Kevin Neish: Why I am joining the new flotilla to Gaza

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Kevin Neish standing on the stairs between the bridge deck and the boat deck of the Mavi Marmara in May 2010. He is holding a passenger list taken from an Israeli commando's back pack. Photo:

I'm running on empty but here are my thoughts. I've attached an earlier report I made about what happened to me, at the bottom, as it is quite long...

The antidote for despair is action.

"For heaven's sake, why are you going back on another flotilla to Gaza!!" I've heard this comment/question repeatedly since I returned from an Israeli prison after the attack on my ship, the Mavi Marmara, in May 2010. In a nutshell, I'm returning because the illegal blockade of Gaza is still in place. The job is not done.

I gotta go back or I couldn't live with myself. And it's all my mom and dad's fault. As a little kid, I remember my mother and father repeatedly standing up for just causes. They would stand, almost alone in the 1960s, for Cuba, unions and peace, and against the Vietnam war, nuclear bombs, apartheid South Africa, fascist Spain and book-burning McCarthyites here in Victoria. They risked financial loss, political and social banishment and physical assaults. And in the end, they usually, eventually, were proven right.

When I was on the Mavi that night last May, I thought about them a lot: while watching fellow aid workers be shot, bleed, and die all around me, while having Israeli guns put to my head, while watching others get beaten and while everyone was deprived of human dignity and basic rights for three days.

I don't remember being scared, I remember being outraged, all the more so when I returned to Canada, to hear Israeli scripted questions from the main stream media. It was a horrific three days, even though I expected that my Canadian passport and white skin would likely get me home safe. All I could think about, was that the Palestinians have gone through all this, and much, much worse, for years and years on end.

Once you know something, "taken the red pill" (to give that Matrix movie reference), you can't go back. You can't "take the blue pill" and ignore what you've seen and walk away, at least I can't. Sometimes, I feel that I'd give anything to take a blue pill and move into blissful ignorance, just for a while, but this isn't a movie, it can't and shouldn't happen. In a high school political science class, which I not surprisingly failed, I remember a quote from a Nuremburg WWII war crimes judge. He said that when citizens are faced with an immoral law, they have not only the right, but an obligation, to disobey that law. So when Rosa Parks refused to obey the law and not move to the back of the bus, or when Gandhi milled his illegal salt, or when Greenpeace illegally sailed into atomic bomb test zones, they broke the State's laws, but they were all morally right and history absolved them all.

The flotilla against the blockade of Gaza has been deemed illegal by Mr. Harper and we are being sued by Canadian Zionists to try to bankrupt and stop us, but we are doing the right thing. Someone has to do something to make it end, and 40 or so Canadians aboard the Tahrir will try to do the right thing, with a ship full of medicines, witnesses and hope, regardless of Mr. Harper and his Zionist supporters. Hopefully, some Canadians feel the same way and will support us and be a part of our effort. Contact your MP and the media and tell them how you feel. Demand justice. Do the right thing.If you want to keep track of the Canadian Boat to Gaza or make a donation, please click here. And if anyone wants to keep track of me on the Mavi Marmara please click here. And for info on the Freedom Flotilla 2 in general, click here. I leave this week. Watch for us sailing to Gaza around the 24th of June.


Statement of Kevin Neish, passenger on the Mavi Marmara on May 31 2010:

The initial Israeli Zodiac assault occurred at around 4 a.m. on the outside stern area of deck 2, a few feet from where I was sitting in the #2 aft lounge. A series of loud explosions occurred on the stern, with numerous bright flashes and what appeared to be clouds of tear gas, followed by gunfire (rubber bullets?). I watched aid workers repel the Israelis with wooden poles and fire hoses. I then took my camera and set about to work as a human rights observer in the stairway between decks 2, 3 and 4.

Immediately after I got to the 4th deck stairway lobby, I witnessed three captured Israeli commandos being brought inside the ship. There they were stripped of their ammo belts, knives, helmets and backpacks. Apparently their guns had already been removed while outside. While the first commando was being held on his back, a large enraged passenger attempted to hit him. Aid workers immediately pushed this man aside, protecting the commando. The aid workers then quickly took the Israeli to the 2nd deck for medical treatment. The other commandos were rushed directly to the 2nd deck without incident. I only saw minor injuries and bleeding on these commandos.

I retrieved a set of plasticized cards from one commando's backpack, which contained photos and names of some of the passengers on the flotilla ships, as well as a set of photos of all the ships with diagrams of their internal passageways.

For the half hour of resistance, I witnessed about 20 dead and wounded aid workers being carried into the ship's stairway. Two of these bodies had bullet wounds in the side or back of their heads, with other wounds. These two men appeared to me to have been executed after being wounded.

