Home / In the Media / Fmr. Congressmember Cynthia McKinney back in U.S. after being detained and deported from Israel

Fmr. Congressmember Cynthia McKinney back in U.S. after being detained and deported from Israel

Democracy Now

8 July 2009


Cynthia McKinney, former U.S. Congresswoman and the 2008 Green Party presidential candidate.

Adam Shapiro, documentary filmmaker, human rights activist and Palestinian rights activist. Adam was a co-founder of the ISM in Palestine. He was filming the voyage of the Arion for the Free Gaza Movement last week.

AMY GOODMAN: Former Congress member Cynthia McKinney arrived back in the United States Tuesday following her deportation from Israel. McKinney was one of 21 activists seized by the Israeli military in international waters last week as they tried to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza. Also aboard the Free Gaza boat was Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire. Last week’s trip was the Free Gaza movement’s first since it aborted an attempt in January after the Israeli navy threatened to shoot the civilian passengers on board. That sailing had come just weeks after an Israeli Navy vessel deliberately rammed another of its boats, almost forcing it to sink. Cynthia McKinney joins us now in Washington D.C. We are joined here at the Firehouse by Adam Shapiro. He was filming the Free Gaza trip last week. He is a Palestinian human rights activist and co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement. Both former Congress member McKinney and Adam were detained for the past week and just deported back to the United States.

Cynthia McKinney why did you go? What happened to you in the Israeli jail?

CYNTHIA McKINNEY: I went because there’s a gross injustice being carried out everyday. This is my second attempt to get into Gaza with the Free Gaza organization. And for the two times I attempted to get in, two times I have been thwarted by the Israeli military. The cause is the human rights of the Palestinian people. The world saw the operation Cast Lead where the United States supplied white phosphorus, depleted uranium, cluster bombs, DIME weapons, were rained down on the defenseless people of Gaza. Of course, we desperately wanted to get in to take humanitarian relief supplies. And both times I have tried to go with Free Gaza, they’ve been thwarted—we have been supported thwarted by the Israeli military.

AMY GOODMAN: Now were you on one of the boats that was rammed?

CYNTHIA McKINNEY: I was on the Dignity. And yes it was rammed in international waters…

AMY GOODMAN: When was this?

CYNTHIA McKINNEY: ..This was in December, just a day or so after the outbreak of Operation Cast Lead. I was contacted by Free Gaza and asked to go within 24 hours and I said, yes, I would go.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to play a comment made last week by Israeli government spokesperson Mark Regev who dismissed the humanitarian mission of the Free Gaza Movement.

MARK REGEV: Israel every day is allowing humanitarian support to reach the people of Gaza. Food stuffs, medicines, energy and so forth. This boat was not about that. This boat was about political activists who have been apologists for the Hamas regime who have nothing whatsoever to say about Hamas’s brutal treatment of the people of Gaza.

AMY GOODMAN: Former Congress member McKinney, your response?

CYNTHIA McKINNEY: Well, clearly, we just had a visit to Gaza by President Carter, Former President Carter. Basically, he acknowledged that with the complete and utter devastation that the people of Gaza experienced at the hands of weapons that were supplied to Israel by the United States, he said that unfortunately the Palestinians are treated worse than human beings. I challenge the Israelis to respond to what President Carter had to say.

AMY GOODMAN: Former Congress member McKinney, tell us about the jail. Were you able to reach the Obama administration while you were there?

CYNTHIA McKINNEY: Well, the jail was very interesting. In fact, the first most interesting thing I witnessed was the seemingly endless stream of people of color who are being processed as we were being processed. And on my cell block, there were women from Africa and Asia who thought they were going to Israel because Israel was the Holy Land. And many of them, not all of them, but many of them had United Nations refugee status. They have been certified by UNHCR as refugees, but what they were told as they faced the threats and intimidation from the police is that the United Nations is not in Israel.

AMY GOODMAN: Adam Shapiro, you are Palestinian rights activist long known for this. You were on the boat. You were roughed up, you were filming when the Israeli military came on board. Describe what happened.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Well, they boarded us, four zodiac ships as well as eight naval warships, they surrounded our boat and can immediately towards the wheel house where I was along with the captain and one other crew member. I was documenting the whole trip and filming as they boarded the ship. Two soldiers came after me immediately, recognizing I think that they don’t want any footage of what was happening and they don’t want the world to know how they behave. I tried to keep the camera as long as I could. But I was pummeled repeatedly in the back and arms and choked and eventually they got the camera out of my hands. They have since taken all of our tapes, all of our flashcards and all of that, so we don’t have a record to show the world of what happened on board. The rest of the time we were detained in one room of the ship as we spent the better part of six hours navigating back to an Israeli port where we were processed and ultimately jailed.

AMY GOODMAN: There was another Al-Jazeera reporter on board as well ?

ADAM SHAPIRO: There was an Al-Jazeera reporter and cameramen. They lost all of their footage and camera as well.

AMY GOODMAN: Their computer was taken?

ADAM SHAPIRO: Yes, it was taken, completely reformatted and erased. And so again, we don’t seem to have a record to show the world what happened.

AMY GOODMAN: Your response to Israeli Spokesperson Regev?

ADAM SHAPIRO: Well Mark Regev is known for his colorful descriptions of how great life is in Gaza as far as Israel is concerned. However, all of the reporting, including the most recent International Committee for the Red Cross, shows the number of trucks Israel is allowing into Gaza is completely insufficient for what is needed. And so yes, it is true, he can say Israel allows foodstuffs and medicines to get in, but two trucks a day or 20 trucks a day is far inferior to what is needed. And we have seen, since the international outcry following January’s attack has subsided the number of trucks Israel has allowed in has decreased. And so, what we are saying, Free Gaza is a humanitarian effort to bring in the kinds of medicines and foods that are needed. But the Free Gaza movement is also a political organization in the sense we are human rights organization, And human rights for Palestinians is inherently political. And we are challenging Israel politically too, and this week I think has been a success for those of us who are fighting for Palestinian rights. We were not able to get into Gaza but we have shown the world the true colors of the Israeli occupation, and the double standard by which the United States and other countries are dealing with Israel.

AMY GOODMAN: Former Congress member McKinney, we only have ten seconds. But, you’ve just been deported. What are your plans right now?

CYNTHIA McKINNEY: Well, I would like to see the children of Gaza have the coloring books and crayons that we had on board with us. I would like to see the houses that have been destroyed rebuilt. I would like to see the lives rebuilt for the people of Gaza and I would like to see the people of Palestine have, and enjoy their human rights.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think president Obama is headed in that direction?

CYNTHIA McKINNEY: I think you can probably answer that as well as we can, because while we were in detention, the Foreign Ministry of Ireland made protests and asked the government of Israel to release its nationals, several Members of Parliament

AMY GOODMAN: …We have 5 seconds….

CYNTHIA McKINNEY: from the United Kingdom…

AMY GOODMAN: … 5 seconds….

CYNTHIA McKINNEY: …also wanted to censure Israel. Nothing from the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: Cynthia McKinney, Adam Shapiro, Thank you so much. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks for joining us.