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"Free Palestine!"

Herb Boyd | 4/12/2011, 5:25 p.m.
"Free Palestine, Free Palestine!" was the chant that echoed on the crowded streets outside the...
"Free Palestine!"

It is still not clear what provoked the violence, and watching film footage of the Israeli raid is inconclusive since it was supplied by the Israeli Defense Forces.

Thus far, Edward Peck, a former U.S. ambassador who was on the ship, is the only eyewitness to come forth to explain what happened.

Peck, 80, said he was aroused at 4 a.m. in the morning. Suddenly, there were Israeli commandos on board the ship staring at him. "We were in international waters when they came aboard our ship," he explained.

"I jumped out of bed fully clothed because there are no facilities on the ship. No shower, no wash, no nothing and went upstairs. There I encountered a group of Israeli commandos who said, 'Sit down,'" Peck recounted on ABC-TV. "They were by that time in control of the ship and fine. You know, they didn't harm anybody after that. They harmed some folks in getting on board, as people tried to block them from taking over."

Peck, who is known for his opposition to the Bush administration and its wars in the Middle East, was told by his captors that he had violated Israeli law. "Which one?" he asked. "They said I had entered Israel illegally. But if I'm brought into the country under armed escort, that is not entering the country illegally. Well, they didn't agree with that. I was deported, so I suppose that goes on my record."

But at least he's alive and back with his family. It was reported that the government had released others and delivered the supplies to Gaza, which for hundreds of activists who gathered Tuesday evening outside the Israeli consulate, does not absolve the murders of those aboard the Mavi Marmara.

SIDEBAR

Orthodox Jews join demonstrators

Among the throng of protestors assembled outside the Turkish and Israeli consulates on Tuesday were a considerable number of Jews who, like the massive demonstrations around the world, condemned Israel and its violent attack on the humanitarian flotilla to Gaza Monday morning.

It was indeed strange to see several orthodox Jews with red Turkish crescent and star flags in their hands. But at an earlier rally outside the City Council offices, a speaker informed the crowd that a Holocaust survivor was among the activists on the Mavi Marmara, the ship on which nine human rights activists were killed.

One of the slogans that resonated up and down Second Avenue and 42nd Street near the Israeli consulate was "End the Blockade on Gaza" and "American Dollars Feeds Israel's War Crimes."

According to the Israeli government, the commandos were defending themselves after descending on the ship. The film footage that can be seen on YouTube is inconclusive on this point, and for the Israeli Defense Forces to show the collection of tools as weapons possessed by the activists was ludicrous.

The demonstrations lasted about two hours and included members of several activist groups, along with orthodox Jews in their traditional regalia.

There were no arrests and no major incidents. Although, similar to the earlier rally outside the City Council offices, there were passersby who expressed differences with the protestors, insisting that the commandos were justified in their raid on the ship and were merely protecting themselves against the activists.