“Unlike Yasser Arafat, we had olive branches in both of our hands,” said Ersin Kaplan, one of the Turkish volunteers on board the Mavi Marmara boat, which was intercepted by the Israeli Navy on May 31 as it was attempting to deliver aid to the blockaded Gaza Strip. Nine activists were killed by Israeli commandos that day.
Kaplan was referring to the deceased Palestinian leader’s speech before the UN General Assembly in 1974, when he made the famous statement: “Today I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom’s gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand.”
Kaplan was one of the ship’s eight volunteers from the Turkish coastal town of Alanya, which used to host a number of Israeli tourist ships every week until the deadly raid.
Since the attack, Israeli boats have stopped docking in the town, and tales of its residents’ contributions to the Gaza volunteer effort spread, creating local legends. NOW Lebanon was able to speak to four of them.
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