Weds 29th am: Latest news flash: all passengers and crew have been released bar Edith Lutz and we anticipate no problems in relation to her. Thanks to all who contacted the FCO and their MPs.
JEWS FOR JUSTICE FOR PALESTINIANS
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Israelis and Palestinians: two peoples, one future
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Letter from JfJfP with a request to contact the FCO and your MP
This is to let you know that the Jewish boat to Gaza, the “Irene” has been boarded and is, we understand, being towed to Israel.
It is important to make as much fuss as we can at this point. Please contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and your MP as soon as you can.
A letter from JfJfP to Alistair Burt at the FCO is pasted in below. It outlines the situation and explains what the boat is about.
1. The FCO itself. To email the FCO go to http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/ministerial-feedback-form
You can email Alistair Burt, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the FCO, directly here.
You can merely say something like:
“I understand that the Jewish Boat to Gaza has been intercepted and its passengers and crew taken into custody. Among them are two British citizens and we trust the FCO will do everything in its power to ensure their safety and early release.”
Or you can write something longer based on the information and arguments in the JfJfP letter. (We have checked and the entire letter can easily be pasted in to the relevant space.)
It would help if you could also send a hard copy of any letter to the FCO (address on JfJfP letter).
2. As many people as possible, starting with your MP. There is a directory of MPs’ contact details here. Stress to your MP that that there are two British citizens aboard. Urge them to press the FCO to ensure their safety and rapid release, as well as that of the other passengers and crew.
When you email, send the letter both as text in the body of the email and as an attachment. Ask your friends to do the same. Ask them for support. Ask them to contact their MPs about it. Ask them also to contact the FCO.
The more fuss we can generate, the more likely the people will be released unharmed, sooner rather than later
Naomi Wayne/Richard Kuper
Letter to the FCO
Mr Alistair Burt
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State
Foreign & Commonwealth Office
King Charles St
London SW1A 2AH
28 September 2010
Dear Mr Burt
We are writing to urge your Government to do everything possible to assist the nine passengers and crew on the Jewish Boat to Gaza – the Irene. We have been advised that the boat was boarded this morning by the IDF as it was approaching Gaza.
This tiny vessel is sailing under a British flag and is carrying a cargo of symbolic aid for the trapped people of Gaza – children’s toys and text books, musical instruments, water coolers, nets for Gaza’s fishermen.
All bar one of the people on board are Jewish. Two are British citizens, one is German, one American and the rest are Israeli. Two are very elderly and frail – one was taken as a baby as a refugee from Germany in the late 1930s while another survived the war in a horrific Rumanian ghetto and then emigrated to the new Israeli state. Yet another passenger is a leading member of the highly respected Jewish/Palestinian reconciliation group, the Bereaved Families Forum, which brings together people from both communities who have lost close relatives in the conflict.
We have chosen to locate our mission on such a very small boat in order to emphasise the symbolic nature of the journey. In addition, from the outset, we made it clear that our passengers and crew would not engage in any physical confrontation and would not present the Israelis with any reason to use physical force. These principles have been strictly observed.
We are now extremely concerned for the well being and safety of all on board. We are asking you to do the following:
· to provide full consular support to the British citizens on board – Glyn Secker, retired social worker and the Jewish captain, and Vishal Vishvanath, who is a photojournalist;
· to urge the Israeli Government to release everyone as soon as the boat reaches dry land;
· to make it clear that Her Majesty’s Government supports the message of the boat, passengers and crew; that the siege of Gaza should be lifted and Israel should engage in genuine negotiations with all the elected representatives of the Palestinian people so as to achieve a just and lasting peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict.
Secretary, Jews for Justice for Palestinians
The passengers and crew of the Irene arrived the port of Ashdod in Israel in the custody of the Israeli Navy.
The Irene, which was towed into port by Israeli Navy boats, was met by a group of peaceful protestors on the beach of Ashdod port. The Israeli passengers and crew were separated from the foreign nationals (from the UK, USA and Germany) aboard the boat. The Israelis were questioned in Ashdod, whilst the foreign nationals were taken to Holon.
The legal team have visited the Israelis and have reported to us that the most of them were treated well, although Yonatan and Itamar, were separated and taken onto a Naval boat, where Yonatan was tasered, and both Yonatan and Itamar were restrained with handcuffs before being led off. Yonatan is now doing well, as is Reuven, who there was great concern about as he does suffer from a heart condition.
The lawyer reports that the Israeli members of the crew will be released today, although all their phones and cameras have been confiscated in case they contain images that may be a security risk. It may take up to two weeks to return them.
The lawyer is now on route to Holon, to visit with the foreign nationals. We have received reports that the UK members of the crew refused Consular advice and support so that they would not be deported until they had confirmed the safe release of the Israeli nationals from the Irene. The FCO confirmed that support will still be available to them if they require it.
It is believed that all the crew and passengers will be released tonight, but we will let you know when we have official confirmation.
The foreign nationals are being held by the Israeli Immigration Police (OZ) at Hatzoref 5 in Holon, if any journalists or well wishers in the area would like to go and support their release.
2. Foreign Nationals denied access to their legal representatives
We have just received a call from the legal team in Israel.
The lawyers had made all the necessary negotiations and had all the required paperwork required to visit the foreign nationals held by the Israeli Immigration Police (OZ) at Hatzoref 5 in Holon.
When the legal team arrived, they were told that they needed to submit a formal request via fax in order to visit them. The legal team’s office then sent through a fax request but it was rejected (we are not currently clear why it was refused but will report more as we hear it).
The legal team were then advised to contact the Israeli Foreign Office, however the Foreign Office has currently refused to speak to them. We are currently phoning the relevant Consuls and Embassies to inform them that there are foreign nationals who are being held by the OZ and are being refused access to their legal representatives.
If you want to help, please contact the Foreign Office in the UK, USA and Germany and their Embassies or Consulates in Israel and state your concern that there are citizens being held by the Israeli Immigration Police OZ without access to their legal representatives.
Please visit http://jewishboattogaza.org/ for updates
London Press Team, Jewish Boat to Gaza