McKinney on Relief Boat to Gaza Rammed by Israel
(APN) ATLANTA — Former US Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) was on a relief boat headed to assist Palestinians hurt in the Gaza Strip, yesterday, December 30, 2008, when it was rammed by the Israeli military.
McKinney and the other passengers, including humanitarian leaders from around the world and medical doctors with supplies, took safe harbor at a port in Lebanon, after the incident. The boat had set sail in Cyprus.
The boat had 15 civilian passengers, representing 11 countries, according to a press release from Free Gaza obtained by Atlanta Progressive News early yesterday morning. McKinney was the one representative for the United States.
Meanwhile, in Atlanta, protesters took to the streets yesterday, for the second time in recent days, with their concerns regarding the civilian casualties in Gaza.
MCKINNEY FACES ASSAULT, THIS TIME NOT BY CAPITOL POLICE
McKinney embarked upon a pleasure boat called the Dignity.
“I wouldn’t call it accosting. I would call a ramming. Let’s just call it as it is. Our boat was rammed three times, twice in the front and one on the side,” McKinney told CNN yesterday.
“But let me also state for the record that what we experienced earlier today pales in comparison to what the people of Gaza are experiencing right now as we do this interview,” McKinney said.
“Our mission was a peaceful mission to deliver medical supplies and our mission was thwarted by the Israelis, the aggressiveness of the Israeli military,” McKinney said.
“Now, one of the things that I would like to ask President-elect Obama is to say something please about the humanitarian crisis that is being experienced right now by the people of Gaza,” McKinney said.
Cynthia McKinney’s mother, Leola McKinney, told Atlanta Progressive News yesterday that she was relieved when Cynthia called her to say she was all right.
“We’re just trying to hang in there. We just heard from Cynthia. They were in international waters with all the lights on the boat. They shouldn’t have hit the boat, they hit it deliberately,” Leola McKinney said.
“They’ve been taken to shore, at some hotel in Lebanon, they’ve been treated royally and got their first meal,” Leola McKinney said.
“None of them were hurt. She’s okay. She just wanted to let me know she was okay. They had doctors and medical supplies, they had politicians on there, they had CNN, Al-Jazeera on there. They wasn’t [sic] anticipating any of this,” Leola McKinney said.
“I really didn’t want her to go. It was bad over there. Just what you see on TV is not good. I know what her passion is. She just didn’t tell me no, I wouldn’t go; she didn’t say anything. She just went on anyway,” Leola McKinney recalled.
A CNN reporter, Karl Penhaul, confirmed Cynthia McKinney’s story, as did Thaer Shaker with Al-Jazeera.
“The Dignity, a Free Gaza boat on a mission of mercy to besieged Gaza, is being attacked by the Israeli Navy in international waters,” Free Gaza wrote.
“The Dignity has been surrounded by at least half-a-dozen Israeli warships. They are firing live ammunition around the Dignity, and one of the warships has rammed the civilian craft causing an unknown amount of damage,” the press release said.
“Contrary to international maritime law, the Israelis are actively preventing the Dignity from approaching Gaza or finding safe haven in either Egypt or Lebanon. Instead, the Israeli navy is demanding that the Dignity return to Cyprus – despite the fact that the ship does not carry enough fuel to do so. Fortunately, no one aboard the ship has yet been seriously injured,” the press release said.
“At approximately 5am (UST), well out in international waters, Israeli warships began surrounding the Dignity, threatening the ship. At 6:45am (UST) we were able to establish brief contact with the crew and were told that the ship had been rammed by the Israeli Navy in international waters, and that the Israelis were preventing the ship from finding safe harbor. We heard heavy gunfire in the background before all contact was lost with the Dignity,” Free Gaza said.
“Communications from the Israelis indicated that we were involved in terrorist activities … I presume that’s why they rammed our boat,” Cynthia McKinney told the Associated Press.
However, the Israeli government disputed the humanitarian and media accounts.
“The fact that the ship was carrying journalists, including a CNN crew that has already broadcasted live three times, proves that this was a provocation on the part of the media,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told Ynetnews.com, an Israeli publication.
Palmor said the Israeli military had issued a radio order to turn around, but that the boat did not do so.
Palmor said the boats accidentally collided when the Dignity tried to outmaneuver the military craft.
Israel has declared the area around Gaza a closed military zone. Palmor denied to Reuters news agency that Israel had fired any gunshots.
Free Gaza disputed Israel’s assertion that the boat had already crossed its borders at the time.
“We contacted the navy. They said the ship violated the Israeli border, but they cannot claim it’s the Israeli border when it’s not,” spokeswoman Angela Godfried told Ynetnews.com.
Several attempts to reach Cynthia McKinney by cell phone were unsuccessful. Leola McKinney said her daughter’s cell phone was an international phone but was not working for some reason.
PROTESTS IN ATLANTA
Atlanta activists held two protests in recent days regarding the violence in Gaza.
The first, on Sunday, December 28, 2008, at the Israeli consulate on Spring Street in Midtown Atlanta, had about 75 people there and was an emergency response to the Israeli raids which had just begun, Saba Khalid, 19, of Emory Advocates for Justice in Palestine, told Atlanta Progressive News
The second, yesterday, had about 200 people and was part of a nationwide series of protests.
Activists held signs and shouted chants, Khalid said, including, “Not a penny, not a dime. Israel out of Palestine. From Iraq to Palestine, occupation is a crime.”
“We’re against the bombardment of Gaza. We thought that what Israel did in response to them saying they were defending themselves was overkill. It was a professional military strike versus homemade rockets sent by Hamas,” Khalid said.
“We want a cease fire. We want people to see there’s something wrong going on in Palestine for the moment,” Khalid said.
Khalid also applauded McKinney and others for attempting to bring medical supplies to Gaza.
“I think it’s terrible what the Israeli guards did, preventing them from bringing medical aid. These are civilians going in unarmed, and they [Palestinians] really need it, their hospitals are blown up and they need medical supplies,” Khalid said.
“She’s a civilian trying to raise awareness about the situation. I don’t see many other representatives doing anything to help. What she did was great and I’m happy she tried,” Khalid said.
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