Revolution #204, June 20, 2010

REVOLUTION interview with Adam Shapiro

New Revelations About Israel's Massacre on the Mavi Marmara

In the pre-dawn hours of May 31, 2010, Israeli military forces stormed the Mavi Marmara, one of six ships carrying humanitarian relief to Gaza. Adam Shapiro is a co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement, which initiated and organized the Freedom Flotilla that attempted to break Israel's siege of Gaza. Israel detained the survivors of the attack for days, stole all their phones, cameras and recordings, and held them incommunicado. In the face of an international outcry, the survivors were released, and have begun to tell their stories to the world. Revolution correspondent Alan Goodman spoke with Adam Shapiro about what is being revealed.

The Revolution Interview is a special feature of Revolution to acquaint our readers with the views of significant figures in art, theater, music and literature, science, sports and politics. The views expressed by those we interview are, of course, their own, and they are not responsible for the views published elsewhere in our paper.

Alan Goodman: It's great to be talking with you. Before I ask you about the details of the attack, and how you're responding, tell us about what was behind this trip.

Adam Shapiro:  Sure, the Free Gaza Movement has previously organized eight missions before this Freedom Flotilla to Gaza, five of which were successful, the last three were stopped. After the last mission was stopped in July 2009, we in the Free Gaza Movement decided we needed to make our next mission bigger, bring on more important partners from around the world, more ships, more people, more cargo. And so we set out to work for many months to organize that. In the end we had eight ships—one was disabled and unable to join—so seven ships set sail for Gaza. We had over 10,000 tons of cargo, bringing much-needed reconstruction supplies, some humanitarian goods, paper, school books, wheel chairs, cement, water sanitation devices to use in the water treatment plants in Gaza and other materials. And we had over 700 people participate from over 40 countries.

Revolution: How much of these materials you were bringing are banned by the Israelis?

Adam Shapiro: Just about everything, I think, that was on our ships, did not conform to the list of 75 items that Israel permits to pass into Gaza. So just about everything we brought, even though all of it was of a humanitarian or civilian nature, none of it would have been allowed normally to pass into Gaza by Israel.

Revolution: OK, you were talking about the volunteers who were part of this.

Adam Shapiro: Yes, we had people from over 40 countries, including parliamentarians, as well as doctors, journalists, lawyers, tae kwon do champions. You name it, we had them on the ships, and it was quite something. It represents the international position on the blockade, on the occupation of Palestine, and against Israel's policies.

Revolution: When the world originally learned of the attack, except for one brief clip of video uploaded from the ship by survivors, overwhelmingly the "information" released was being supplied by Israel. And many people found the massacre of nine activists on the Mavi Marmara outrageous under any circumstances. But what have you learned from the survivors about what actually happened on the boats?

Adam Shapiro: Just today, one of our activists who had been on the Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara, her name is Iara Lee, showed about an hour's worth of video she was able to smuggle out with her, at the UN press meeting. And what this video shows, and one of the most important things our video shows is confirmed by testimony of the witnesses, the survivors on this ship, is that while, in fact our passengers, after being attacked by the Israeli military, did manage to capture and disarm three Israeli soldiers, and injured the Israeli soldiers, nonetheless, those soldiers did get medical attention from our doctors on board the ship and were cared for. Nonetheless, all of the injured on our side, as well as a number of people who died, were rejected from getting any kind of medical attention by the Israeli soldiers, once they took control of the ship—in direct violation of international law, in direct violation of Israeli military codes of conduct as well. And according to the testimony of a number of survivors on the ship, including medical personnel, I'm not sure exactly how many of the people who died, but certainly a number of them died because they were denied medical attention.

Revolution: Do you have any insights on the results of the Turkish autopsies on the victims?

Adam Shapiro: We do know from the forensic reports that the nine passengers who were killed were shot a total of 30 times. I think four or five of them were shot in the head, in the skull. Four of them were shot from behind, in the back of the skull or in the back. The report indicates that almost all of them were shot at quite close range. What we do know is that two of the people who were killed were working in the press room. One was a camera man, with a camera, and was filming the Israelis as they took over the boat. He was shot in the head. And another person working on transmitting the video out, communicating with the world via satellite, he was also shot.

Revolution: How do you respond to Israeli claims that they were attacked?

Adam Shapiro: First of all, the operation itself, launched in international waters, of these thousands of Israeli commandos, dozens of ships and Zodiac steamboats, helicopters—there were airplanes flying overhead, and drones—this entire operation carried out against our ship, even if the Israelis had not fired a single bullet, nonetheless constituted the initial attack against our ships. Of course that was the case once they came on board and were firing on our people from helicopters. This is the inception of the attack. Our personnel responded in self-defense once the ships were attacked, both in terms of Israeli soldiers coming on board, and also them using lethal force against our passengers.

Revolution: Fill our readers in on the battle to get the truth out about what happened.

Adam Shapiro: I think we've already been successful, although the mainstream media has for the most part accepted unquestioningly the Israeli tapes that they've given them, I nonetheless have seen—because of our media strategy before the mission took off, to address the media, to involve the media, to have them on our ships, to have spokespeople prepared—we have also been able to shape the story. Not entirely, necessarily. But more than any previous time in which Israel has been engaged in propaganda, they find themselves challenged in their delivery. And the more they are challenged, the more their story is unraveling, the more their spokespeople are coming apart, and the more they are contradicting themselves. We are getting a different perspective out, and more of that will continue to happen.

We're working on disproving the veracity of the pictures and video. We've already forced them to remove and retract a couple of pictures and audio that they claimed were coming from the boats. We're working on proving that their videos have been doctored, and are altered versions of what happened. We've also started taking the testimony of the passengers. We will be filing lawsuits in a number of countries. And we're also pushing for an independent investigation, an international investigation.

Revolution: What's next, and where can people go to learn more?

Adam Shapiro: We will sail again to Gaza and we will also explore other tactics. The sailing to Gaza, using the ships, is a tactic, as part of an overall tactic to bring down the blockade, to lift the occupation of Gaza, and ultimately to fulfill all Palestinian rights. We will continue to try with the boats, but we will try other tactics as well to try to achieve our strategy. We will for sure sail again. Our website is Another website people can visit for more information is

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