The figure in this grab from C4 news on Monday evening of the scene aboard the Mavi Marmara at the moment of the Israeli attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, is Osama Qashoo, an award-winning documentary film-maker, a Palestinian peace activist from the West Bank, and a member of the Free Gaza Movement. He arrived in England in 2003 as a political refugee, gained a place at the National Film School, and now holds British nationality.
The Foreign Office has confirmed that he is now (Tuesday 1st June) being held in the Ela prison in Beersheba, and knowing him well, I suspect he is one of those who has refused to sign the document that would allow his immediate deportation, on the grounds that they were all kidnapped on the high seas. By refusing an easy way out, their intention is to take Israel to court—its own courts. It seems they will be supported by a team of Israeli lawyers, some of whom (or others) were reported in the Jerusalem Post yesterday to have petitioned the High Court with the charge that Israel had violated the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Doubtless Israel will argue that it is not in violation of the Convention—because they haven’t signed it. Like they haven’t signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, so they don’t have to admit they have nuclear weapons.
Osama first took up a camera in reaction to the conditions on the West Bank. He has written:
‘I found a broken camera and discovered that when I pretended to film—at the check points, in demonstrations or during the many curfews—soldiers acted differently. My camera became like a physical reaction to what was happening around me.’
Unfortunately this time the presence of cameras didn’t stop them.
Before being forced to flee, Osama worked in Palestine for five years for Palestinian radio and television companies, as a photographer for Reuters, and a translator for European journalists in Palestine. I remember when I first met him soon after his arrival in the UK that we spent a whole night talking about his experiences back home, and myself explaining to him that not all Jews are Zionists. (Click here for information about his films.)
It is difficult to find the words to express the depth of the anger and dismay that I feel, along with so many others, and not for the first time, at the Israeli action. It is not enough to say that it was illegal, over-reactive, ill-considered, misconceived, cack-handed. It’s much worse. For my part I concur with the comment of actor and comedian David Schneider on Twitter that ‘As a Jew, Israel’s like a close family member who’s hooked on heroin and you just don’t know what to do with them any more’.
The fact is that Israel is a rogue state, addicted to its own paranoia, brazen in its oppression of the enemies it has created for itself, its acts of murder and state terrorism, shameless not only in the use of military force against peace activists but also in bombarding the world’s media with lies, absurd rationalisations and blatant deceit, whose senseless and insane behaviour only places in question the legitimacy of its entire political class.
On behalf of Osama and his fellow activists, now fellow prisoners, please make your voice heard in protest in any non-violent way you can, not perhaps in the hope that Israel itself will take any notice, but to achieve its international isolation diplomatically, economically, culturally and economically until it complies with international law, lifts the blockade against Gaza, and reverses its inhuman rejection of justice for Palestine.