Lebanon Rescues Cynthia McKinney
- Lebanon Rescues Cynthia McKinney
From Cynthia McKinney:
We Lived to Tell the Story; Lebanon Rescued Us
Thursday, January 1, 2009
Yesterday, we met with the President of Lebanon, the Chief of the
Military, and the Interior Minister who all thanked us for responding
and risking our lives on a mission of mercy; we profusely thanked
them for rescuing us.
What would we have done, stranded out at sea, prohibited from
reaching our destination, low on fuel, with a badly damaged boat if
Lebanon had not accepted us? Lebanon sent their ships to find us.
Lebanon rescued us. Lebanon welcomed us. And we are truly thankful.
It's official now. We've been told that the sturdy, wood
construction of our boat, Dignity, is the reason we are still alive.
Fiberglass would probably not have withstood the impact of the
Israeli attack and under different circumstances, we might not be
here to tell the story. Even at that, the report that came to us
yesterday after the Captain and First Mate went back to Sour (Tyre)
to inspect the boat was that it was sinking, the damage is extensive,
and the boat will take, in their estimation, at least one month to
repair. Tomorrow, we will bring the Dignity from Sour to Beirut.
And now, we must decide what to do and from where we will do it and
how we are to get back to wherever that might be.
My personal, and I know the group's, thanks must go to Al Jazeera,
that allowed three of their reporters to be onboard with us on our
voyage. As a result, Al Jazeera carried the story of the Dignity
live, from castoff in Cyprus when our spirits were high, right up
through the manacing maneuvers of the huge, super fast Israeli ships
before they rammed us, the Israeli calls on the ship phone after the
ramming calling us terrorists and subversives and telling us to
return to Cyprus (even though the Israelis later claimed that they
didn't know who we were, they knew enough about us to tell us where
we had come from), and the fact that we didn't have enough fuel to
follow their instructions, right up to their threat to fire at us if
we didn't turn around, ending with our beaten-up boat limping into
Sour harbor in Lebanon. Al Jazeera carried our story as "breaking
news" and performed a real service to its audience and to us. Al
Jazeera called the Israelis to inquire about the incident right as it
was happening and I am sure the Israelis were prepared to leave none
to tell the story. Al Jazeera told the story and documented it as it
One of those Al Jazeera reporters with us was Sami El-Haj, who was
detained in Guantanamo by the United States for six incredibly long
years. What an honor to even exchange glances with such a humble man
who had endured so much pain at the hands of the U.S. government. I
apologized to him that my tax dollars were being used in such a
despicable way. And Sami's crime according to the U.S.? Born in
Sudan, and reporting for Al Jazeera in Afghanistan, Sami was the
wrong color, the wrong nationality, the wrong religion, reporting for
the wrong news outfit, telling us the truth about a wrong war. And
for that he survived incarceration for six long years. Sami El-Haj,
Guantanamo prisoner number 345.
Another incredibly committed journalist who was with us was CNN's
Karl Penhaul. Karl reported the truth even when his own station was
repeating Israeli disinformation. The fact that we were traveling
with these alert journalists added to the flat-footedness and obvious
crudeness of the Israeli response. Sadly, Israel has changed its
story too many times to count, and that's because they are not
telling the truth.
We lived to tell the story. Karl's incredible reporting, just a
portion of our story, can be seen on CNN at:
where there's also video and a photo of our damaged boat.
This video and the photos of Karl's report is particularly
interesting given that Israel claims that our boat was only scratched
and that, in actuality, our captain, while trying to outmaneuver
them, damaged their warship.
I'm told that CNN only played my full statement once--and that's the
time that it aired live. Of course, they cut the reference to the
U.S.S. Liberty. What are they afraid of?
Last night I was on PressTV.com, along with others who were on the
Dignity, and we debated a representative from WINEP, the Washington
Institute for Near East Policy. I reminded the audience that the
Palestinians don't have nuclear weapons, depleted uranium munitions,
white phosphorous, or F-16s, but the Israelis do. The facts,
however, tend to get garbled after being processed by the "Grand
Wurlitzer" organ of state-sponsored disinformation utilizing the
With the truth clearly on our side, Israel has been reduced to
releasing the ridiculous bombast below, given to me by a reporter who
came to our hotel in Beirut for a visit. With their multiple,
conflicting stories, it is clear that the Israelis did not expect us
to live to tell the truth.
