Tuesday, 1 June 2010
The brother of a Dundee man, missing after Israeli commandos intercepted a flotilla of aid ships bound for Gaza, led a 200-strong protest in Dundee City Square last night.
Khalid El-Awaisi’s 21-year-old brother Ali was on board one of the boats boarded by Israeli troops early yesterday morning, with nine people reported dead.
Last night Khalid addressed local politicians, friends and activists gathered outside City Chambers to demonstrate against the Israeli action.
Khalid said, “Thank you all for having the heart to come out and say to Israel: No, enough is enough.
“Israel is now attacking international civilians in international waters and it thinks it can get away with it. This is what’s been happening for the last 40 years of the life of Palestine.
“We have to say no to Israel, our governments have to move.”
Ali El-Awaisi is the only participant from NE Scotland on the boats which were carrying about 10,000 tonnes of aid, including around £30,000 worth of goods from Dundee.
It is understood the Israeli navy boarded the Turkish ship the Mavi Marmara in international waters, 80 miles off the coast of Gaza in the early hours of yesterday. Supporters of the aid mission said the Israelis then opened fire on some of those on board the ships.
Back in Dundee Khalid watched the action unfold on live footage from the boat his brother was on.
“I’m continuously watching it,” he said. “I heard the news at 2.30 this morning. I could hear the screaming and the shouting and the shooting.
“All of a sudden I saw my brother so that was uplifting, but then they cut the live feed so no one knows about the other ships.”
Khalid told the Dundee Courier last night he believed his brother would already have been interrogated by the Israeli troops.
He indicated that he had little faith in anything the Israelis did being fair or humane, or indeed to have any respect for international law.
Israel claimed its troops had been attacked and had returned fire in response.
Dundee’s Lord Provost John Letford showed his support for the El-Awaisi family at the demonstration, and condemned the Israeli forces. He said, “There’s no indication it (the aid flotilla) was anything but humanitarian, and this is an affront, but we’re really not in a position to do anything but voice our protest.
“Terrorism is unacceptable in any description. To shoot someone down who is waving a stick in my opinion is unacceptable.”
Yesterday’s demonstration was organised by activist group Tayside for Justice in Palestine, and group member Edith Constable paid tribute to the crowd saying: “It’s very short notice but it’s a credit to Dundee that we can do this sort of thing.
“This was a massacre of innocent people taking aid to Gaza. The UN states that only a quarter of what they need in Gaza actually gets through the blockade. We in Dundee have sent nearly £5000 to Gaza because innocent people are dying because of the lack of medical supplies.”
There were demonstrations across Scotland yesterday in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Perth, Aberdeen and Banff.
There will be a public meeting in Dundee University’s Tower Building at 6pm today to discuss further action and buses will be organised to take activists to a nationwide demonstration in Edinburgh on Saturday. Protesters will march from the Mound to the First Minister’s residence to request further action from Alex Salmond.
Scotland's Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has already said Israel's actions had been "rightly condemned around the world".
Dundee West MSP Joe Fitzpatrick spent time with Khalid El-Awaisi and his sister Alla at the Central Mosque in Brown Street yesterday, trying to assist with the flow of information from the Foreign Office.
He said, “What I have been doing is working with Dundee East MP Stewart Hosie to get answers from the Home Office to try to find out what’s going on and we will also be raising it in the Scottish Parliament.
“But right now this family wants to know what’s happening to their brother Ali. The problem is there is no information about who has been killed or injured.”
Dundee West MP Jim McGovern and Dundee-based North East MSP Marlyn Glenn have also condemned the Israeli actions.