Israel Defense Forces soldiers used excessive force while taking over a Gaza-bound aid ship organized by Jewish and Israeli activists, the boat’s passengers said on September 28, countering the military’s version, which said the takeover was uneventful.
The IDF reported earlier that day that Israeli naval commandos peacefully boarded the Jewish aid boat, which was attempting to break a naval blockade on Gaza. The IDF said its “naval forces recently boarded the yacht ‘Irene,’ and it is currently being led to the Ashdod seaport, along with its passengers.”
However, testimonies by passengers who were released from police questioning seemed to counter the IDF’s claims. Israeli activist and former Israel Air Force pilot Yonatan Shapira said there were “no words to describe what we went through during the takeover.”
Shapira said the activists, who he said displayed no violence, were met with extreme IDF brutality, adding that the soldiers “just jumped us and hit us. I was hit with a Taser gun.”
“Some of the soldiers treated us atrociously,” Shapira said, adding that he felt there was a “huge gap between what the IDF spokesman is saying happened and what really happened.”
The former IAF pilot said he and his fellow activists were “proud of the mission,” saying it was organized “for the sake of a statement — that the siege on Gaza is a crime, that it’s immoral, un-Jewish, and we have a moral obligation to speak out. Anyone who stays silent as this crime is being committed is an accessory to a crime.”
Eli Usharov, a reporter for Israel’s Channel 10, affirmed Shapira’s version of events, telling Haaretz that the takeover was executed with unnecessary brutality.
“They used a Taser gun against Yonatan. He screamed and was dragged to the military boat,” Usharov said, adding that both Yonatan and his brother, Itamar, were handcuffed.
The Channel 10 reporter also said that the activists managed to have a serious heart-to-heart conversation with the troops once they were on board the military vessel, and that “overall, the atmosphere was good.”
Reuben Moscowitz, a Holocaust survivor who took part in the mission, expressed his disbelief that “Israeli soldiers would treat nine Jews this way. They just hit people.”
“I, as a Holocaust survivor, cannot live with the fact that the State of Israel is imprisoning an entire people behind fences,” Moscowitz said. “It’s just immoral.”