Henning Mankell, the renowned Swedish crime writer and author of the Wallander series, was on board the Sophia, which formed part of the Gaza Flotilla, when Israeli commandos raided the ship.
Speaking at a press conference in Berlin after spending 24 hours in an Israeli cell, Mankell accused the Israelis of “going out to commit murder” and says he witnessed the shooting an elderly passenger with a stun gun.
Mankell described how he was woken at 4am and told that the ship Mavi Marmara was under attack.
Passengers on the Sophia could see helicopter spotlights and hear weapons firing. They couldn’t find out exactly what was happening because communication had been stopped by the Israeli military.
Then, at 4.35am, the Israelis attacked the Sophia. Passengers and crew had decided not to resist, and stood on the bridge. Masked commandos landed, carrying submachine guns and forced them all below deck.
“We had elderly people among us, who perhaps weren’t so quick on their feet,” says Mankell. “One of them was shot in the arm with an stun gun and he fell to the floor in pain. Another man was hit with a rubber bullet and also fell to the floor.”
The soldiers then searched the ship. After a while they came back and said they had found weapons. “We said, ‘What weapons? There aren’t any weapons on board this ship.’
“Then they showed us a wet razor—my razor. Then they showed us a little knife from the kitchen, which the Egyptian cook used to open provisions.”
“When we got to land, something happened that I will never forget. One after the other, we were led into a prison—we had to run a gauntlet between two lines of soldiers.
“The soldiers never identified themselves but they filmed us the whole time, though Geneva Convention forbids treating civilians like this.
“And I can testify that they stole everything I had. They stole my camera, my phone, my money, my credit card, my clothes—everything.
“A policeman said to me, ‘Either we’ll deport you or you’ll go to prison.’
“I asked, ‘What am I accused of?’ He said, ‘You have entered Israel illegally.’
“I replied, ‘What are you talking about? I was kidnapped and forced to come here’.”
Mankell angrily rejects accusations that people who protest against Israel are anti-Jewish.
“I’m not an antisemite. I am against the current policy of Israel towards the Palestinians. I’m against it, because it’s a kind of apartheid. I was against apartheid in South Africa and I’m against apartheid today.”
“I prefer not to be one of the useful idiots who sit around and cynically assert that solidarity isn’t worth anything. I’d rather not belong among them.”
Mankell vowed to continue the fight to free Palestine.
“This time we came with six ships, and we’ve seen the Israeli reaction,” he said. “But what if we came back in a year with a hundred ships? What would Israel do? Bomb us?
“Wouldn’t it be a better idea for Israel to lift the blockade?”