More Gaza Flotilla Detainees
Released; Larudee Badly Beaten But Now Headed to Greece
Dr. Paul Larudee, a passenger on the Freedom Flotilla that
was attacked by Israel before it could deliver its cargo
of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, was badly beaten and
tasered during the Memorial Day commando raid, but according
to latest reports he was released from detention late Wednesday
night and is now in flight to Greece.
Larudee, a resident of Richmond, CA, participated in the
international flotilla as part of a delegation from the Free
Palestine Movement (FPM), a California-based non-profit.
Two other members of the FPM group - Ambassador Ed Peck of
Chevy Chase, MD, a retired US diplomat, and Joe Meadors of
Corpus Christi, TX, a USS Liberty veteran (hence now a survivor
of two unprovoked Israeli attacks on the high seas) - have
returned home safely and are now speaking out about their
ordeal. As of Wednesday afternoon California time, two other
members of the group - Gene St. Onge and Janet Kobren, both
of Oakland, CA - have been held up for the last 12 hours
at Israel's international airport near Tel Aviv. but are
expected to board a flight to Istanbul soon, before proceeding
home to the US.
Gayle McLaughlin, Mayor of Richmond, said "I have worked
with Paul on local housing issues in Richmond, and I know
he has a track record of commitment to nonviolence in standing
up against the oppression of Palestinians. I condemn the
Israeli assault on this humanitarian flotilla and join others
in calling for an end to the blockade of Gaza."
Ambassador Peck this morning described the Israeli commando
raid on the Sfendoni, the Freedom Flotilla ship he and other
FPM delegates were aboard: "The first thing we knew was the
sound of footsteps, and my eyelids flicked open, and there
they were, heavily armed. The Israeli government keeps referring
to the paint guns, but the paint guns were attached to the
automatic weapons and the stun grenades and the pepper spray
and the tasers and everything else that these guys carry.
... And it was all over in the inside of the ship, where
I was. But up on the upper deck, where some people had been
sitting and sleeping, they made an effort to peacefully prevent
the Israelis from taking over the wheelhouse, and we had
a number of people injured in that. Nothing of a critical
nature, but we had people on crutches and people with bandages
and peoples with their arms in slings, and the captain had
his neck in a brace."
"I was deported for having violated Israeli law," Peck added. "I
asked [the Israeli official processing his deportation],
'What law have I violated?' He said, 'You have illegally
entered Israel.' I said, 'Well, now, wait. Our ship was taken
over by armed commandos. I was brought here at gunpoint against
my will, and you call that illegally entering Israel?'"
To Navy vet Joe Meadors, “There is no doubt that the Israelis
were committing piracy on the high seas against the Freedom
Flotilla and used deadly force against unarmed humanitarians
whose only crime was defending themselves against a sea and
airborne invasion by heavily armed aggressors."
"As a survivor of the June 8, 1967 Israeli attack on the
USS Liberty," Meadors said, "I am fully aware of the tactics
the Israelis are capable of and willing to use with impunity
and without remorse. That time they fired machine guns, cannon,
rockets, napalm, and torpedoes on us, then deliberately machine-gunned
life rafts we had dropped over the side in anticipation of
abandoning ship. And the only response from the American
government was to impose a gag order on the crew of the USS
"This time, too," Meadors continued, "the Israelis have
shown no remorse, and I fear that the US government is again
granting them impunity."
As to the other FPM detainees, St. Onge suffered a gash
on his head when kicked by an Israeli soldier as he tried
to protect a fellow passenger whom the commandos were beating
on the deck of the Sfendoni, he told his wife Jan St. Onge.
Kobren was allowed to make a brief phone call to the US from
a women's prison unit in Beersheba, Israel, yesterday and
reported that she is good health, but all the prisoners'
belongings had been taken from them.
Larudee, 64, is a longtime activist in the struggle for
justice for Palestine: he and Kobren co-founded the FPM in
2009, and he previously co-founded the Free Gaza Movement,
the organization that first broke the Israeli blockade of
Gaza from the sea in 2008, and the International Solidarity
Movement, a group that has sent hundred of Americans and
other internationals to support non-violent Palestinian resistance
to the Israeli occupation. Paul holds a Ph.D. in linguistics
and makes his living as a piano tuner.
At least seven other US citizens took part in the Freedom
Flotilla under the auspices of other organizations. One,
Huwaida Arraf, chair of the Free Gaza Movement, was released
Tuesday. The FPM has no confirmed information about the status
of the other six: Iara Lee, a filmmaker from San Francisco;
Kathy Sheetz, a retired nurse from Richmond, CA, and Woods
Hole, MA; Ann Wright, a retired U.S. Army Colonel and a U.S.
diplomat until she resigned in opposition to theIraq war;
David Schermerhorn, a film producer from Deer Harbor, WA;
Fatima Mohammadi, a longtime activist from Chicago; and Khalid
Turaani, who was founder and executive director of the former
American Muslims forJerusalem and now lives in Dubai.
For more information about the Free Palestine Movement,
For information on other groups that played major roles
in the Freedom Flotilla, see savegaza.eu/eng/ (the
European Campaign to End the Siege of Gaza), www.freegaza.org/ (the
Free Gaza Movement), and www.ihh.org.tr/filistin/en/ (The
Foundation For Human Rights And Freedoms And Humanitarian
Relief of Turkey - IHH).