Captain John Turnbull Aboard The Freedom Flotilla Headed for Gaza

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Just 300 miles from Gaza, Captain Turnbull expects a confrontation with Israeli military within hours of this interview, he has 12 people on board

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Story Transcript

DIMITRI LASCARIS: So, John, you are the captain of the Freedom, the second vessel that will approach Gaza. Could you tell us where you are in relation to Gaza currently, and just give us a sense of who is on the vessel. Who are these people, where did they come from, how many are they?

JOHN TURNBULL: Yes, we are currently about 300 miles, a little less, [inaudible] of Gaza, actually [inaudible] of Alexandria, because of the direction of the wind. There are, at the moment, twelve people on board, comprising two journalists, I think seven Swedish activists, myself, a Canadian, we have a Spaniard as well, and a Frenchman. We range in age from [inaudible], who is a Swedish, long-time activist. [Inaudible]. She is a very well-known activist and veterinarian from Sweden. [Inaudible]. And the youngest I am going to guess is another Swede, a young activist [inaudible] serving refugees in the refugee crisis in Greece and that region.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: Now, as I understand, you are all aware the Al Awda was intercepted on Sunday. That’s the lead vessel of the Freedom Flotilla. It was intercepted- hijacked, I think, would be a more accurate term- in international waters by the Israeli military. Two of the people who were on that vessel have been freed. The others apparently remain incarcerated in Israel, where they were taken against their will. One of those people, an Israeli human rights activist named Zohar Regev Chamberlain, and I know you know her well, has reported that despite the claims of the Israeli government that the intersection of the vessel occurred peacefully, soldiers actually struck and tasered members of the crew and some passengers. What do you anticipate is going to happen when you approach the territorial waters of Gaza, and what have you done to prepare for this?

JOHN TURNBULL: I have very little news about that. You know far more than I do. My anticipation is based not just on the little I know about Al Awda but also on what happened on previous expeditions. My anticipation is that the Israeli government will try very hard to make the Israeli navy look excellent.  I won’t be surprised if this turns out not to be true.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: And what is, what is the mood on the vessel right now? How did it, how did the crew and passengers feel about their impending encounter with the Israeli military?

JOHN TURNBULL: Well, it may be odd to hear this, but I can tell you with confidence that we have passed what in the marathon business we call the 32nd mile, when your spirits are lowest and you wonder why you’re doing this, we have passed that point. And so we’re all very buoyant, both physically and spiritually. We really want to [inaudible] get as quickly as possible to Gaza, take our best shot at getting through to the port of Gaza. So we are in a very good mood. And we are determined to take our best chance to break through to the port of Gaza and demonstrate physically, emotionally, to the Palestinians that we will keep banging on their prison door until it is opened by Western governments cooperating diplomatically [inaudible] and the Israeli government.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: Well, John, we wish you and your fellow crew and passengers a swift and safe voyage to Gaza. And I hope that we’ll have the opportunity to talk to you again once you’ve arrived at your ultimate destination, whatever it may be, and are in a position to speak to us.

JOHN TURNBULL: Thank you, Dimitri. And thanks to all your listeners. And please [inaudible] start calling your elected representatives. Thank you very much, and good night.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: Thank you, John. Safe travels.