Gilad Atzmon (Hebrew: גלעד עצמון, born June 9, 1963) is a jazz musician, author and anti-Zionist activist who was born in Israel and currently lives in London.
"Anti-Semite is an empty signifier, no one actually can be an Anti-Semite and this includes me of course. In short, you are either a racist - which I am not - or have an ideological disagreement with Zionism... which I have."He was born a secular Israeli Jew in Tel Aviv, and trained at the Rubin Academy of Music in Jerusalem. His service in the Israeli military convinced him Israel had become a militarized state controlled by religious extremists. In 1994, Atzmon emigrated from Israel to London, where he studied philosophy. Atzmon is an anti-Zionist who critiques Jewish identity issues and supports the Palestinian Right of Return as well as the establishment of a single state in Israel/Palestine. He is a signatory to the "Palestinians are the Priority Petition" which states “full and unconditional support of the Palestinian people is a condition sine qua non for activists to adopt.
Sorry if this account is a bit dry. It was created for legal purposes, but I'm not sure I'll ever get a chance to improve upon it, so I thought I should make it available for those who might be interested. Please note that at no time did the prison authorities allow daily outdoor exercise, access to telephones, or access to a lawyer. This is illegal even under Israeli law.
Initial Questionnaire for American Citizens on Gaza Flotilla Boats
Paul Wilder AKA Paul Larudee
405 Vista Heights Rd., El Cerrito, CA 94530, USA
Date of Birth
25 April, 1946
Telephone contact details
English, French, moderate German, Spanish & Arabic, some Greek
Describe what happened upon initial Israeli contact
Spotted Israeli soldiers boarding from the rear of our vessel, joined them in going up the stairs to the upper deck. I locked arms with other passengers to defend the wheelhouse. (See more detailed description below.)
Twisted joints, widespread contusions, hearing loss (probably temporary), mild concussion
Medical treatment given, including location and any hospitalization
Taken to Israeli hospital, but I refused x-rays and treatment.
Forthcoming availability and willingness to give a full statement
Willing and can be available.
List confiscated equipment and any lost data, pictures, recordings, in detail: what sort of camera, how many photos, written texts - in what circumstances was it taken and by whom
Passenger vessel Sfendoni, 80 miles off the coast of Gaza in the Eastern Mediterranean
Captain Theodoros Boukas alerts us of Israeli communications demanding that we change course away from Gaza. He orders us all to don life jackets.
Israeli soldiers begin boarding from the rear, head upstairs to upper deck. I do the same. I join other passengers in blocking the wheelhouse by locking arms and preventing entrance. Soldiers break window(s), taser us (me twice on the left arm), throw stun grenades, fire paint pellets, beat us with batons (or something). Two stun grenades go off in enclosed space less two feet from my right ear, causing pain. My left leg is struck with a baton. They pry us away from the wheelhouse and take control, restraining us with plastic ties on the hands. At least one of the soldiers is regularly filming for as long as I am on board.
I slip away and hide in the space between the wheelhouse and water tanks, where I can overhear the UHF communication from and to the other ships. Also Israeli communication, but I don’t know Hebrew.
They spot me as the sky begins to lighten, but they do nothing.
I decide to join the others and exit from my hiding area. I remove my own handcuffs, but the soldiers want to replace them even though they have been removed from everyone else. They order me to sit down; I refuse. The ship’s doctor (Khalid Qabbani) dresses my wounds. He notes that my shirt has been torn for most of its length.
It is now fully light, and the soldiers have most if not all of the passengers seated on the upper deck. They begin to take them away one at a time for purposes unknown. I refuse and remain, but others comply. I challenge the others to refuse, but they comply. I decide to jump overboard in an act of defiance, to slow the progress of the operation and to encourage others to resist. I climb over the rail and jump into the sea. Most of the passengers as well as some of the soldiers witness the act.
In the sea, 60 miles off the coast of Ashdod
The Sfendoni stops. After 10 minutes, an Israeli naval vessel (number JL238 or similar) appears. One of the sailors throws a life preserver. I ignore it. They try a grappling hook. I catch it but let go before being pulled on board. After several tries, I attach it to the rope ladder they have slung over the side. They then try a pole with a hook, but I swim away. They manoeuvre the boat with side jets, but I am able to avoid by staying close to the axis. They reverse the boat and then come towards me, but I place myself in the path and they stop. They prepare an inflatable Zodiac and lower it into the water with a crew of four. The outboard gas line appears clogged, and by that time I am much farther away. They throw a line from the larger vessel and tow it close to me. Although the motor only works for 10 seconds at a time, it is enough to reach me at that range. They pull me aboard, punch me and slam my head into the rigid floor, injuring my right eye (black eye results). They fasten my wrists and ankles with nylon ties. They take me to the larger vessel, tie ropes around my mid section and try to hoist me up. The ropes slip and they grab me by the handcuffs and arms. The ties are cutting through my wrists and it feels like my arms are separating from their sockets, but they get me on board. At no time do I actively resist, push or strike back.
