Henning Mankell , the prize-winning writer and creator of Wallander was among those on board the Gaza flotilla. He shares his private diary of the events leading to his capture, for the Guardian:
Tuesday 25 May, Nice
It is five o’clock in the morning and I’m standing in the street waiting for the taxi that will take me to the airport in Nice. It’s the first time in ages E and I have had some time off together. Initially we thought we’d be able to stretch it to two weeks. It turned out to be five days. Ship to Gaza finally seems to be ready to set off and I’m to travel to Cyprus to join it, as arranged.
As instructed, I’ve limited my luggage to a rucksack weighing no more than 10 kilos. Ship to Gaza has a clearly defined goal: to break Israel’s illegal blockade. After the war a year ago, life has become more and more unbearable for the Palestinians who live in Gaza. There is a huge shortage of the bare necessities for living any sort of decent life.
But the aim of the voyage is of course more explicit. Deeds, not words, I think. It’s easy to say you support or defend or oppose this, that and the other. But only action can provide proof of your words.
The Palestinians who have been forced by the Israelis to live in this misery need to know that they are not alone, not forgotten. The world has to be reminded of their existence. And we can do that by loading some ships with what they need most of all: medicines, desalination plants for drinking water, cement.
The taxi arrives, we agree a price – extortionate! – and drive to the airport through empty, early morning streets. It comes to me now that I made my first note, there in the taxi. I don’t remember the exact words, but I’m suddenly disconcerted by a sense of not quite having managed to register that this is a project so hated by the Israelis that they might try to stop the convoy by violent means.
By the time I get to the airport, the thought has gone. On this point, too, the project is very clearly defined. We are to use non-violent tactics; there are no weapons, no intention of physical confrontation. If we’re stopped, it ought to happen in a way that doesn’t put our lives at risk.
Wednesday 26 May, Nicosia
It’s warmer than in Nice. Those who are to board the ships somewhere off the coast of Cyprus are gathering at Hotel Centrum in Nicosia. It’s like being in an old Graham Greene novel. A collection of odd people assembling in some godforsaken place to set off on a journey together. We’re going to break an illegal blockade. The words are repeated in a variety of languages. But suddenly there’s a great sense of uncertainty.
The ships are late, various problems have arisen, the coordinates still haven’t been set for the actual rendezvous. The only thing that’s certain is that it will be out at sea. Cyprus doesn’t want our six ships putting in here. Presumably Israel has applied pressure.
Now and then I also note tensions between the various groups that make up the leadership of this unwieldy project. The breakfast room has been pressed into service as a secretive meeting room. We are called in to write details of our next of kin, in case of the worst. Everyone writes away busily. Then we are told to wait. Watch and wait. Those are the words that will be used most often, like a mantra, in the coming days. Wait. Watch and wait.
Thursday 27 May, Nicosia
Wait. Watch and wait. Oppressive heat…