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Tuesday, November 8, 2011 FULL SHOW | HEADLINES | NEXT: Exclusive: 5,000 Haitian Cholera Victims Sue U.N. After...
2011-11-08

Israel Deports Democracy Now! Correspondent Jihan Hafiz; Most Gaza Flotilla Activists Still Detained

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The Israeli government continues to detain a number of passengers seized in international waters Friday while trying to challenge the Israeli naval blockade on Gaza. The passengers were on two boats — one from Canada and the other from Ireland — as part of the "Freedom Waves" flotilla. Some 20 activists are believed to remain in custody after refusing to sign statements asserting they had entered Israel illegally. Flotilla organizers have accused the Israeli military of physically assaulting some of the activists and tasering at least one of them. Democracy Now! correspondent Jihan Hafiz was among those detained despite her press credentials. Hafiz had been filing daily reports for Democracy Now! from the Canadian ship named "Tahrir." She spent three nights behind bars, where she was strip-searched and denied phone calls to relatives for 48 hours. She was finally deported Monday night and arrived in New York City just hours ago. Israel has not returned her equipment or footage. In a Democracy Now! exclusive, Hafiz joins us in our New York studio. "All of the [Israeli] commandos on all of these boats were heavily armed... It looked like they were taking on an army of a foreign country," says Hafiz, noting the masked soldiers pointed their guns at the heads of those on board. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: The Israeli government continues to detain most of the passengers seized in international waters Friday while trying to challenge the Israeli blockade on Gaza. The passengers were on two boats—one from Canada, the other from Ireland—as part of the Freedom Waves flotilla to Gaza. Around 20 activists are believed to remain in custody after refusing to sign statements asserting they had entered Israel illegally. Flotilla organizers have accused the Israeli military of abusing the activists, with allegations of physical assault and the use of tasers.

Democracy Now! correspondent Jihan Hafiz was among those detained in the Israeli raid. She had been filing daily reports for Democracy Now! from the Canadian ship called the Tahrir. She spent three nights behind bars. She was finally deported Monday night, landed in New York just hours ago. In this Democracy Now! exclusive, Jihan joins me now in our New York studio.

Welcome to Democracy Now!

JIHAN HAFIZ: Thank you very much, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s very good to have you back. It was a battle to get you released this weekend from Israeli detention.

JIHAN HAFIZ: It’s great to be back.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you describe first what happened on Friday? Yesterday we interviewed the Egyptian reporter about what she saw. She was also on the boat. But today, Jihan, tell us what happened.

JIHAN HAFIZ: Well, they contacted us at about 1:30—excuse me, 12:30, 1:00. And we knew that they had arrived, because all the communication had shut down on our boat. The satellite phones didn’t work, as well. There was no internet. The BGAN, the satellite BGAN I’ve had to communicate with you and also to check email or to do any kind of updates, was no longer working. And so, we figured at that point that they were around. And then, of course, they made contact with us. And the Israeli navy asked us our—what the course of our—or where our course was headed. And David Heap, the member of the steering committee, said—

AMY GOODMAN: He is one of the Canadian activists.

JIHAN HAFIZ: Exactly, he’s one of the Canadian activists still in detention in Israel, waiting to be deported. They haven’t mentioned anything about his—about his case yet. But he, along with Ehab, who’s also a member of the steering committee on the Canadian boat, said that "We’re sailing toward the goodness of humanity." And it seemed that that irritated them a number of times, because they wanted a location as to where we were sailing off to, but they continued with "We’re sailing to end the occupation. We’re sailing for a better future." And then, from there on out, they attempted to discuss some kind of negotiation where Israeli commandos would come on board, search the boat for weapons, and then allow us to go on our journey to Gaza, which everyone on the boat, including the journalists, knew would not happen. We saw that as a pretext for them to come on, detain everyone, and forcefully take us to Ashdod, the Israeli port next to Gaza.

And, of course, this was also something the Irish delegation, which was 15 people on the—all Irish, by the way—on the Saoirse, which was—

AMY GOODMAN: Some parliamentarians, former.

JIHAN HAFIZ: Some parliamentarians, yes, including a European MEP. He was also on the boat. And—

AMY GOODMAN: That’s a member of the European Parliament.

