek high office or political power. He lived his life in accordance with the teachings embodied in the Bhagavad Gita. Gandhiji tells us, “I had done it through serving my religion, since I felt God could only be reached through service. And service was for me to serve India, because I had the talent for it, and it came to me without taking the initiative. I travelled to South Africa to flee from an untenable situation and to earn my living. But instead, it became a search for God and a striving for self realisation. “What I wanted to achieve, what I have striven for and sought after, these thirty years is self-realisation, to see God face to face, to achieve moksha (liberation). I live and act for this goal. Everything I do, through what I say and write, and all my efforts in politics, is aimed at this same goal.” Such are the noble ideals of Gandhiji. Such lofty benchmarks, but how are we to emulate such good deeds?

My questions were answered by the gentle whispers from a very special person whom I am now privileged to be considered a friend by her. Mairead McGuire, the Nobel Peace Laureate, literally touched my life when I was awfully sick on board the Rachel Corrie. I was suffering intense pain on the entire left side of my head, a recurrence from my hunger strike in the Kajang prison, when I boarded Rachel Corrie in Malta. I was not yet fit to travel and was advised that the pain would re-occur, but I was determined to be on board the Rachel Corrie. I wanted to merge in her spirit, to be renewed and rejuvenated after the gruelling 10-days hunger strike. I slept for twenty four hours at a stretch. One morning, I felt the gentle touch of healing and woke up to find Mairead beside me offering words of encouragement and medications. I thanked her for her concerns and assured her that all I needed was rest as advised by my doctors. In the evening, she returned and enquired about my health again and offered her special wrist band designed to alleviate sea-sickness. It was a generous gesture, as she was prone to sea-sickness and the special wrist band prevents sea-sickness. I could not accept her offer even if I was sea-sick, but I was not and I told her that I was suffering from a severe pain on the entire left side of my head, a consequence of my hunger strike in April. She invited me to meditate with her.

There and then, I knew that a spiritual lifeline was extended to me. I recalled once again what was stated in the Bhagavad Gita – everything happens for a reason, everything that has happened, is for the best, everything that is happening is for the best and everything that will happen is also for the best.

Call it coincidence or whatever, but I am blessed that in my journey in search for peace, I encountered three kindred souls all dedicated to non-violence and my life has been richer by the experience. On the second day, I was fit as a fiddle and resumed my “duties” as a part-time chef for the crew and passengers. It was great fun. But the moments that I shared with Mairead were special. She too is an advocate of non-violence and like Rachel Corrie and Gandhiji, has deep compassion for everyone especially the oppressed and the downtrodden. Her strength and courage lies in her unyielding faith in God and her dedication to serve humanity. There were moments that I worried for her, dreading the thought whether she, like Gandhiji, Martin Luther King Jr., and Rachel Corrie would fall victim to a violent death. Such fears were misplaced for whenever I met up with her for a quiet chat she would exude her remarkable confidence and assured me that non-violence would not beget violence. Her presence and her calming influence once again reminded me how relevant are the teachings embodied in the Bhagavad Gita: Ahimsa – the practice of non-violence in thought, word and deed; Kalyana – virtuous conduct, which enables us to pray with a pure heart for the welfare of the world and the wellbeing of all people; Kriya – doing good to all. As compassion and mercy grows in our hearts, we learn to serve others; Satyam – truthfulness which is essential for a life of Bhakti; and Dana – charity. This is born out of the generosity of a large heart. [2]

 The journey on Rachel Corrie was short, a bare seven days, but the memories that I cherish will last a lifetime. I was able to experience in a living way, the richness of those who took and are taking the path of non-violence, their strength and conviction that humility and compassion would ultimately triumph over violence and oppression. Truth and justice will prevail so long as we have faith and hope.

 This is my story of Rachel Corrie and long may her spirit continue to inspire us to do good deeds.

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