LIMERICK woman Zoe Lawlor, who was one of 14 Irish people detained after trying to breach Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza, returned home at the weekend following her ten day ordeal.
Ms Lawlor, who is a lecturer at the University of Limerick, was detained in Israel for almost a week before she was deported.
She arrived back at Dublin Airport on Friday afternoon after flying home via Istanbul in Turkey.
Speaking on her arrival she described her detention as “obnoxious” but added:“It was nothing to what the people of Gaza must endure”.
The 14 Irish nationals aboard the MV Saoirse who were arrested were among 27 activists from seven countries.
All were arrested in international waters on November 4 and brought to Ashdod port before being transferred to Givon Detention Centre.
They were held there until last Wednesday when they were transferred to Tel Aviv and were due to be deported that morning.
However, all 14 refused to sign visa-waiver forms, which would have allowed the Israeli authorities to deport them immediately.
Weekend reports suggested that the Irish embassy in Tel Aviv has lodged two “firm protests” with the Israeli authorities over the treatment of Irish activists who subsequently missed two flights home due to what Israeli authorities described as “security issues”.
“The basic premice is that we were kidnapped and illegally held and taken illegally to israel so from my perspective all the treatment was bad,” Zoe Lawlor told TV3 News.
She said there were high hopes on board the MV Saoirse that the activists would reach Gaza before the Israeli navy intervened.
“We were sailing for Gaza and everyone was very excited and when there was no intervention on the Thursday night hopes were high that we would get to Gaza but the next day we were sailing quite close and we were attacked by the Isareli Navy,” she explained.
Ms Lawlor, who is from the South Circular Road in the city and is a teacher in the Department of Languages & Cultural Studies in the University of Limerick, is an active campaigner with the Limerick branch of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
Former Shannon, Munster and Leinster rugby player Trevor Hogan was also aboard the mission, which was intercepted in international waters, some 60km from the Gaza coast. The vessel and personal possesions on board were confiscated
One of the activists, national co-ordinator Fintan Lane, claimed the takeover of the ship was “violent and dangerous”, during which the activists were held at gunpoint and hosed down with high pressure hoses.
Zoe Lawlor insists her experience would not deter her from attempting to reach Gaza by sea again in the future.