Friday, June 9, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Israel Sued Over 2010 Gaza Flotilla Raid

(CN) - The oldest survivor of Israel's raid that killed 10 and wounded dozens aboard a flotilla bound for Gaza five years ago led three other activists in a lawsuit describing what they call an "attack on the high seas," in Washington Federal Court.

Washington state resident David Schermerhorn was the only octogenerian among six ships carrying activists calling themselves the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, defying an Israeli naval blockade to deliver aid shipments to the Palestinian territory.

On May 30, 2010, Israeli commandos intercepted the ships and attacked passengers after some tried to repel them from the vessels.

Israeli forces killed nine Turkish citizens and one U.S. citizen of Turkish descent, freezing already chilly relations between the two nations.

Schermerhorn says that a stun grenade lobbed at him left him partially blind, and his lawsuit estimates that 156 of his fellow activists were wounded - 52 of them seriously.

The four plaintiffs claim that the attack was unprovoked.

"When the IDF began to board the ship, the passengers deployed passive resistance," the lawsuit states. "They stood side-by-side in a fixed location, blocking the path of the IDF soldiers. While boarding the vessel, the soldiers fired paintball and rubber bullets directly at the passengers."

Former U.S. diplomat Mary Ann Wright, a retired Army colonel who became a prominent antiwar activist, said that she was "arbitrarily and violently detained" in the raid, the 21-page complaint states.

Belgian citizen Margriet Deknopper says she took a rubber bullet to the face, and U.S. citizen Huwaida Arraf says soldiers slammed her head against the deck.

All passengers on the Challenger I, they accuse the Israeli government and four of its ministries of "war crimes" and "torture."

Though U.N. human rights investigators stopped short of a torture finding, they denounced what they called the "cruel, inhumane and degrading" treatment of the passengers.

The lawsuit charges nine violations of international law and U.S. torts.

They are represented by Washington-based attorney Steven Schneebaum.

The Israeli embassy and Wright did not immediately respond to email requests for comment.


Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.