Well, all I can say is "Thank you!" Your calls, faxes, protests, and prayers all made a huge difference and helped to secure our protection and our release. I would also like to thank those at the Tel Aviv Embassy for their work on behalf of the three U.S. citizens held by the Israelis. For those of you who missed it, here is the statement I put out from the Israeli prison. Please forgive the undone, but needed edits. I have tried twice, now, to get into Gaza. I just got off the phone with George Galloway who extended a personal invitation to me to join him and the US convoy in Viva Palestina! I'm certainly excited about that. Maybe I will finally make it to Gaza.
Here's my "Letter from an Israeli Prison:"
Original audio message available here:
A funny thing happened to me on my way to Gaza. Before I left for Gaza, I was giddy with excitement. The children needed school supplies. It was a last-minute, but urgent request. Please bring crayons for the children. And so I accepted contributions of crayola crayons, #2 pencils, pencil sharpeners, paint brushes, and crayola watercolors.
When I told people that I was going shopping to buy crayons for the children of Gaza, everyone wanted to donate. By the time I left, my suitcase could hold no more. So, full of expectation, I entered the airport in the U.S. headed once again to Larnaca, Cyprus where the Hope Flotilla, consisting of the free Gaza" and the "Spirit of Humanity" were to embark to Gaza.
The "Free Gaza" was to be donated to the people of Gaa so they could replace some of the boats confiscated or bombed by the Israelis during Operation Cast Lead.
It was a beautiful dream. And dream it had to be because I had tried to get to Gaza before. At the outbreak of Israel's Operation Cast Lead, I boarded a Free Gaza boat, with one day's notice, and tried, as the U.S. representative in a multinational delegation, to deliver trhee tons of medical supplies to an already-besieged and ravaged Gaza. But, during Opertion Cast Lead, U.S.-supplied F-16s raised hell fire on a trapped people. Ethnic cleansing became full-scale, outright genocide.
U.S.-supplied white phosphorus, depleted uranium, robotic technology, DIME weapons, and cluster bombs - new weapons creating injuries never treated before by Jordanian and Norwegian doctors. I was later told by doctors who were there in Gaza during Israel's onslaught that Gaza had become Israel's veritable weapons testing laboratory; and the people used to test and improve the kill ratio of their weapons.
The world saw Israel's despicable violence thanks to al-Jazeera Arabic and Press TV that broadcast in English. I saw those broadcasts live and around the clock, not from the USA but from Lebanon, where my first attempt to get into Gaza had ended because the Israeli military rammed the boat I was on in international waters that carried medical supplies. That boat, the Dignity, was completely destroyed in its encounter with the Israeli military.
Again, on a humanitarian mission aborted by the Israeli military. I am now known as Israeli Prisoner #88794. I am in cell number 5, Ramle Prison. How could I be in prison for collecting crayons for kids and trying to get the crayons to them?
The Israeli authorities have tried to get us to confess that we committed a crime. And while in the cellblock, I have access to my clothes and a cell phone, but not the crayons or any clothing that has the word "Gaza" on it. Zionism has surely run out of its last legitimacy if this is what it does to people who believe so deeply in human rights for all that they put their own lives on the line for someone else's children. Israel is the fullest expression of Zionism, but if Israel fears for its security because Gaza's children have crayons then not only has Israel lost its last shred of legitimacy, but Israel must be declared a failed state.
I am facing deportation from the state that brought me here at gunpoint after commandeering our boat. I was brought to Israel against my will. I am being held in this prison because I had a dream that Gaza's children could color & paint, that Gaza's wounded could be healed, and that Gaza's bombed-out houses could be rebuilt.
But I've learned an interesting thing by being inside this prison. First of all, it's incredibly black: populated mostly by Ethiopians who also had a dream. My five cellmates have been here for about six months each. One is pregnant; they are all in their twenties. They thought they were coming to the Holy Land. They had a dream that their lives would be better. The CIA-installed puppet in Addis Ababa, President Meles, whom I have met, has put the once-proud, never-colonized Ethiopia into the back pocket of the United States, and become a place of torture, rendition, and occupation. Ethiopians must flee their country because superpower politics became more important than human rights and self-determination.
My cellmates came to the Holy Land so they could be free from the exigencies of superpower politics. They committed no crime except to have a dream. They came to Israel because they thought that Israel held promise for them. Their journey to Israel through Sudan and Egypt was arduous. I can only imagine what it must have been like for them. And it wasn't cheap. Many of them represent their family's best collective efforts for self-fulfillment. They made their way to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. They got their yellow paper of identification. They got their certificate for police protection. They are refugees from tragedy, and they made it to Israel. Only after they arrived, Israel told them "There is no UN in Israel."
The police have license to pick them up and suck them into the black hole of a farce for a justice system. These beautiful, industrious, proud young women represent the hopes of entire families. The idea of Israel tricked them and the rest of us. In a widely propagandized slick marketing campaign, Israel represented itself as a place of refuge and safety for the world's first Jews and Christians. I, too, believed that marketing and failed to look deeper. The truth is that Israel lied to the world. Israel lied to the families of these young women. Israel lied to the women themselves who are now trapped at Ramle.
And what are we to do? One of my cellmates cried today. She has been here for six months. As an American, crying with them is not enough. The policy of the United States must be better, and while we watch President Obama give 12.8 trillion dollars to the financial elite of the United States it ought now be clear that "hope," "change," and "yes we can" were powerfully presented images of dignity and self-fulfillment, individually and nationally, that besieged people everywhere truly believed in.
It was a slick marketing campaign, as slickly put to the world and to the voters of America as was Israel's marketing to the world. It tricked all of us but, more tragically, these young women.
We must cast an informed vote about better candidates seeking to represent us. I have read and re-read Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever imagined that I, too, would one day have to do so. It is clear that taxpayers in Europe and the U.S. have a lot to atone for, for what they've done to others around the world.
What an irony! My son begins his law school program without me because I am in prison, in my own way trying to do my best, again, for other people's children. Forgive me, my son. I guess I'm experiencing the harsh reality which is why people need dreams. I'm lucky. I will leave this place. Has Israel become the place where dreams die?
Ask the people of Palestine. Ask the stream of black and Asian men whom I've seen being processed at Ramle. Ask the women on my cellblock. [Ask yourself:] what are you willing to do?
Let's change the world together and reclaim what we all need as human beings: Dignity.
I appeal to the United Nations to get these women of Ramle, who have done nothing wrong other than to believe in Israel as the guardian of the Holy Land, resettled in safe homes.
I appeal to the United States Department of State to include the plight of detained UNHCR-certified refugees in the Israel Country Report in its annual Human Rights Report.
I appeal, once again, to President Obama to go to Gaza: send your special envoy, George Mitchell there, and to engage Hamas as the elected choice of the Palestinian people.
I dedicate this message to those who struggle to achieve a free Palestine, and to the women I've met at Ramle.
Cynthia McKinney, July 2nd 2009, also known as Ramle prisoner number 88794.