On the drive from Sour through Saida to Beirut, we were welcomed like
heroes because our ordeal had been seen by everyone on Al Jazeera.
The mayor of Sour came to welcome us. The mayor of Saida insisted
that we stop there, on our way to Beirut, for a special ceremony.
But there was something else that was visible along our drive, and
that is the devastation that Lebanon, itself, has received as a
result of the Israeli war machine. The scars of the war are still
evident everywhere. I will write more on that tomorrow.
And one final note, President-elect Obama roared like a mighty lion
onto the political scene, but now he is as silent as a lamb in the
face of the death and destruction that is happening in Gaza. As we
approach the birthday celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. let
us remember what Dr. King said:
"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the
silence of our friends."
And after five days of aerial bombardment by Israel, the carnage in
Here is the palaver that the Israelis put out for public
consumption. It is pitiful that a powerful and mighty country like
Israel would be reduced to publishing something so petty and weak as
the following press release dated December 30, 2008:
Consulate General of Israel to the Southeast
Office of Media Affairs
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Israel continues to take its humanitarian relief efforts in Gaza
seriously. Border crossings into Gaza remain open, and every effort
is being made to deliver aid to the Palestinian people. Nearly 100
trucks carrying relief supplies entered Gaza on the 28th & 29th of
December and additional shipments are arriving. Israel is working
closely with UNSCO, UNRWA, the Red Cross, and WHO to ensure the entry
of the required aid, especially food and medical equipment.
Unfortunately, former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney has taken it
upon herself to commit an act of provocation, leading a small boat of
supposed assistants into the conflict zone. She endangered herself,
her assistants, and the vessel's crew. The Israeli navy hailed Ms.
McKinney but the former Congresswoman failed to respond, thereby
leading to the incident. We regret that during this time of crisis,
while Israel is battling with the terrorist organization of Hamas and
defending its citizens, that we are forced to deal with Ms.
McKinney's irresponsible behavior.
Consulate General of Israel
to the Southeast
1100 Spring St NW, Ste 440
Atlanta, GA 30309-2823
Michael Printy Arthur
Director of Media Affairs
For additional information, please visit our website.
Gaza relief boat damaged in encounter with Israeli vessel
A little more of the story and film of the extensive damage can be
NEW: Israel scolds former congresswoman for being on Gaza-bound boat
Israeli naval vessel, boat with medical volunteers collide
Boat's crew contends naval vessel rammed it intentionally
Israel denies intentionally hitting boat carrying journalists,
(CNN) -- An Israeli patrol boat struck a boat carrying medical
volunteers and supplies to Gaza early Tuesday as it attempted to
intercept the vessel in the Mediterranean Sea, witnesses and
Israeli officials said.
The Dignity arrives in Tyre, Lebanon, after it was
reportedly rammed by an Israeli military vessel Tuesday.
CNN correspondent Karl Penhaul was aboard the 60-foot
pleasure boat Dignity when the contact occurred. When the boat later
docked in the Lebanese port city of Tyre, severe damage was visible
to the forward port side of the boat, and the front left window and
part of the roof had collapsed. It was flying the flag of Gibraltar.
The Dignity was carrying crew and 16 passengers -- physicians from
Britain, Germany and Cyprus and human rights activists from the
Free Gaza Solidarity Movement -- who were trying to reach Gaza
through an Israeli blockade of the territory.
Also on board was former U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney.
Penhaul said an Israeli patrol boat shined its spotlight on
the Dignity, and then it and another patrol boat shadowed the Dignity
for about a half hour before the collision.
One patrol boat "very severely rammed" the Dignity, Penhaul said.
The captain of the Dignity told Penhaul he received no warning. Only
after the collision did the Israelis come on the radio to say they
struck the boat because they believed it was involved in terrorist
activities, the captain said.
But Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor denied that and
said the patrol boat had warned the vessel not to proceed to Gaza
because it is a closed military area.
Palmor said there was no response to the radio message, and
the vessel then tried to out-maneuver the Israeli patrol boat,
leading to the collision.
The captain and crew said their vessel was struck intentionally,
Penhaul said, but Palmor called those allegations "absurd."
"There is no intention on the part of the Israeli navy to ram
anybody," Palmor said.
"I would call it ramming. Let's just call it as it is," McKinney said
after the boat docked in Lebanon. "Our boat was rammed three times,
twice in the front and one on the side.
Watch Cynthia McKinney discuss the collision »
"Our mission was a peaceful mission to deliver medical
supplies and our mission was thwarted by the Israelis -- the
aggressiveness of the Israeli military," she said.