JIHAN HAFIZ: Exactly, and a former member of the Irish rugby team, the national team there. And they also refused to consent to the Israeli army boarding—Israeli navy boarding the ship and taking it to Ashdod. Everyone agreed that there would be passive resistance if they were to come on; we would not resist them in any way, but we would take what they said, if they were to detain us, which they did. And in the end, that happened. It did take an hour for them to come to some kind of negotiation. No negotiation was reached. And they were very irritated at that point. They were circling the boat multiple times.

AMY GOODMAN: And how many ships were there?

JIHAN HAFIZ: There were three warships, and there were about 20 smaller gunboats, so four Zodiac boats. And these are boats that can maneuver very quickly and can disrupt—our boats were not as big as the warships, but they could disrupt us in the water, and they pushed us forcefully side to side, because the waters that day were rough, as a storm was coming. And so, they were intimidating both boats, going back and forth, surrounding them. There were four Zodiacs, four water cannon boats, as well as four regular gunboats. All of the commandos on all of these boats were heavily armed. I mean, obviously, they did not look like they were taking two very much smaller boats filled with unarmed people, with activists and civilians. It looked like they were taking on an army of a foreign country.

In any case, they followed the Irish boat, which decided to make a run for it. They went straight ahead, attempted to break away from the Israeli commandos. And at that point, two gunboat—two water cannons started to pour lots of water into the Irish boat, which flooded it, blew their sockets, and cut off all the electricity. And so, at that point, the Irish delegates I spoke to said they told the Israeli army, "We’re taking on water. We’re sinking. We’re going to go down at sea if you continue with the water."

Our boat, on the other hand, was—they started to board our boat as soon as the Irish boat went down and they boarded that one. And as soon as they came on board, they were extremely hostile. They approached us as if they—as if we were armed. They had guns in everyone’s faces, on every—pointed at everyone’s heads. And I found it interesting and somewhat schizophrenic that they would say, with their guns pointed in our faces, "Don’t worry. Don’t worry. Sit down. Sit down. Get up. Don’t worry. Move to the side. Don’t worry. It will be OK." And it’s hard to—it’s hard to believe a soldier—you don’t have his face, because all their faces are masked, black masks. It’s hard to believe someone that has their gun in your face that—not to worry, everything will be OK.

At this point, they attempt to separate us. They put the men on one side and the women on the other side. As they’re boarding, they taser David Heap, who was in the captain’s room trying to get to the back of the boat.

AMY GOODMAN: He was one of the Canadian activists.

JIHAN HAFIZ: He was one of the Canadian activists, and he was tasered on the arm.

AMY GOODMAN: You saw this?

JIHAN HAFIZ: I did, yes, in the captain’s—captain’s quarters. He was there with George, who was our captain. He’s a Greek activist. And they moved—they tried to force them out to the side, to the back of the boat where we were. They weren’t resisting. They were moving slowly, but not resisting. And I guess it wasn’t fast enough for them.

AMY GOODMAN: Were you filming any of this?

JIHAN HAFIZ: Unfortunately, at this point, I did stop filming, because I wanted to hide my chips. I knew that if any—if I had any chance to take any of this video out, I would have to hide the video—I’d have to hide the chips that I had, from the experience of the Mavi Marmara. Casey Kauffman of Al Jazeera was filming up until the commandos stepped on the boat, and as soon as they stepped on the boat, they grabbed his camera and grabbed all the other cameras on board and put them to the side. And so, most of the filming stopped as soon as they boarded the boat.

And they were very forceful with Michael Coleman, who was a delegate—the only Australian delegate. He did resist. He was not—he was not cooperating with any of their demands. They dragged him to the other side of the boat. They had guns to his back, as well as to his head, as they frisked him. And they even had lasers pointed at his chest. And this irritated a lot of people on board, including the journalists, because it seemed as though they were threatening to shoot him. And so, we were a bit concerned about having lasers pointed at people, at which point they put it down. But they detained us and kept us all on the top—all on the top of the boat, until there were requests made to go down, because it was very cold heading back toward Ashdod.

AMY GOODMAN: So, you’re taken. You’re taken to Ashdod. There, did you—what else did you see? What happened to the activists there?

JIHAN HAFIZ: Well, we knew that, upon arriving, because when they did board our boat—and I—the first time I see the video of what happened is of course the Israeli video, because we don’t have any of our images. So we were getting—

AMY GOODMAN: You don’t have them because...?

JIHAN HAFIZ: Because they took them from us, and they would not let me come back to the United States with them.

