Sweden and Norway protest Israel arrests

Both countries censure the Israeli Navy’s action against Gaza Strip-bound boat Marianne av Göteborg

Michael Sandelson
The Foreigner

The Marianne av Göteborg, which was sailing under a Swedish flag and was part of the so-termed Freedom Flotilla III consisting of four boats, was intercepted on Sunday, June 28, without incident.

Israel Defense Forces (IDF) commandos boarded the boat, undertaking a search and arrests. The three other craft altered course to return to their port of origin in Crete.

The vessel was towed to port in Ashdod in the Southern District of Israel, where it docked less than 24 hours later.

Five of the 18 campaigners aboard, who included Tunisia’s former president Moncef Marzouki, are Swedish nationals; two are Norwegian. Both Sweden’s and Norway’s Foreign Ministries have protested against Israel’s actions.

Marianne av Göteborg was in international waters when she was stopped.

“Legislation states that it is only the flag state that is permitted to intervene against a vessel in international waters. Sweden has expressed its views to Israel about the incident,” Veronica Nordlund, press spokesperson at the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Dagens Nyheter.

Frode Overland Andersen, Norway Ministry of Foreign Affairs press spokesperson stated that the arrests represented “an overreaction.”

“We hold Israeli authorities accountable for the treatment of our citizens and request that both Norwegians are released so that they may travel home,” he said to NRK.

Israel Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon commented to The Jerusalem Post that the passengers aboard the vessel would be questioned in Ashdod, and the 16 arrested foreign nationals then deported.

According to the activists, Marianne av Göteborg was carrying humanitarian aid, which included medicine and solar panels. The mission’s aim was to break Israel’s maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip and bring the aid to a hospital in Gaza.

“In accordance with international law, the Israeli Navy advised the vessel several times to change course,” the IDF said in a statement.

“Following their refusal, forces visited and searched the vessel in international waters in order to prevent the intended breach of the maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip.”

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commended Navy personnel for their actions “in detaining the passengers on the ship that tried to reach the Gaza coast in contravention of the law.”

“There is no siege on Gaza. Israel assists in transferring goods and humanitarian equipment to Gaza,” he further declared.

This article was originally published on The Foreigner. To subscribe to The Foreigner, visit theforeigner.no.

It also appeared in the July 10, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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