Retired U.S. Army colonel turned peace activist Ann Wright is back home in Hawaii. On May 31, she took part in a flotilla attempting to run an Israeli blockade to take humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza.
?I went on the flotilla because I had been to Gaza three times in 2009 after the Israeli attack and had seen the conditions there. To go on the flotilla was another way to bring attention to the international community about the plight of Palestinians. It's immoral and illegal to have blockades like this as collective punishment on people,? Wright said.
The Israelis said the flotilla was smuggling arms to Hamas, which they consider a terrorist organization.
Israeli commandos boarded the ships in international water but claim the maritime blockade is legal during a time of armed conflict.
Wright said as a former Army officer she was well aware of the Israeli Defense Forces capabilities.
?I knew they were very capable of extraordinary violence and we saw it happen,? Wright said.
She recalled the terror of the attack.
?They came with percussive grenades being thrown through the windows, through the doors, being followed by guys firing. They were shooting people with Tasers and stun guns immediately. That was followed by lethal fire,? Wright said.
Nine people on the flotilla were killed, and 50 were wounded. Wright said the Israelis confiscated all records of the event.
?The first thing the Israeli commandos wanted was cameras, cell phones and computers of all of us. They took all of those possessions from 750 people and have never returned them. They have all of the evidence of what happened,? Wright said.
The Israelis said during the boarding, the demonstrators attacked them with live fire, knives and clubs.
Wright's account was much different.
?The Israeli raid on the flotilla was a criminal act in international waters, it was an act of piracy. It was kidnapping people on the high seas and theft of property. It was murder on the high seas. The Israelis are committing criminal acts and they need to be held accountable for it,? said Wright.
Wright vowed to return to participate in another aid flotilla in October.
Wright is scheduled to speak Aug. 16 at Ka Huina Gallery in Hilo. She will address a Democratic party meeting Aug. 17 on Maui, and she will appear at the University of Hawaii in Manoa on Aug. 18.