And I found it interesting that when they boarded the boat, they had some Israeli commandos with cameras strapped to their helmets. And so, they were walking around filming us. We asked them for water, because there were some people who were dehydrated and who desperately needed water before we arrived at the port. And at that point, we didn’t know if we could have water at the port, as well. So they allowed us to drink water. And whenever anyone attempted to drink, they had the cameras in people’s faces, and the activists were saying this is going to be part of their propaganda machine to show that they were very cordial toward the activists and to the reporters they had detained.

And as soon as we got to the port in Ashdod, as soon as we got there, they already had an army of people ready to greet us. They had people—multiple soldiers with television cameras. It seemed as though they had a medical facility there. They had three huge vans with—it seemed like surveillance—surveillance machines, where they’d put our things through. We were escorted off the boat. And, of course, before we got off the boat, everyone warned, if they attempt to help you, just don’t—carry your own things out, and help yourself off the boat, because they have cameras facing our way. And it was perceived that they would use this video as propaganda. So, of course, as everyone is getting off the boat, they have cameras in everyone’s faces, cameras at their things. They even taped our passports, which I found to be shocking, because these are our international—these are our travel documents. And they moved us—they brought us to this warehouse, where they had—

AMY GOODMAN: Did they hurt any of the activists getting onto the bus?

JIHAN HAFIZ: Yes, they did. After going through strip searches with myself and some of the female activists—

AMY GOODMAN: You were strip-searched?

JIHAN HAFIZ: Yes, I was strip-searched, because they—I tried to hide these chips, I mentioned. And I hid them in my underwear, because I didn’t think—I knew they were going to find them, but I attempted to see if it would work or not. And so, they did a thorough search [with] my clothes on initially, and then they used a metal detector, and they detected the metal in these chips. And at that point, they asked me to take—to remove all my clothing, and they did a very thorough strip search of my body to see if there was anything else on it. And this also happened to two of the Irish women who were also on the boat. They found chips in their bras. So anything they found that they suspected was—I’m not sure what it was, but they would immediately strip-search you and take you to board the bus.

And when they boarded me on the bus, I did witness extreme violence toward Michael Coleman, who I must say was the most defiant of that day that we were taken.

AMY GOODMAN: He was the Australian activist.

JIHAN HAFIZ: Yes, of course, he was the Australian activist. And while I was sitting down, I could hear him arguing with them: "You kidnapped us. You’re pirates. You violated international law. You’re lawless." And I think the more he would say these things that would irritate them, the more violent they would become.

AMY GOODMAN: What happened with the flags on the boats?

JIHAN HAFIZ: Oh, this was interesting with the flags. We actually—the activists didn’t put up the Palestinian flag until the day—until Friday, when everyone presumed that the boat would be taken by the Israelis.

AMY GOODMAN: Before that, it was Canadian-flagged and Irish-flagged?

JIHAN HAFIZ: It was, yes, Canadian and Irish flags on both the boats. And then, of course, we put up Palestinian flags as we attempted to head into Gaza.

AMY GOODMAN: The activists put up the flags—

JIHAN HAFIZ: Yes, the activists put up those flags.

AMY GOODMAN: —on your—in both?

JIHAN HAFIZ: On the Canadian boat and on the Saoirse, which was—you know, we very celebrated because it was—we were about 45 nautical miles from Gaza, and it seemed almost—there was almost jubilation that this is possible it could go through. And of course, as the Israelis—Israeli navy boarded the boat, immediately after putting us in our corners and searching us, they tore down the Palestinian flags, and they put up the Israeli flags. It seemed to me as almost a sign of conquer, as conqueror, and heading into their port. When they attempted to do this with the Irish boat, however, the Irish refused to have that happen. They shielded their poles and said, "You will not remove any flags from our ship. You will take it into the port with the flags on it." And for whatever reason, the Irish—excuse me, the Israeli soldiers on their boat listened to them, and they rolled into Ashdod without any problems, without any—with the Palestinian and the Irish flag on their boat.

AMY GOODMAN: So, one boat flew in—came in with the Israeli flags.

JIHAN HAFIZ: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: And the Irish boat came in with the Palestinian flags.

JIHAN HAFIZ: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: So then you’re brought into detention. We were making calls nonstop at this point for you as a journalist, accredited. Well, you have two press IDs.

JIHAN HAFIZ: Yes, I do. I have one from Democracy Now! I’m also credentialed by the U.S. TV Senate Radio Gallery. It’s a U.S. government-issued ID. So I don’t just have—

AMY GOODMAN: Because you covered the Senate and the House in Washington.

