A Conversation with Paul Larudee

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Berkeley–September 12th–Paul Larudee was one of the two primary founders of the Free Gaza Movement which has been attempting to bring relief aid to the mini-nation of Gaza beseeched by the Israelis and Egyptians.  Their efforts to break the Israeli naval blockade have had mixed results. At times reaching success, and at other times dismal disaster. Paul recounted the last attempt — led by the Turks — in which the Israeli ships violently attacked the flotilla killing nine souls (the American media only reported one!) leaving two others brain dead plus forty-five through fifty-five seriously injured. This is a serious revision of the incident from the official stories by participant countries in the Middle East and the West.

A little over two years ago two boats of the Free Gaza Movement became the first group to enter the port there on the Gazan coast in the last forty-one years breaking the Israeli naval blockade. Four more missions have intervened.

Mike Esenscher, a member of the organization Labor Committee for Peace and Justice, gave the introductory introductory remarks:  “Good actions are required for freedom!”  At the same time,”The Israelis are changing the facts on the ground!”  The Hebrews are manipulating the reality of (those) factors, but Paul has reversed this on the sea.

Paul was born to an Iranian father and an American mother.  He was a professor for fourteen years in the Middle East, too.

He began his comments that, with millions elsewhere in the world having no shelter, the government in Israel, is pressuring people to leave their homes in their Occupied Territories.  This is an attempt to “…make the Palestinians disappear.” 

In 2006 he found himself in an Israeli jail.  After which, Tel Aviv expelled him perpetually from entrance into the Jewish State:  A non-Palestinian refugee!  He realized, though, it was possible to enter their territory through Gaza by sea in 2008.  There were four subsequent voyages that followed until Operation Cast Iron (the brutal assault by the IDF [Israeli Defense Force] upon the near-defenseless Palestinian citizens there last year) ended the partiality of that opportunity. 

During the sixth voyage, at the time of the War itself, a relief ship carrying the [former] U.S. Congresswoman, Cynthia McKinney, was rammed by an Israeli war vessel!

This year (former) U.S. Ambassador Perk — along with a (veteran) sailor from the American ship, the Liberty, which was sunk by the Israelis in 1956, helped man the flotilla. 

At the moment the Free Gaza Movement is endeavoring to raise the funds for the next voyage, and they are appealing for high profile individuals to come sail with them. 

They have exciting plans for the future:  They are planning on utilizing planes to deliver cargo for those starving there.  They will seek to be non-violent. 

Although the Israeli air force does have top of the line (fighter) F-16 jets, but, if they attacked the Movement’s “antique” low-tech cargo planes, it would send ripples of disgust against Judah at the murder of non-violent protestors. 

Further, they are contemplating transporting by air violently expelled expatriated Palestinians on the same day and at the same time back to their natal land.  This would overwhelm Israel’s immigration enforcement bureaucracy. 

They hope to recruit large media internally and externally to be there to observe.  A conspicuously large legal team would be, further, there to welcome them. 
The waters outside of Gaza are not within the IDF’s legal control under international law.  The Free Gaza Movement is contemplating stationing their ships just outside the zone that Israel claims as within their responsibility. 

Within the Free Gaza’s Movement’s struggle, “We are thinking creatively,” Paul Larudee declared. 

On the recent Turkish-led voyage (in which the Free Gaza Movement was the American contingent), he was on a vessel with forty-four passengers in a convoy of five liner.  Contrary to the media reports, which came from the Israel’s propaganda machine, there was physical resistance in each boat in response to the soldiers of Israel’s sadistic behavior.  The Israelis were extremely malicious to the relief sailors beyond the rules civil or military engagement. 

The American media reported that there was only one causality.  Larudee reported that there were nine dead, two brain dead and somewhere between forty-five through fifty-five physically hurt – many of them seriously.         

Dr. Larudee was flipped over the shoulders of one of the Israeli commandos, and was put into painful hand restraints.  He was able to undo the cuffs only to be put into more painful handcuffs.  After that he agreed to co-operate with the IDF thugs.  A comrade went into a diabetic shock near him, though.

Contrary to the news reports, it was Paul who jumped into the sea, he was not thrown overbroad as most sources reported.  He hurdled himself into the ocean of his own volition out of desperation.  Another Zionist ship came by to pick him up, but he refused to go on board.  He swam in front of the ship to block its progress.  Finally, the Israeli Navy launched a small Zodiac boat, and captured him.  Once he was on board he was viciously beaten.  Because of the cold deep, he almost went into hypodermic shock.

The Israeli media followed him from the capturing boat’s landing into the hospital, but he refused to co-operate with the authorities.  In the hospital itself twelve persons were pitilessly pounded!  It was forbidden for any of them to “…talk to the press.” 

Once they were released from the hospital, the sailors to Gaza were sent to various jails to purposely break them up.  Paul Larudee was not even allowed to keep reading material presented to him by the American Consul-General!  Rather, he was put into a solitary holding cell to keep him away from the other prisoners.

Istanbul offered to evacuate the entire Flotilla constituents, but the Greeks insisted on withdrawing their own nationals.  Finally, he was able to talk to a lawyer, and it was arranged for him to depart on a Turkish airliner.  Professor Larudee balked at this, to which the Israeli diplomats responded, “You have no choice in the matter” to which Paul responded to his American reception this Sunday afternoon in Berkeley, “We all have choices!” 

Paul is a man in his mid-60s, and has diabetes.  The mistreatment he had to undergo was a threat to his very life.  The constant beatings he observed and personally underwent amounted to torture.  “Is this how you treat your old men,” he shout at his captors.  Still, he “…never felt totally helpless” when he was held incommunicado. 

Your reporter was able to ask him about George Galloway (the far Left British Member of Parliament [M.P]), whose Viva Palestina successfully delivered three convoys of assistance trucks to the Gazans, but had to negotiate with the Mubarak government to do so.  P. Larudee replied that his Movement refused to collaborate with the repressive blockading regimes of either Tel Aviv or Cairo. Larudee ended his fielding of questions by stating that there is now an international network of like-minded workers for Gaza City!


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