Swedish crime author tells his version of Israeli assault
Bestselling Swedish author Henning Mankell
IF YOU UTTER THE term “Swedish crime fiction,” chances are that most Americans will think of the late Stieg Larsson, author of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and the two other books in the series. But long before Larsson hit the bestseller lists last year (and then tragically died at age 50), author and playwright Henning Mankell of Inspector Wallander fame had been the man to watch when it came to Swedish police novels. I’d say it’s bad news for Israel that Europe’s leading crime author was also an eyewitness to what much of the world regards as a criminal act, namely the assault last Monday by Israeli special forces on a relief flotilla bound for Gaza that resulted in nine deaths and a number of injuries.
Mankell, age 62, who had been sailing on the “Sofia,” one of the ships in the convoy, was briefly detained by the Israeli commandos and has since been expelled from Israel. He has promised to provide a detailed (and, undoubtedly, suspenseful) first-person account to the global press on Saturday. In the meantime, however, he has provided a number of interviews to the Swedish press in which he described what he saw when the soldiers boarded his ship. In the following I have translated excerpts from the comments he made to the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter yesterday.
As reported in the DN, Mankell had been on watch duty aboard the “Sofia” when he saw the the Israelis attacking the largest ship in the convoy. “At 5:35 we saw that it was our turn. Then an attack boat came and started circling our boat along with three large rubber craft.
“They confiscated our telephones and we couldn’t speak with one another. At that point we saw with our own eyes that Israel had broken with all conventions.
“A soldier came and said ‘We’ve found weapons on board,’ and then he held up my razor.”
Mankell believes Israel is guilty of piracy and doesn’t “see an ounce of difference” between Israeli actions and those of Somali pirates. He also says that Israel kidnapped 700 persons.
“Israel has painted itself into a corner. Israel has never been so condemned. … This event has changed the world.” Mankell believes Israel should be placed in front of an international court.
Mankell lost all his possessions during his detention in Israel. “They took my wallet with my money and credit cards, my mobile phone and my iPod. They even took my socks. Those Israeli soldiers are thieves.”
Mankell was thrown into jail but was never given a choice between deportation and a trial. “I believe I was an awkward person for them to have around, and that is why they wanted to get rid of me as fast as possible.”
After providing a first hand account to the press in at least eight countries on Saturday, Mankell plans a much more detailed publication, including photos. “We’ll publish it as soon as everyone is out of the country,” he said.
What risks had you been planning for?
It would have been more appropriate for them to have confronted us at the boundary of their territorial waters and not to have attacked us on the open sea.
What possibilities did you have to resist?
None, we would have needed an immense quantity of weapons. We would have required military power.
But were their weapons among you, such as knives or clubs?
Even on ships people cook and there are kitchen knives, and if someone starts attacking you chances are you might defend yourself. As I see it, that is appropriate in any situation. Do you have no right to fight against highly trained, incredibly well-armed soldiers who have illegally boarded your craft? Do you have no right to defend yourself?
Do you have a right to undertake an action that indirectly risks the lives of many people?
I am convinced you do, and what will the Israelis do if we return with 100 vessels next year?
UPDATE: Henning Mankell had more to say about his experiences during a visit to Berlin today. While he ostensibly came here to tout his latest Wallander novel, he ended up talking mostly about his Gaza adventure. You can read about it HERE.