“I mean Gaza is its own prison and it is an enormous injustice that many of them have no charges, they are thrown into jail. You have got children now who are in jail, who are 12, 13, 14 years old. What happened to them? They threw stones.”
As many as 4500 Palestinians are currently imprisoned in Israel many of whom are on the so-called administrative detention that allows Israeli prisons to hold them for months without any accusations.
Palestinian prisoners have been subject to human rights violations such as the use of torture during interrogations.
Press TV has conducted an interview with Greta Berlin, co-founder of the Free Gaza Movement, to further discuss the issue. What follows is an approximate transcription of the interview.
Press TV: We were watching there about the plight of the Palestinian prisoners. We’ll get to the Free Gaza Movement in the next section but let us talk about your experience in Gaza because when you were there in 2008 you would have met families who had prisoners in Israeli detention.
Berlin: And we did, we met with the families when we were there. We met with them, we talked to them. Many of those people are still in prison. You are talking now what, four years later? They are still in prison.
I mean Gaza is its own prison and it is an enormous injustice that many of them have no charges, they are thrown into jail. You have got children now who are in jail, who are 12, 13, 14 years old. What happened to them? They threw stones.
Press TV: I think Greta what you would have seen firsthand and what you will know from speaking to Palestinians is the injustice on the families. Often we can say figures, 4700 Palestinians in prison and then people will say what did they do? Maybe they deserved it. What is the knock-on effect of 4,700 prisoners?
Berlin: I think the hardest thing for all of us who met with those prisoners is to talk to their mothers, any of us who are mothers it broke our hearts. They sat there with the pictures of their sons. Many of whom they hadn’t seen in decades, a few of them and they didn’t understand, they could not understand why this was happening, why they couldn’t be released.
I think that was the hardest thing for anyone who is a mother, was to talk to those mothers.
Press TV: And of course the inhumanity of not being able to get any visitation rights at all which I don’t think is merit anywhere else so specifically in the world as an Israeli gets Palestinian detainees. But Greta I will be coming back to you in a couple of moments to talk about the Free Gaza book.
Greta, this book is original and different from other things that have been written about the Free Gaza Movement, how?
Berlin: Well it is different because it has got 24 voices in it and that was 24 voices out of the 44 people who went on board and also the people waiting in Gaza.
So it is a kind of an anthology of how hard it was for us to put this project together, how patient the Palestinians were who were waiting for us in Gaza and then what actually happened to us when we got on board those boats because we were sick, our communications were cut off.
Actually the book is very funny sometimes because for example we put the wheel on backwards on one of the boats.
Press TV: So tell me about that, I remember I was on the Free Gaza and I would say when you steered left it seemed to go right and at one point it backed into a dock when it was supposed to be going forward. It was a floating joke.
Berlin: Yes it was a floating joke, it was a floating shipwreck, it was a floating disaster, it was a floating piece of crap I think is what our Irish person said and we did not realize that.
There was no body on those boats out of the 44 people. There were perhaps eight who knew what they were doing. The rest of us just got on the boat.
Press TV: And people think it was just a 36 hour crossing which quite frankly we’ll get to in a minute with horrendous enough. But there were people on the boats for how long?
Berlin: Well the boats because actually you are part of that, because the boats actually came out of Greece. The entire journey was 12 hundred miles long because the boats have been hidden in Greece. We had realized that the Israelis had blown up a boat in 1988 and had killed three of the organizers that was called the ship of return.
So we wanted to make sure that those boats were well hidden. Well they were but they were just small fishing boats. They had to get out of the ports in Greece, go down to creek, come across the Mediterranean, go to Cyprus and then go to Gaza.
And these are small fishing boats that were actually equipped for maybe eleven people.
Press TV: And what sort of threats, did you encounter any threats? Outline those, what is in the book?
Berlin: Well because I was in the charge of the media I got lots of threats because my phone number was posted. I remember one man just before we left, he called me up and he said do you know how to swim? And I said what? He said well do you know how to swim? I said what? And he yelled at me do you know how to swim? And I said oh, I am sorry you sound like you are under water.
Now I thought that was funny because what happened to all of us is that we were so accustomed to being threatened, you were threatened, your children were threatened. We were so accustomed to being threatened that we started turning it into a joke.
Press TV: Let’s remember these Zionist sympathizes, stooges,…people are paid to threaten activists trying to do good for the Palestinian cause. Isn’t that correct?
Berlin: Yes and I am still being threatened. I mean when the book came out, it came out on Amazon and it has only been out for two weeks because it came out on the fourth anniversary of our sailing which was August 23rd.
The vitriol of the Zionists that have written negative reviews about this book is amazing.