JIHAN HAFIZ: Because I—exactly. When I worked in Washington, I covered the—and that’s usually the—if you work in Washington, that’s the government-issued ID that gets you into the State Department, the White House, the Pentagon. So it’s an authentic—it’s a U.S.—it’s a U.S. government-issued ID.

AMY GOODMAN: And you’re a U.S. citizen.

JIHAN HAFIZ: And I am a U.S. citizen.

And they took us into this area to process us, which we later found out was court. It wasn’t court. It was someone sitting across a desk telling you you have to sign a document that you illegally came into Ashdod and that you violated an international siege on Gaza. And everyone refused this, because we were kidnapped in international waters and forced into Ashdod. It was never our destination, to begin with. And I told him that I’m actually—I’m not an activist, I’m here as a journalist covering for Democracy Now!. I mentioned both my credentials. And he said to me that the Israeli government does not see me, does not see my reporting, or Democracy Now!'s, as reporting, as journalism. It's, to them, activism. And so, they did not designate me—

AMY GOODMAN: Journalism is activism.

JIHAN HAFIZ: That’s what they said. They said that this form of journalism is actually activism, and so they designated me from there on out as an activist, not as a journalist. And even when I told them multiple times, "Please let me go through my bag. Let me get you my press credentials. Let me show—let me get you the one from the U.S. government. I’ll show you that I’m here on assignment. I’m not here as a member of the delegation," they refused. And it almost seemed as though they had this—they already had it drilled into their system that I would continue on, from there on out, as an activist, because everyone I spoke to would continue to say, "So, why were you part of the American delegation?" I said, "No, I was here on assignment." And I was shocked that they allowed Casey Kauffman of Al Jazeera—they had him down as a journalist, as well as Hassan Ghani of Press TV. But when it came to me, I was lumped into the rest of the activism.

AMY GOODMAN: And what has happened to Hassan Ghani?

JIHAN HAFIZ: I haven’t heard from Hassan since that night.

AMY GOODMAN: How was he referred to there?

JIHAN HAFIZ: He was referred to as the Iranian. Press TV is an Iranian station. And Hassan actually is not Iranian whatsoever. He’s of Pakistani descent, but he’s actually a British national. He was born in the U.K., and he has a British passport. But they continuously kept referring to him as the Iranian, as the Iranian. So I was worried at that point as to what would happen to him afterward, if they kept designating him as an Iranian.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Israeli army spokesperson Ari Shalikar, defending Israel’s decision to intercept the flotilla boats in international waters.

ARI SHALIKAR: A short while ago, the Israeli navy boarded the two vessels which were on their way to break the maritime security blockade which was imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip. We are talking about a very clear case of provocation, and we maintain our right to defend our borders.

AMY GOODMAN: There is the Israeli army spokesperson saying, "We [maintain] our right to defend our borders." Jihan Hafiz, your response?

JIHAN HAFIZ: Well, that was the response all along, and we knew that before we—as soon as it was announced the media embargo, the information embargo, was lifted, the Israelis responded right away, and that response seemed to match what they said. We were well aware that they were—if they were to intercept the boats—and we knew that they were to intercept the boats—that this would be the response coming out, that we were violating their embargo and that—and what we were also hearing is that the 100-kilometer—they had jurisdiction over international waters. And they made that very clear to us, as well. I mean, if I could just quote what one of the guards said to us, she said, "You are not an Israeli. You are in Israel now, and we make the law." And it was very much—that’s how it was the whole way through. Whenever we tried to—even the journalists who said, "Listen, we were in international waters. You kidnapped us. You brought us here. We were forced here. We won’t sign things that say that we came here illegally, because we didn’t," they would keep saying to us, "Well, this is international law, and you violated a so-called international embargo against Gaza." They didn’t say "the Israeli embargo"; they said "the international embargo," to give it more authority over what they were doing.

AMY GOODMAN: You are a U.S. citizen. The United States government is responsible for what happens to you.

JIHAN HAFIZ: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: What was the U.S. response as you were in jail for the three days you were there?

JIHAN HAFIZ: I was very shocked by the U.S. response, by their involvement in—in our case. Kit Kittredge and I are both Americans. We were—

AMY GOODMAN: Kit Kittredge was the American activist.