The incident occurred in international waters about 90 miles
off Gaza. Israel controls the waters off Gaza's coast and routinely
blocks ships from coming into the Palestinian territory as part of an
ongoing blockade that also applies to the Israel-Gaza border. Human
rights groups have expressed concern about the blockade on Gaza,
which has restricted the delivery of emergency aid and fuel supplies.
Tuesday's collision was so severe, Penhaul said, that the passengers
were ordered to put on their life vests and be ready to get in
lifeboats. The Dignity began taking on water, but the crew managed to
pump it out of the hull long enough for the boat to reach shore.
"It could have ended with people drowning if they hit us more square
on," Dignity's captain, Denis Healey, said. "It could have gone down
Palmor said the vessel refused assistance after the incident.
The boat was carrying boxes of relief supplies, volunteers and
journalists to Gaza, the Palestinian territory that has been subject
to an intense Israeli bombing campaign since Saturday.
Israel Tuesday lambasted McKinney -- the Green Party's 2008 candidate
for the U.S. presidency and a former Democratic congresswoman from
Georgia -- for taking part in the maritime mission.
In a written statement, the Consulate General of Israel to the
Southeast, based in Atlanta, Georgia, said McKinney "has taken it
upon herself to commit an act of provocation," endangering herself
and the crew.
"We regret that during this time of crisis, while Israel is
battling with the terrorist organization of Hamas and defending its
citizens, that we are forced to deal with Ms. McKinney's
irresponsible behavior," the statement read.
The trip was the Free Gaza Solidarity Movement's sixth in as
many months. Israel launched airstrikes against Gaza on Saturday in
what Defense Minister Ehud Barak called an "all-out war" against the
Palestinian militant group Hamas, which has ruled the territory since
2007. The Israeli military says its goal is to stop a recent barrage
of rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel.
Watch the chaos in Gaza and Israel »
The Palestinian death toll has topped 375, most of them Hamas
militants, Palestinian medical sources said Tuesday. At least 60
civilians have been killed in Gaza, U.N. officials said.
Hamas has continued to fire rockets at southern Israeli towns since
the airstrikes began, Israel says. Six Israelis have been killed --
five of them civilians.
Hamas has vowed to defend Gaza in the face of what it calls continued
Israeli aggression. Each side blames the other for violating an
Egyptian-brokered cease-fire, which formally expired December 19,
but had been weakening for months.
McKinney relief boat hit by Israeli ship
By CRAIG SCHNEIDER
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Monday, December 29, 2008 http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/dekalb/stories/2008/12/29/cynthia_mckinney_gaza.html?cxntlid=brkng_nws_bnr
A boat carrying international activists, including former Georgia congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, and medical supplies to the embattled Gaza Strip sailed back into a Lebanese port on Tuesday after being turned back and damaged by the Israeli navy, organizers of the trip said.
The crowds on the docks in the Lebanese port city of Tyre were jubilant and cheering as they welcomed the vessel.
Cynthia McKinney is aboard the yacht Dignity, which set sail from Cyprus on Monday.
The boat, which set off from Cyprus Monday wanted to make a statement and deliver medical supplies to embattled Gaza. The trips organizers said the boat was clearly in international waters, 90 miles off the coast of Gaza, at the time of its close encounter with the Israeli navy.
Our boat was rammed three times, twice in the front and one on the side, McKinney told CNN Tuesday morning. Our mission was a peaceful mission. Our mission was thwarted by the aggressiveness of the Israeli military.
Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for Israels Foreign Ministry, denied there had been any shooting although the two ships had made physical contact.
Palmor said there was no response to a radio warning to the Dignity, and the vessel then tried to out-maneuver the Israeli patrol boat, leading to the collision.
Cyprus state radio said the Cypriot government would seek explanations from Israel over the incident.
McKinney called on President-elect Obama to address the Gaza crisis, saying the weapons being used by Israel were supplied by the United States.
McKinney denied that the incident was an accident. What the Israelis are saying is outright disinformation, she said. What happened to us last night was a direct threat to our mission, but not our cause.
Palmor called those allegations absurd.
There is no intention on the part of the Israeli navy to ram anybody, Palmor said.
In a press release, the Free Gaza movement stated, Contrary to international maritime law, the Israelis are actively preventing the Dignity from approaching Gaza or finding safe haven in either Egypt or Lebanon. Instead, the Israeli navy is demanding that the Dignity return to Cyprus despite the fact that the ship does not carry enough fuel to do so.