Aboard the JL238
They blindfold me, then take me to the stern of the ship, where they seat me on some jagged material designed to provide traction for their combat boots. They tie me to a pole behind my back, with my hands still fastened in front of me. I am at an awkward angle, requiring me to arch my back, and unable to change my position. I am also getting very cold because of the wet clothes and being exposed to the wind. I begin to shudder uncontrollably. They bring a pair of sweatpants, tear off my own and try to put them on me, but are unable to do so much beyond my crotch. They give me water. My rear is exposed directly to the jagged gripping material and some sections of skin are exposed directly to the sun. I complain. They cover some of the exposed areas and bring the shirt matching the sweatpants to put under my rear. They tell me that they will take me below, but only if I agree to tell them my name and promise not to cause problems, like jumping overboard. However they do not let me answer until later, at which time I agree to not cause additional problems, but not to provide any information. Finally, after 3-4 hours, they take me below, where they feed me a sandwich and allow me to wear the sweatshirt matching the pants. As we reach Ashdod, I ask to use the toilet. They refuse several times, until I threaten to go without a toilet. They relent. Soon after, we arrive at the port. They remove my leg shackles.
Processing center, port of Ashdod
Around a half dozen officers, presumably from the prison service, are there to meet me upon arrival at the port. I collapse at the dock, refusing to speak, move or otherwise participate in my capture. The officers try to force me to walk by stressing my shoulder, elbow and wrist joints, to no effect except to cause me to scream in pain. They carry me roughly to the processing stations, but soon call for a stretcher, to which they strap me. Much of this appears to be filmed with several cameras, which I assume to be news media. I see a number of other passengers, many of them from the Sfendoni. I am transferred to a gurney, placed into an ambulance and taken to a hospital.
At the hospital, they transfer me from the gurney to a hospital bed, banging my backbone against the bed rail. They look at my wounds and ask where I hurt. I do not respond. They assume that my name is Paul Wilder from the name in my passport, which is in their possession. I am taken for x-ray, but refuse to cooperate. I ask for aspirin, but they refuse and say they will send me back to the processing center. I point out that the sweatpants that were given to me on the boat now have a large tear in the crotch area and that I need a new pair. They refuse and say that a new pair will be given to me at the processing center. I see Sfendoni captain Theodoros Boukas at the hospital with an ear injury, but they don’t allow him to talk to me. I ask to use the restroom, but they say I will have to wait. I ask several more times, then announce that I will use the bed as a toilet. They make a real toilet available. At some point, metal handcuffs with hinge joints are placed on me. They are used to stress my wrists while transporting me to the processing center.
Ashdod processing center
When we arrive at the processing center, several officers carry me while stressing my hands and legs, suspending me from the metal handcuffs, and then place me in a wheelchair. The officers take me to several stations, where I am photographed and fingerprinted, passively, but without my cooperation. Most of the other Sfendoni passengers appear to be gone. I ask for a new pair of pants, but nothing happens. Passengers continue to be processed, but I recognize few of them. They are probably mostly Turks from the Mavi Marmara. I see Dr. Evangelos Pissias, head of the Greek delegation. He tells me that there were shootings and dead aboard the Mavi Marmara, but no details or confirmation. After at least an hour, I stand and demand a new pair of pants, demonstrating the problem of the wide open crotch area. Two passengers intervene and argue on my behalf. The officers get angry and speak in Hebrew. Approximately ten officers grab me and take me to the other end of the room, where they drop me to the floor, beat me, slam my head against the concrete floor and kick me in the head and midsection. I scream. Pissias comes to my defense and is beaten. I learn later that he suffers a broken leg and at least one broken rib. After they finish, I shout appreciation for the most moral army in the world and continue to demand a pair of pants in a loud voice. They place me in a prison van. I wait and then Captain Theodoros Boukas joins me. The van leaves.