JIHAN HAFIZ: Yes, she was actually the only American activist on the trip. And we were shocked that it took—it took a while for them to come to our—to come to our aid. And while the Irish delegations and the Australian and Canadian delegations had their representatives and the Irish ambassador come three days of the three days we were detained, the Americans came twice. And they came at the very end of the day, with barely any kind of helpful information, other than what the Israelis were telling us to do, which was sign away that you entered illegally. And I found it somewhat astonishing that the U.S. representative from the U.S. embassy said to us—he admitted that they are powerless in Israel. They’re powerless over our cases, that they’re in a foreign country, and that they can’t do anything, and that they’re being given the runaround.

And I just—I was wondering why they came the second day so late. Kit and I said to them, "Where the hell have you guys been? We’ve been rotting away in this detention facility. No information. We keep watching the Irish and the Canadians go out speaking to their people, coming back with substantial information that pertains to their release. And meanwhile, we’re rotting away, wondering what happened to our government and wondering how they will—why they can’t get us out, given the close connection and the close relationship, financially, militarily, between Israel and the United States."

AMY GOODMAN: And what was the response?

JIHAN HAFIZ: And the response was, they’re giving us the runaround and that they’re powerless in a foreign country. I mean, they literally said, "We are powerless in a foreign country." And we couldn’t believe that they were saying this to us, because this is the U.S.—this is the U.S. embassy. Everyone on the delegation, too, thought that the U.S. would come to our aid very quickly, they would find some way to get us out as U.S. citizens. But I have to say, we were not—the other delegations were much better off than Kit and I were, under the U.S.—

AMY GOODMAN: So the Irish ambassador visited.

JIHAN HAFIZ: The Irish ambassador came every day, and he refused to leave—

AMY GOODMAN: Did the U.S. ambassador come to visit you?

JIHAN HAFIZ: Of course not, no. And we asked him to come. And we asked him to make sure that the Israeli prison guards were giving us free association in the open courtyard. We did not see ourselves as criminals or as immigrants that needed to be deported. We were there as political prisoners at this point. And we wanted to make it very clear to those Israeli prison guards that we should have writing materials and other things that the other delegations were having. But they seemed almost, "Oh, no, this might seem a little bit too much to ask them. We’re just trying to get you to be released." What seemed they wanted the most was for us to sign this paper.

AMY GOODMAN: That said you had illegally entered Israel.

JIHAN HAFIZ: That said we had entered illegally, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: So, ultimately, what did you sign?

JIHAN HAFIZ: So, ultimately, I signed a deportation—a letter of my deportation out of Israel.

AMY GOODMAN: That did not say that you had illegally entered.

JIHAN HAFIZ: That does not say anywhere that I entered illegally. It just consents to, after 72 hours, I am being deported.

AMY GOODMAN: Where was your equipment, your—both your tapes, as well as your camera? What did they tell you about getting them back, as they were assuring us that you would be able to get them back at the airport?

JIHAN HAFIZ: Yes. Multiple times, I told them — and I saw — $20,000 worth of my equipment. When I came in the first night into this warehouse, where they did the strip search, I saw my equipment on a table, and I said, "I need a receipt for all of that that belongs to me." And they kept saying, "Oh, no, no. At the airport, when you leave, you’ll get it. At the airport, when you leave, you’ll get it." And, of course, when I met with the representatives from the U.S. embassy, the Israeli prison guards, as well as the commander in charge of the jail, said to us, "Oh, she will get her equipment at the airport as soon as she leaves."

When I left last night, not only did I leave without knowing any information, literally as a political prisoner, as a prisoner, as a criminal, they would not let me have any kind of communication with other people who were leaving the country. They snuck me in through this separate staircase that led to the front of the plane. And when I asked them multiple times, "Where is my equipment?" — "Oh, sorry. You have to get the U.S. embassy to bring—to get your equipment for you." And it was almost—extremely confusing, because I saw the commander who had taken my things on Friday, and I said, "Listen, you said" —

AMY GOODMAN: At the airport?

JIHAN HAFIZ: At the airport, yes. And he refused to speak to me. He refused to give me his name, at least details about who I can call the Israeli government about my equipment. And they were being extremely evasive the whole time through. I actually didn’t know my flight number 'til I arrived in New York this morning. And I didn't even know I was coming to New York today until I was halfway—the voyage was halfway across the Mediterranean on the plane. So, I mean, they completely kept us in the black, treated us as criminals the whole time. And that was my experience there.

If I can just mention the most humiliating—my most humiliating experience while I was in their custody, and speaking to the other female guards, who are now really my sisters after what we experienced. As soon as we arrived—

AMY GOODMAN: The female guards?