Near the end of the resistance I was on the 4th deck stairway landing, with a dozen or more aid workers, who had just beaten back an Israeli commando who was shooting wildly through the open outside door. At this point the captain came on the PA system to announce that the Israeli's had seized the bridge and that the ship was not going to Gaza. All the aid workers around me dropped their chains, bars and sticks and walked down to their assembly areas as requested by the captain.

I then passed through the 2nd deck stairway lobby/medical area which was completely covered with dead and wounded, with three men receiving CPR at the same time. I recognised one man, who I had shared tea with earlier, with a large, likely mortal, chest wound. He was alone, simply propped up against a wall, apparently left to die.

Following the Israeli takeover of the ship, gunshots continued around the ship for one half hour. During this time a women on the PA system begged the Israelis to stop shooting and to help our wounded. Myself and about 200 men waited for over two hours in aft lounge #2, for the 20 or so Israeli's on the outer stern area to arrest us. During this time two women repeatedly asked these Israeli soldiers to help our wounded, but they refused. When we were arrested, we were handcuffed very tightly behind our backs and I had my wallets, phone and cash taken from me, and never returned (over $4,000). Over 200 men and women were then required to sit outside, on the aft starboard side of deck 3. Anyone who tried to move or to stretch was set upon by Israeli soldiers shouting, pointing guns and waving batons over us.

Of particular note was the moment, after a couple of hours, when an Imam rose and started a call to prayers. After a few seconds an Israeli officer charged through all the crouching bodies on the deck, drew his pistol, aimed it at the Imam's head from about 15 feet and shouted in English, "Shut Up!" The Imam looked past the soldier and continued his call to prayers. I felt the soldier was going to shoot him so I rose to my feet. The soldier then swung to his right and pointed the gun at my head from about 15 feet away. After a short while the Imam finished and sat down and I followed him. The soldier did not fire at either of us.

After a few hours the men were then herded into the forward lounge of deck 2. There, approximately 280 men were required to sit eight to a bench built for four. Once again any excessive movement or stretching brought forth violent threats from the Israeli soldiers with guns being pointed at us and batons raised over our heads.

We arrived at Ashdod Israel at 6 p.m. Monday but I was not taken from the ship for immigration processing until 6 a.m. Tuesday. I was among the last of the detainees released from the ship. During my confinement on the ship, the only food offered was a few chocolate bars and sweet cookies. Some water was made available to us. Access to the washroom facilities was extremely limited and I went without bathroom access for the first 15 hours. One would have to repeatedly beg the soldiers in order to be permitted to use the bathroom. If one asked too loudly or persistently then a soldier would pull your plastic handcuffs up extremely tight, to the point of severe pain, swelling, cutting off circulation and feeling. This happened to me three times, for asking for a bathroom break too persistently and for trying to stand up with other arrestees against threatened beatings. Guns were regularly aimed at us and attack dogs were used to threaten us. The soldiers mocked us constantly and laughed about all the Gazans who were hopelessly waiting for us to arrive.

I saw at least 50 well-armed Israeli commandos with machine guns and side arms on our ship and dozens if not hundreds more on ships around us. I did not see any aid worker on our ship with a proper weapon of any sort. The aid workers only resisted with rudimentary tools such as lengths of small chain, wooden poles, broom handles and metal bars, all of which appeared to have come from the hardware of the ship itself.

In Ashdod I immediately started demanding my right to see a lawyer and to contact my embassy (I continued these requests with no effect, until I was deported). I was then taken by police wagon to Beer Sheva prison.After having no proper food for approximately 40 hours our first prison meal was frozen bread and cucumbers. Drinking water was only supplied sporadically. All blankets were smelly, rotten and full of fine sand. The prison guards would wake us up every two hours all night, such that I ended up not sleeping for three days. In the end I lost over 7 kgs of weight during the ordeal.

On Wednesday we were very roughly and threateningly processed by immigration authorities at Ben Gurion airport. I saw blood on the floor from the earlier beating of other aid workers. When I was finally led onto an airplane, it was only then that I found out I being deported to Turkey.

Fortunately the Turkish government provided this flight to Turkey, accommodation in a fine hotel for several days with three meals a day and finally a flight to Toronto, Canada, all at no cost to me. This was very fortunate, as the Israelis had stolen all my money, credit cards and identification. If the Turkish government had not stepped in to assist me, I might have been in an Israeli prison for a long time.

Although the Israelis attempted to confiscate or destroy any and all cameras and computers, I smuggled my photos of the captured commandos and dead and wounded aid workers out of Israel. I left these photos with IHH officials in Istanbul and they have since released them to the world press.


Kevin Neish is a Canadian peace activist from Vancouver Island. 

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