Givon prison, hospital ward, Ramle
At the hospital ward of the prison, Boukas and I are issued hospital clothes and are processed. We are given a physical examination. My blood sugar is tested and I receive diabetes medication. A “social worker” calling himself Amit asks why I came to Israel. I respond that I was kidnapped and a victim of human trafficking across international borders, and that I would like to cooperate in the prosecution of the party that kidnapped me, i.e. the Israeli navy. Our room is in a special high security section that has only two cells. The television has been removed. We ask to see our lawyer and diplomatic missions. They say that this will be taken care of the next day. We ask to use the telephone. They refuse. I ask why everyone else has a television except us. They say that they have instructions that we are a special case. I ask for paper and pencil. They say that this is reasonable, but they do not bring it. We eat and shower, then sleep.
Givon prison, Ramle
We are taken from the room, with our belongings. We receive some medication and a medical discharge. Our hands and ankles are shackled. We are placed in a security vehicle and driven a short distance to the main prison. Our belongings are inventoried and we are given a receipt, except for my torn clothes, which they say they will destroy. I refuse. They say they will ask me before destroying my clothes. I ask for a receipt. They refuse. They issue me some clothes, but Boukas is allowed to wear his own clothes.
We are placed in what appears to be a holding cell, near the processing area. It has no window and no fresh air. I ask to see a representative from my embassy. They say that my embassy will be notified. I ask to use the telephone. They refuse.
I ask for a cell with a window. They refuse. I say that I will refuse food, water and medicine until we have improved accommodation.
We are moved to a cell with window. The entire wing of the prison is empty of prisoners except for Boukas and me. The televisions have been removed. I ask for paper and pencil. They refuse. I ask to see the representative of my embassy. They say that my embassy has been notified. We both ask to use the telephone. They refuse. At no time are we permitted to go outside for exercise and fresh air. We are not in contact with any other prisoners, although we can see some through the glass of a door separating their section of the prison from ours.
Givon prison, Ramle
I ask when I will see my embassy representative. They say they don’t know. I ask for my lawyer. They refuse. I ask to use the telephone. They refuse. I ask for pencil and paper. They refuse.
I announce that I will go on a hunger and medication strike until I see my embassy representative. They say that he will be there in the afternoon.
The prison director says that the U.S. consul general has come to see me. He asks my to put on a shirt over my undershirt. I refuse. He says that it is prison regulations and that he will not allow me to see the consul general without the shirt. I tell him that I know he wants to cover the marks of the beatings, but I want everyone to see them. He gets angry, but allows me to see the consul general.
I meet with the Consul General, Andrew Parker. He says that he brought reading material but that the prison authorities are refusing to allow me to have them. He is unable to provide me with pen and paper. I inform him of the beatings and other treatment, and authorize him to share all the information with anyone who wants it. He says he will call my wife as soon as he leaves the prison. I ask him to tell her to call my member of Congress, George Miller. He tells me that I am the last of nine Americans that he has visited, and that he had a hard time finding me. The others were at the prison in Bir el-Saba (“Beersheva”). I ask him to contact a lawyer for me. He says he cannot do that, but provides me with a list of lawyers and information about Israeli legal procedures. The prison authorities allow me to have the information. It is paper, but no pencil. I ask him to tell my wife to contact a lawyer for me.
I ask to see a lawyer. They say we will be leaving before a lawyer can do anything. I say I want a lawyer, anyway. They say that it will be taken care of tomorrow. I ask to use the telephone. They refuse.
Givon prison, Ramle
Boukas and I are moved to another cell, which has one prisoner in it, a one-armed Yemeni businessman named Abdulhakim. He was on the Mavi Marmara and confirms the earlier reports of shooting and deaths. He was brought to the prison with others, including Turks, from the Mavi Marmara, who are in adjacent cells.
The guards tell the three of us to gather our belongings because we are going to be moved to another prison. However, almost as soon as we do so, a representative from the Greek embassy arrives to talk to Boukas. When he returns, he has a pen and paper for me. He says that all the other Greeks are at the prison in Bir el-Saba.
The prison director announces that we will be taken to the airport to leave the country. He says that it is required for me to wear a shirt over my undershirt in order to exit the cell. I refuse. He says that I will stay in prison if I don’t wear the shirt. I say I want to talk to my lawyer. He asks me the name of my lawyer. I say Gaby Lasky, and that if she is not available, I will talk to Lea Tsemel, and if not her then Michael Sfard, and if not Sfard then Yael Berda. He finally relents and lets me leave in my undershirt.
