Two persons, Joe Meadors and Dr. Swee Ang, who personally faced Israeli violence in the past, faced violence again on the Al Awda ship in the 2018 Gaza Freedom Flotilla that challenged the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza in July 2018. They cared for the victims of Israeli violence on Al Awda, including the threatened execution of the captain of the boat by Israeli commandos and the beating of the captain and engineer, the tasering of three persons and the broken ribs of three of the delegates and crew, including Dr. Swee herself.
On June 8, 1967, Joe Meadors was an 18-year-old US Navy sailor on the bridge of the USS Liberty located off Gaza when the Israeli military purposefully attacked and almost sunk the US Navy ship. The Israeli Air Force strafed and bombed the ship and the Israeli Navy shot torpedoes at the ship. Thirty-four US personnel were killed and 174 injured by the Israeli military. Israeli napalm dropped on the ship turned the deck into an inferno. Torpedo boats fired missiles that blasted a hole in the side of the ship 39 feet wide and 24 feet tall. Stretcher bearers were shot and life rafts filled with sailors were machine gunned by Israeli military. The injured and dying were put on tables in the mess area, sailors with no training stitched up wounds in other sailors, transfusions were given arm-to-arm.
Fifteen years later, in 1982, Dr. Swee Ang was a young doctor in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatilla in Beirut, Lebanon. She had resigned her medical position in the UK and answered the international appeal for an orthopedic surgeon to treat the victims of relentless bombing of Beirut by Israeli military.
In her remarkable book "From Beirut to Jerusalem," Dr. Swee recalls part of the history of the horrific brutality of the State of Israel toward Palestinians and her presence as a medical doctor to help survivors of the brutality. She begins with her arrival in Beirut in early September 1982 as 14,000 members of the Palestinian government in exile, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) were leaving as a part of the international brokered agreement and ceasefire to end the Israeli bombing of Lebanon. Some were PLO fighters but many were civil servants such as doctors, lecturers, trade unionists, media personnel, engineers and technicians.
They left behind their families in the many Palestinian refugee camps, including Shabra and Shatilla, that had been created in 1948 when the violence of Israeli militias forced over 800,000 Palestinians from their homes in Palestine, in what is known as the Nakba, or Catastrophe. Many descendants of those 800,000 still live in refugee camps located throughout the Middle East, including refugee camps in Gaza for those who were forced from their homes in the West Bank.
Three weeks later, the 2,300 multinational peace-keeping force, including 800 U.S. Marines, charged with protection of the Palestinian civilians left in Beirut, suddenly withdrew. On September 15, 1982, several hundred Israeli tanks rumbled into Beirut, sealing off the Shabra and Shatilla camps, trapping the inhabitants -- women, children and elder Palestinians.
Then the Israelis ordered their allies, Christian militia, into the camps to rape and murder. Israeli military forces sealed off the camps so none could escape, provided bulldozers to bury the dead in mass graves, shot illumination flares so the murders and rapes could continue at night. Israel provided the weapons and training to the militias. Three days later on September 18 when the Israeli tanks withdrew and the militias finished their rampage, over 3,000 civilians had been killed on the direct orders of Israeli officials. As a doctor attempting to deal with the carnage, Dr. Swee witnessed first-hand the horrific violence orchestrated by Israeli military forces. In 1983, a commission chaired by Sean MacBride, the assistant to the UN Secretary General and President of United Nations General Assembly at the time, concluded that Israel, as the camp's occupying power, bore responsibility for the violence.
In the next years from 1985-1988, Israeli militias attacked the refugee camps of Shatilla, Burj-el-Branjneh and Rashiddyeh, killing another 2,500 Palestinians and making 30,000 homeless. Nahr-el-Bard Camp, home to 40,000 Palestinians, was destroyed by Israel in 2007.
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