JIHAN HAFIZ: Oh, not the female guards, the female prisoners. I’m sorry. The Irish, the women from the Irish delegation, as well as the Canadian and American. As soon as we arrived at this jail, there were about 40 prison guards outside. Four of them, four of the 40, had video cameras zoomed into our faces the whole time. They brought our bags in. They kept filming us. They did another search, another strip search, actually, filming it, filming our ID.

AMY GOODMAN: They filmed you naked?

JIHAN HAFIZ: Yes, they did. They filmed my back, not my bottom area, but my back area, naked. And then they brought us into this area where they were doing processing. And there were about 10 guards each on my bags, going through my things, sniffing my underwear, putting different metal detectors inside, and just going over and over the same motions, in a very robotic way, as if there was no—as if there was no kind of humanity in the room, that they couldn’t tell me, "Oh, we’re going to go through your bags now. Watch it." They were just doing it in a very mechanical way.

AMY GOODMAN: And when you were put on the plane, the Continental flight home?

JIHAN HAFIZ: Yes, when I was put on the Continental flight home, I was given no information. The guard that put me on, I’m not sure what he told the stewardess—who put me on this plane—but I did ask her multiple times for a newspaper. I’ve been in—I have not—I don’t know what’s going on in the world at all until today, and I asked her a couple of times, "Can I have a newspaper? Can I have a newspaper?" And then, very last minute, she said, "No, you don’t get newspapers." And she just walked away and didn’t say anything. And if I did make a scene there, it would be somewhat embarrassing or somewhat chaotic, because of all the other passengers. And so, I just took it that way. But the whole time through—

AMY GOODMAN: Were you able to make a call—

JIHAN HAFIZ: I was able—

AMY GOODMAN: —when you were in detention, for the days that you were?

JIHAN HAFIZ: Yes. I was—well, 48 hours later, I was able to make a phone call. In fact, one of the rights they claim to have read us says, "You have the right to notify a close friend, relative, an attorney or an official of your country upon being detained." I was able to make a phone call 48 hours later. So no one knew what was happening with me. No one had heard my voice or knew if I was OK or not until 48 hours later when I called my sister. And they recorded the conversation, and they only allowed three minutes.

AMY GOODMAN: And the call could go to where?

JIHAN HAFIZ: And the call could only go to your home country. So you could only call your home country, and you could only call a relative. And they said to me, "Do not say anything negative. Say good things that have happened to you. Say how we’ve been treating you. Do not say anything negative." They said this to the other women, as well. They said to the other women, "Do not say negative things on the phone. Do not say political things on the phone."

AMY GOODMAN: At this point, the majority of people who were detained are still in detention. In these last 30 seconds, can you talk about what you know of the people now?

JIHAN HAFIZ: They’re supposed to be released today. The 72 hours of their detention was up last night. And so, what I think the Irish delegation is refusing is to buy their own tickets. They believe that the Israeli Ministry of Interior should purchase their tickets for kidnapping and—kidnapping them and bringing them to Ashdod. I do believe Kit Kittredge, the only other American delegate—the only American delegate on the ship, the Canadian ship, is being deported here to New York, should be here very shortly, and that the Canadians, along with Michael Coleman, the Australian, and the Irish, are now—have formed a committee inside their cell block, and they’re demanding that the Israeli prison guards allow free association, free reading materials and phone calls, which is something we did not have. As five women in our holding cells, we weren’t able to have that kind of momentum, as the men do, as 15 individuals—as more individuals than 15, actually.

AMY GOODMAN: Will you be able to get your equipment back?

JIHAN HAFIZ: I hope so. But the American official at the U.S. embassy said it’s taken them a year and a half to get broken equipment back from the Mavi Marmara trip for other journalists. So I hope they live up to their word and they don’t steal or break my equipment. But unfortunately, I prefer to have left Israel with my things. I am not sure how long it will take to get them back.

AMY GOODMAN: And it’s your footage, as well, of the entire trip.

JIHAN HAFIZ: My footage of the entire trip, my hard drives, everything. I mean, everything was taken from me, $20,000 worth of equipment.

AMY GOODMAN: Jihan Hafiz, I want to thank you for being with us, Democracy Now! correspondent, has just returned to the United States after being detained and deported by the Israeli authorities for covering the Freedom Waves flotilla to Gaza. They were taken in international waters, brought into Israel, where they were held. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. To see her reports in international waters, you can go to our website at democracynow.org.

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