They handcuff us. Our possessions are returned to us except for my medications and torn clothes. I insist on having them returned. They say they have no knowledge of my torn clothes. I remind them of what happened. They say that they have no idea where they are. I refuse to leave. They try to force me. I do nonviolent resistance. They pressure my arm joints and lift me by the handcuffs. I scream. They shout. They say that the clothes are in the van and that I will see them when I go there. I say I will not leave unless I see them first. They bring the clothes. I go to the van, but they do not give me the clothes. They force me into the van. The woman guard in the front seat keeps the orange bag with my torn clothes and promises to give them to me at the airport. Boukas and I are in one section of the prison vehicle on the way to the airport; Abdulhakim, a Turkish professor named Ibrahim and one or two other Turks are in the other section of the van. There are several other vehicles transporting other passengers who were imprisoned.
Lid (“Ben-Gurion”) Airport
We wait for about two hours in the van at the airport before entering. The guard does not give me my torn clothes. I am taken to a room that has around ten Flotilla passengers for processing. I know some of them. They provide more information about what happened on the Mavi Marmara. One of them has the telephone number of my lawyer, Gaby Lasky, and gives it to me. The officers tell me that I will be put on an airplane to Istanbul. They ask me to sign a paper. I refuse to sign the paper and to go anywhere without first talking to my lawyer. They say that I will not be allowed to leave without signing it. I still refuse, and say that I don’t want to leave without talking to my lawyer, anyway. They say that I will be taken back to prison and that I will not be permitted to see a lawyer for several days.
The Greek nationals tell me that their government will send an airplane to take them to Greece, and they persuade me to go with them. They say that they have talked to a lawyer and that I will not have to sign anything. We are taken to an exit where several groups of Greeks are taken by bus. Only a few of us remain to be picked up.
An officer asks me to come with him back through the passport control area. I comply, thinking that this is part of the processing to put me on the Greek aircraft. They take me to an area that has 30-35 passengers seated in several rows, being processed. I recognize some of them, including Nabil Hallak, Abbas Nasser and Ken O’Keefe. They tell me that I need to sign a form and then I will be sent to Istanbul. I tell them that I am not going to Istanbul and that arrangements have been made for me to go on the Greek transport to Athens. They say that this will not be permitted and that I have no choice. I tell them that I have the choice not to sign the form and that even if they force me on the Turkish transport, I will remove my clothes and they will refuse to take me. They tell me that in that case they will take me to prison again. I tell them that I also will not go willingly to prison, and I collapse on the floor. Four or five of them lift me by the metal handcuffs, cutting into the wounds that already exist and causing sharp pain. Others stress the joints in my arms and legs. I scream while being carried away. They start beating me. The other passengers begin shouting and fighting with the officers. I am dropped on the floor, where I hear the commotion behind me, but am in too much pain to do anything. 5-6 officers carry a struggling man to the wall opposite me, drop him on the floor, then beat him and kick him. It seems to me that he must have broken bones. After the noise dies down, they come back for me. They carry me as before, by the metal handcuffs and legs, stressing my joints. One officer hits me several times on the left side of my face. I challenge him to do it again. He does. I tell him it’s not enough, and that perhaps he should try shooting me in the head, and that he’s not very good at torturing a 64-year-old man. They bounce my head off the marble floor, then carry me down the stairs to the place where the busses pick us up. The Greek friends who had been awaiting transport when I was taken away are still there.
The Greek friend, Dimitris Plionis, who has been acting as liaison, comes for me and apologizes that he didn’t stay with me. We wait for the documents of the other Greeks to be completed. In the meantime, other passengers, mostly apparently Turk, come individually to board another transport. Many of them were apparently part of the fighting on my behalf, and are bearing the wounds. We exchange solidarity words and gestures. The passenger who had been beaten in front of me is carried down by two others. He is obviously in great pain, probably broken ribs and limbs. Ken O’Keefe comes down, his face covered in blood and a split in his forehead. I thank him for his defence of me and ask about his family. He says he plans to reject deportation and fight the case in the courts. I give him the name and number of my lawyer, Gaby Lasky. We all finally leave on a bus, including Ken.
The bus takes us to the Lid Immigration Detention Center, where the rest of the Greeks are awaiting transport. It is a place I recognize from a two week stay in 2006. I am surprised to discover Gaby Lasky there. We talk and I sign some papers for her to help with charges being filed against Israeli government agencies and persons. I introduce her to Ken. The Greek Ambassador meets with the Greek citizens.
We are taken to the transport aircraft. After a long wait, apparently due in part to a discrepancy over my name, the plane leaves for Athens.
*Dr. Paul Larudee (born April 25th, 1946) is a San Francisco Bay Area human rights advocate for justice in the region known as Palestine, which includes Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem. He works with the International Solidarity Movement and the Free Palestine Movement, and was cofounder of the Free Gaza Movement.
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