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Orcas Island activist on flotilla boarded by Israeli troops is reported safe

It’s been described as a bloody massacre.

But 80-year-old Orcas activist David Schermerhorn walked away unharmed, and is now sitting in a jail cell, waiting to be deported.

Schermerhorn was on his fourth trip with the Free Gaza Movement to deliver supplies to Palestinians when their ships were boarded by Israeli forces on May 31, resulting in more than nine deaths. Dozens more were injured as troops raided the flotilla.

“He called two hours before, and everything was great. It was a beautiful moonlit night, and they were sailing towards Gaza,” said his daughter Kate Schermerhorn. “Then we started getting ‘help’ messages. That’s when we knew something was going on, but we didn’t know what.”

When Kate and her mother Joan saw internet footage of David walking off the boat, they were overcome with relief.

“We’re feeling really fortunate, when others weren’t so lucky,” Kate said. “It was such a relief to see footage of him getting off the boat. And it was very typical of him: he had a book in his hand because he knew he’d be sitting with nothing to do. It was thick, but the bookmark was toward the end, which was unfortunate. So he’s probably done with the book by now and going crazy. He doesn’t like to be without something to do.”

She has been unable to reach her father directly, but says there has been “talk of deportation.”

Kate, who lives in San Francisco, describes her dad as a film producer, war veteran, grandfather of three, and an adventurer who traveled to the North Pole and all over Siberia. He and Joan have lived on Orcas for 14 years.

While David was “always a political person,” says Kate, his passion turned towards the Palestinians in recent years. He joined the Cyprus-based organization Free Gaza, traveling with the group in 2008 to provide aid. In a videotaped letter to President Barack Obama that David recorded shortly before his most recent trip, he spoke of the 1.5 million citizens who are without basic amenities.

“I am 80 years old, which allows me a certain freedom to support a cause in which I believe so strongly,” he said. “The Palestinians do not have such a choice, as the Israeli noose tightens each day around their supplies, their historic lands, their freedom in every aspect of their lives. To our national shame, we have allowed this abusive process to evolve with impunity ... Israel is the unrestrained bully on the block.”

David encountered resistance during his previous trips to Gaza, but this is the first time activists with Free Gaza have experienced such violence.

“During some trips they’ve been turned back or arrested, but nothing like this,” Kate said.

In David’s open letter to President Obama, he spoke of the potential for Israel opposition.

“If the rite of passage of our ships is again challenged by force in international or Gazan waters, I hope that you will publicly and forcefully respond. Silence would not serve justice.”

About Gaza Strip

The Gaza Strip lies along the Mediterranean coast between Israel and Egypt. The majority of its approximately 1.4 million residents are Palestinian refugees. Gaza has remained largely isolated from the international community since it came under the control of the Palestinaian political faction Hamas, which has refused to accept the conditions set by the quartet of Middle East peacemakers – the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia. Israel and Egypt have imposed a strict economic embargo on the area, allowing in only basic supplies.

Gaza remains suspended in a state of continuing misery that falls somewhere short of catastrophic. While Israel and Egypt are both still blocking Gaza’s borders to squeeze Hamas, Israel allows a daily shipment of rations and other aid.

From nytimes.com.

Links

Seattle Times story here.

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