German Lawmaker Calls Israel's Flotilla Raid an Act of Piracy

BERLIN - German lawmaker Annette Groth says the Israeli commando assault on a ship in the Gaza-bound flotilla this week was an act of piracy. Groth, who took part in the flotilla, said yesterday that the attacks on the commandos during the raid were acts of self-defense.

"As a member of the German parliament, with all the history that implies, it is my duty to demand that Israel stop violating another nation's human rights," Groth said in an interview with Haaretz yesterday, shortly after she was sent back to Berlin.

"It was a real war," she said of the events on the deck of the Turkish-flagged ship, the Mavi Marmara. "It's a crime that so many people were killed. We didn't expect this even in the worst-case scenario," she said, speaking in her office in the center of the city.

Groth, 56, of the left-wing party Die Linke, is active in several human rights groups. Her e-mail box is flooded with support from human rights activists across the world. "But also with several hate-filled e-mails portraying me as an anti-Semite," she said.

"It's a pity we didn't have a camera to film what was going on, it's unbelievable," she said. "The IDF is spreading propaganda against us on the Internet and stopped the journalists from filming what was going on on deck.

"When I got on board I had two principles: no violence and no weapons. The atmosphere was very good: People from all over the world seeking peace and calm. All we wanted was to transfer hundreds of tons of medicines, products and building materials to Gaza. We wanted to convey the message that the blockade must be lifted from Gaza," Groth said.

She believed that as a member of parliament she could help the activists on the ship and perhaps even protect them. At dawn "we heard noises and a few minutes later we received word that the Israeli marines had taken over the ship .... It was like war. I saw five Israeli destroyers, hundreds of soldiers. Some of them, armed, came on board with dogs that searched in vain for explosives on deck," she said.

Asked why the peace activists attacked the soldiers violently, Groth said that "it was self-defense on the Palestinians' part. There's no reason for them to wait until [the soldiers] come and shoot them to death.

"The attack on the ship was in violation of international law. A violent attack, with weapons, in international waters, cannot be justified. Israel behaved like pirates."

Groth is unfazed by the video films on the Internet showing violent attacks on the Israeli soldiers. "None of them was really badly hurt. They were not shot. .... I don't believe the stories that one of them was thrown off the ship. If that had really happened, he wouldn't still be walking afterward," she said.

Groth says she recently met human rights activists from Israel who shared their frustration. "They told me there was nothing they could do against this government and they need outside help to overcome the militaristic regime in Israel, to return to the path of peace," she says.