Footage of the four-day voyage of a Swedish ship attempting to bust the naval blockade on Gaza, and its eventual interception by Israeli commandos, aired on Israeli TV Wednesday night, showing soldiers negotiating with a Knesset member and berating an ex-Tunisian president aboard the boat before using a taser on another activist.
In Channel 2’s exclusive video, MK Basel Ghattas of the Joint (Arab) List is seen waiting to board a boat on the Greek island of Crete, which would bring him to the Swedish-flagged ship Marianne of Gothenburg.
Seen sitting alongside the MK as he waits is senior Hamas official Amin Abu Rashid, the movement’s chief fundraiser and the brains behind past Gaza-bound flotillas.
After 12 hours of waiting, the boat is finally allowed to make its way to the main ship. Ghattas is joined by an al-Jazeera TV crew and ex-Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki — the flotilla’s highest profile participant.
Click “Play” to view the Channel 2 report (Hebrew):
Reaching the Marianne, the group is received by a dozen European activists and crew members, including Israeli-born radical-left activist Dror Feiler, who lives in Sweden, and Spanish-European parliament member Ana Miranda.
On board, Channel 2 reporter Ohad Hemo is given a tour of the boat, and shown humanitarian aid aboard, reported to total over 100,000 euros in worth. But Hemo is shown only two containers of medicine and a solar-powered generator, which Feiler said is meant to reach the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City.
According to Feiler, the Marianne itself is meant to remain in Gaza, as a gift to local fisherman, which may account for the high estimate of the aid included in the flotilla.
Asked if the group is maintaining communications with Hamas, Feiler says they are not talking with Hamas or with the rival Fatah party. “We are neutral regarding the Palestinian Authority’s internal affairs,” he says.
Military UAVs and boats encompass the Marianne for the first two days, as activists await the IDF’s inevitable interception.
Although he is allowed access to nearly all areas and activities of the protest ship, the Israeli reporter is denied the right to film the twice-daily non-violent resistance workshops that the activists said they participated in, preparing for the inevitable encounter with the Israeli commandos.
About 160 kilometers north of Port Said in Egypt, the boats tailing the Marianne hail the vessel.
“This was expected, they did not surprise us,” Ghattas tells Hemo. “It would have been a surprise if they would have let us through.”
Bidding the participants good morning in Swedish, Hebrew and Arabic, an Israeli navy officer can be heard in the dead of night warning them to stop. “Your attempt to arrive in Gaza is in breach of international law,” the officer tells participants. “You’re requested to stop.
“There is a maritime siege on Gaza, and that siege will continue,” he continues in Hebrew, telling them that the Israeli forces will be accompanying them on the “final leg” of their journey toward the Israeli post city of Ashdod.
After Ghattas warns commando forces that they will be liable to international criminal lawsuits, the Israeli officer retorts in Arabic, “Basel, you know perfectly well that there is no shortage in Gaza, except in materials for terrorism.”
Ghattas then tells him that only one unarmed soldier should board the ship for negotiations.
“You’re asking that only one of us board, unarmed?” the navy officer asks. Ghattas confirms, and the officer agrees.
The officer then addresses Marzouki, the ex-Tunisian president: “I am surprised that you are on your way to support a regime that has the same ideology as those who committed this [attack] on your coast,” he says, referencing the brutal massacre in Sousse last Friday.
“Why this bullshit? We are not supporting any regime,” an activist replies.
The video later shows the commandos already on board the ship, urging a pro-Palestinian activist to descend the vessel, and tasing him after he refuses to budge.
The Israeli military reported Monday that the interception occurred without incident and there were no injuries, labeling the operation “uneventful.”
The ship docked in Ashdod on Monday night and on Tuesday, Marzouki, Miranda and Feiler were expelled from Israel.
The activists’ campaign came as Israel faced heavy international pressure over its actions in Gaza, with a UN report last week saying both the Jewish state and Palestinian armed groups may have committed war crimes during a 50-day conflict in the coastal enclave last summer.
Israel says the naval blockade is necessary to stop weapons from arriving in the Gaza Strip by sea.
The reconstruction of thousands of homes destroyed during the fighting between Israel and Hamas, Gaza’s Islamist de facto rulers, is yet to begin, and both Israel’s blockade and a lack of support from international donors have been blamed.
Times of Israeli Staff and AFP contributed to this report.