McKinney is a high-profile member of a boatload of activists that set sail Monday from Cyprus to deliver medicine to war-torn Gaza.
McKinney, who ran as the Green Party candidate for president, sees the voyage as a humanitarian mission, said her father, former Georgia state Rep. Billy McKinney.
Her mother did not want her to go, he said, referring to concerns at home for her safety.
But I think that certain people have missions in life and you cant deter them.
The activists, organized by the Free Gaza Group, said their 66-foot yacht called SS Dignity would defy an Israeli blockade of Gaza and ferry 16 activists and three tons of Cypriot-donated supplies. The supplies are intended to help treat the wounded from Israeli bombings against targets in Gaza, in retaliation for rocket fire aimed at civilians in southern Israeli towns.
Israels aerial bombardment of the Gaza Strip continued for a third day on Monday. By Monday, the death toll rose to 364, with some 1,400 reported wounded, according to Palestinian medical officials.
McKinney had sent an e-mail days ago to friends and supporters saying she intended to go to Gaza, said Hugh Esco, a Decatur resident who ran her presidential campaign Web site.
She has stood with people all over this planet against oppression, said Esco.
McKinney said she will petition President-elect Barack Obama to speak out against the attacks on Gaza.
The Free Gaza group has made five deliveries of aid by boat to Gaza since August, defying a blockade imposed by Israel when Hamas won control of the territory in June 2007. Organizers say they are aware they may be stopped this time.
I dont know if shell get off the boat, her father said. I hope she gets back safely.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Oh What a Day!
December 30, 2008
I'm so glad that my father told me to buy a special notebook and to write everything down because that's exactly what I did.
When we left from Cyprus, one reporter asked me "are you afraid?" And I had to respond that Malcolm X wasn't afraid; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wasn't afraid. But little did I know that just a few hours later, I would be recollecting my life and mentally preparing myself for death.
When we left Cyprus, the Mediterranean was beautiful. I remember the time when it might have been beautiful to look at, but it was also filthy. The Europeans have taken great strides to clean it up and yesterday, it was beautiful. And the way the sunlight hit the sea, I remember thinking to myself that's why they call it azure. It was the most beautiful blue.
But sometimes it was rough, and we got behind on our schedule. We stayed on course, however, despite the roughness of the water and due to our exquisite captain.
There were no other ships or boats around us and night descended upon us all rather quickly. It was the darkest black and suddenly, out of nowhere, came searchlights disturbing our peace. The searchlights stayed with us for about half an hour or so. We knew they were Israeli ships. Who else would they be?
They were fast, and they would come close and then drop back. And then, they'd come close again. And then, all of a sudden there was complete blackness once again and all seemed right. The cat and mouse game went on for at least one half hour. What were they doing? And why?
Calm again. Black sky, black sea. Peace. And then, at that very moment, when all seemed right, out of nowhere we were rammed and rammed again and rammed again the last one throwing me off the couch, sending all our food up in the air; and all the plastic bags and tubs--evidence of sea sicknesses among the crew and passen gers--flew all over the cabin and all over us. We'd been rammed by the Israelis. How did we know? Because they called us on the phone afterwards to tell us that we were engaging in subversive, terroristic activity. And if that if we didn't turn around right then and return to Larnaca, Cyprus, we would be fired upon. We quickly grabbed our lifevests and put them on. Then the captain announced that the boat was taking on water. We might have to evacuate. One of my mates told me to prepare to die. And I reflected that I have lived a good and full life. I have tasted freedom and know what it is. I was right with myself and my decision to join the Free Gaza movement.
I remembered my father's parting words, "You all will be sitting ducks." Just like the U.S.S. Liberty. We were engaged in peaceful activity, a harmless pleasure boat, carrying a load of hospital supplies for the people of Gaza, who, too are sitting ducks, currently being bombarded in aerial assault by the Israeli military.
It's been a long day for us. The captain was outstanding. Throughout it all, he remained stoic and calm, effective in every way. I didn't know how to put my life jacket on. One of the passengers kindly assisted me. Another of the passengers pointed out that the Israeli motors for those huge, fast boats was U.S. made--a gift to them from the U.S. And now they were using those motors to damage a pleasure boat outfitted with three tons of hospital supplies, one pediatrician, and two surgeons.
