Massiyahu Prison, Lida, Israel (20 November, 2008) - Three Human Rights Observers (HRO) with the International Solidarity Movement began a hunger strike today in protest over the illegal confiscation of Paestinian fishing boats by Israel. The three HROs, Darlene Wallach of the U.S., Vittorio Arrigoni of Italy, and Andrew Muncie of Scotland, were forcibly abducted by the Israeli Navy on Tuesday, while accompanying unarmed Palestinian fishermen off the coast of the Gaza Strip.
According to Wallach, “We were fishing about 7 miles off the shores of Gaza. The Israeli soldiers came on board the three boats via four Zodiacs. The frogmen came up and over each boat. They used a taser on Vik while he was still on the boat, then tried to push him backwards onto a sharp piece of wood. He jumped into the sea to avoid being hurt more than he already was and was in the water for quite a while. Then they came for me and forced me into the Zodiac at the point of a gun. They kidnapped me and Andrew and Vik and all of the Palestinian fishermen.”
Israel abducted and later released 15 Palestinian fishermen during the incident, and confiscated their fishing boats. The HROs are refusing to be deported, and refusing to eat, until the boats are returned– undamaged–to their rightful owners in Gaza.
“We R on hunger strike and want 2 go before judge in court. No deportation til boats are returned 2 fishermen,” was the text message sent out from jail by the HROs this afternoon.
At court today, HRO Andrew Muncie asked the judge under what law they had been arrested. According to the judge, their detention was authorized by the Oslo Accords “because it is forbidden by military law for you to fish 7 and a half miles off the coast. It is a no-fishing zone.”
However, the Oslo accords grant Palestinians the right to fish 20 miles off their own coast. When Andrew’s attorney handed a copy of that portion of the Oslo accords to the judge, she had no comment.
On August 23, 2008, Wallach, Muncie and Arrigoni were among 44 participants in the Free Gaza Movement who were aboard the first boats in forty-one years to enter Gaza by sea, breaking the Israeli blockade. They remained in Gaza to participate in human rights activities with the International Solidarity Movement. They have been living and working in Gaza since the summer, providing accompaniment to Palestinian farmers and fishermen, and documenting Israeli human rights abuses in the Gaza Strip.
The three will stop eating tomorrow morning until the confiscated fishing boats are “returned in the condition they were in when the frogmen boarded the boats, with any damage they made repaired.”