Maguire: Gaza situation a 'slow genocide'

An Irish activist whose ship was blocked from delivering aid supplies to Gaza tonight accused the Israeli government of committing “slow genocide” against the Palestinian people.

Nobel peace prize-winner Mairead Maguire was deported with fellow campaigners from the MV Rachel Corrie after the vessel failed to break through Israel’s illegal blockade.

After landing in Dublin with four other Irish crew members, Ms Maguire pledged to return to the war-torn territory and renew her efforts to help those who live there.

“Gaza has been cut off from the world for over three years. The people of Gaza don’t have enough basic things for their needs,” she said.

“It’s Israeli policies that are causing this – there is a slow genocide of the Palestinian people.”

There were emotional scenes at Dublin airport as the deportees were reunited with family and friends.

Embracing her husband Jack, Ms Maguire said efforts to end the blockade must now be stepped up.

“We would go back, of course – the international community, we all have a role to play to tell this story,” she said.

“US President Barack Obama has the power to say to the Israeli government, ’enough is enough, your policy is not acceptable and you must choose peace’.”

Also returning home were former UN assistant secretary-general Denis Halliday, ship captain Derek Graham, his wife Jenny, and Dundalk film-maker Fiona Thompson.

Seven other international crew members from the vessel are understood to have left Israel through the West Bank.

Mr Graham, who has been on four of the five voyages which docked in Gaza, claimed the vessel’s navigation equipment was jammed before heavily armed Israeli soldiers boarded.

Fellow crew member Ms Thompson revealed she managed to save several tapes containing footage of the moments prior to the vessel being boarded on Saturday morning – despite having her camera confiscated.

The 1,200-tonne vessel was docked in Ashdod with hundreds of tonnes of aid when it was intercepted after the activists rejected a deal to unload its cargo in Israel and accompany it across the border.

No resistance was encountered on board the boat and the aid workers were taken to Ashdod, then on to a detention centre near Tel Aviv, where they waived their right to appeal against an order of deportation.

The peaceful takeover was in contrast to the violent confrontation at sea last Monday in which nine pro-Palestinian campaigners were killed after armed commandos stormed several aid vessels trying to reach the territory.

Denis Halliday joined Ms Maguire in calling for tough political action from the European Union and the US.

He said: “I believe we were at least 10 miles outside their area. Ten miles is a long way and there’s no justification for hijacking and kidnapping citizens like this.

“It’s just unacceptable and Israel has got to be put in its place by the United States, by Mr Obama and with the support of our government too.”

Meanwhile, activists said another aid flotilla could be making its way to Gaza within weeks.

Rory Byrne, of the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza, said the umbrella group – representing around 34 human rights organisations – had received a massive response from volunteers and donors in the wake of last week’s attack.

“We’re in the planning stages of the Freedom Flotilla Two – we think it will be ready in about six to eight weeks,” he said.

“The people of Gaza need this aid. If we meet any violence we will deal with it as we have done the whole time, with non-violent resistence.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin has paid tribute to those on board the Rachel Corrie for their peaceful demonstration.

The minister described events last week as a watershed and again called on the Israeli government to lift its blockade on Gaza.

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