I have called for President-elect Obama to say something. The Palestinian people in the Gaza strip are seeing the worst violence in 60 years, it is being reported. To date, President-elect Obama has remained silent. The Israelis are using weapons supplied to them by the U.S. government. Strict enforcement of U.S. law would require the cessation of all weapons transfers to Israel.&nbs p; Adherence to international law would require the same. As we are about to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, let us remember that he said:
1. The United States is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world, and
2. Our lives begin to end the day we remain silent about things that matter.
I implore the President-elect to not send Congress a budget that contains more weapons for Israel. We have so much more to offer. And I implore the Congress to vote "no" on any budget and appropriation bills that provide more weapons transfers, period.
Israel is able to carry out these intense military maneuvers because taxpayers in the U.S. give their hard-earned money to our Representatives in Congress and our Congress chooses to spend that money in this way. Let's stop it and stop it now. There's been too much blood shed. And while we still walk among the living, let us not remain silent about the things that matter.
We really can promote peace and have it if we demand it of our leaders.
Eyewitness account of Israeli terror in Gaza
Marna house, Gaza city, Vittorio Arrigoni, Volunteer,
International Solidarity Movement
An acrid smell of sulphur fills the air while the sky is shaken by earth-shattering rumbles. My ears are now deaf to the explosions, while my eyes are all out of tears from all the corpses. I stand in front of Al Shifa hospital, Gaza's main hospital, and we've just received Israel's terrible threat that they intend to bomb its wing under construction. This would be nothing new, as Wea'm hospital was bombed just yesterday, along with a medicine warehouse in Rafah, the Islamic university, which was also destroyed, along with various mosques scattered along the Strip. Not to mention many CIVILIAN structures.
Apparently, they can no longer find "sensible" targets, the air force and the navy is targeting places of worship, schools and hospitals. It's another 9/11 every single hour, every minute around here, and tomorrow is always a new day of mourning, always identical to the previous one. You notice the helicopters and airplanes constantly overhead, you see a flash, but you're already a goner and it's too late to take flight.
There are no bunkers against the bombs in the Strip and no place is really safe. I can't contact my friends in Rafah, not even those who live North of Gaza City, hopefully because the phone lines are overloaded. Hopefully. I haven't slept in 60 hours, and same goes for every Gazan. Yesterday three other ISM members and I spent the entire night at the al Awda hospital in the Jabalia refugee camp. We were there because we were fearing the much dreaded ground raid that never happened. But the Israeli tanks are posted all along the Strip's border, and their corpse-hungry creaks will apparently form a funeral march tonight. Around 11:30 PM a bomb fell about 800 metres from the hospital, the shock wave blow several windows apart, injuring the injured.
An ambulance arrived, then they blew up a mosque, thankfully empty at that time. Unfortunately, though it actually has nothing to do with bad luck but with the criminal and a terrorist will to massacre civilians, the Israeli bomb has also struck the building adjacent to the mosque, which was also destroyed. We watched as the tiny bodies of six little sisters were pulled out of the rubble five are dead, one is in life-threatening conditions.
They laid the little girls out on the blackened asphalt, and they looked like broken dolls, disposed of as they were no longer usable. This wasn't a mistake, but a voluntary, and cynical horror. We're at a toll of 320 dead, more than a thousand wounded and, according to a doctor at Shifa, 60% of these are destined to die in the next few hours or days, after prolonged agony.There are many missing, and for the last two days despairing wives have been searching for their husbands or children in hospitals, often to no avail. The morgue is a macabre spectacle. A nurse told me that after hours of searching, a Palestinian woman recognized her husband from his amputated hand. All that's left of her husband, and the wedding band on her finger from the eternal love they had sworn one another.
Out of a house inhabited by two families, very little has remained of their bodies. They showed their relatives half of one bust and three legs. Right now, one of our Free Gaza Movement boats is leaving the port in Larnaca, Cyprus. I spoke to my friends on board. They've heroically amassed medicine and steeped it everywhere in the boat. It should reach the port of Gaza tomorrow around 8:00 AM. [NOTE: Israel rammed the boat and forced it back to Cyprus.] Here's to hoping that the port will still exist after another night of endless bombing. I'll be in touch with them for the entire night. Please, someone stop this nightmare. Choosing to remain silent means somehow lending support to the genocide unfolding right now. Shout out your indignation, in every capital of the "civilized" world, in every city, in every square, covering our own screams of pain and terror. A slice of humanity is dying in pitiful in a useless listening.
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