Cape Town - City journalist Gadija Davids still has flashbacks of a deadly raid by Israeli soldiers on a flotilla en route to the Gaza Strip two years ago.
Davids, 25, was one of 40 passengers on board humanitarian aid ship the Mavi Marmara in 2010 when Israeli commandos seized the vessel.
The Mavi Marmara was one of six ships carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza and Davids was one of 40 journalists from 40 different countries participating in the Freedom Flotilla, filing news reports for a local radio station Radio 786.
The flotilla was reportedly travelling in international waters en route from Turkey to the Gaza Strip when Israeli commandos boarded the ships.
Davids said she was abducted and questioned by Israeli officials.
Davids has been receiving counselling over the past two years, which has helped, she said.
“I have processed everything and I still get flashbacks of the attack.”
This week, a press conference was held in Joburg to announce that South African authorities would be investigating the matter.
The Priority Crimes Litigation Unit (PCLU), a division of the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions, and the police will officially investigate and communicate with the International Criminal Court.
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel in South Africa (BDS South Africa) and the Palestine Solidarity Alliance have welcomed the decision. But the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) said the move was a “publicity stunt”.
Davids said she was incarcerated in an Israeli prison, guarded by “balaclava-clad Israeli naval soldiers” and denied access to South African consular assistance. During her questioning she was asked whether she knew she was illegally in Israel.
“I responded that I had no intention of being there, that we were taken there against our will,” she said.
When they were being transported to Ben Gurion Airport to be deported, she was put in a “cockroach-infested van”, handcuffed with plastic cable ties and “made to sit in the sun for several hours” while being transported against their will to the port of Ashdod.
Davids’ attorney, Ziyaad Patel, said Davids and other civilians had been subjected to “inhumane treatment” by Israel, which is considered a violation of their rights, crimes against humanity in terms of schedule 1 of the Rome Statute, and war crimes in terms of schedule 3 of the that statute.
In September 2010, the UN published a fact-finding report into the alleged attack which found that Israeli forces had violated international law during and after it.
It deemed the conduct of the Israeli military and personnel towards the passengers as “not only disproportionate to the occasion, but demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence”.
“It betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality,” said the report.
“Such conduct cannot be justified or condoned on security or any other grounds. It constituted grave violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law.”
In January last year, Davids and Patel approached the police and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to conduct a criminal investigation and to prosecute those responsible.
This week, the PCLU said there were “reasonable” grounds for an investigation and that it had opened a case docket.
Davids said the move instilled in her “faith and credibility in South Africa’s commitment to the protection of human rights”.
“I remain hopeful that the investigation will prove fruitful and that those responsible for the attack will be brought to justice,” she said.
The SAJBD said:
“The decision constitutes yet another noisy publicity stunt by those dedicated to demonising Israel at every possible opportunity.
“The SAJBD deplores the fact that these groups are willing to tie our legal system up in pointless and time-consuming, baseless litigation in order to further their own selfish and bigoted agenda.”
Davids said she was not afraid to go on other humanitarian causes.
“Since I am a journalist, reporting on these stories would definitely be important to cover. Particularly as humanitarian aid missions have become a technique of civilians and aid organisations that aim to raise awareness around injustice and oppression,” she said.