"I jumped out of bed fully clothed because there are no facilities on the ship. No shower, no wash, no nothin’ and went upstairs and there I encountered a group of Israeli commandos who said, ‘sit down,'"
Peck, one of the only Americans to take part in the aid sail, explained upon his return to the United States – several hours after being deported from Israel – that he decided to take the trip despite his old age because he and the other activists were trying to get materials that “Gazans need and are denied.”
Peck said he remained “disappointed that Israel” chose to respond the way it had to what he called a humanitarian mission.
Peck heads anti-Israel protest in Washington (Photo: AP)
The retired American career diplomat is considered one of the strongest opponents of his country's policy in the past few years and is known for his loud criticism against the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003.
The boat he sailed on was far from the main center of violence on Turkish ship Marmara, and the people on board were carrying construction material and medical equipment they planned to transfer to the Strip's residents.
After the Israelis gained control of the ship, he said, "they didn’t harm anybody after that. They harmed some folks in getting on board as people tried to block them from taking over. “
Peck said he had “concern that it might have been much rougher on some of the other ships. It was. People were shot. You know, people died on some of the other ships because they resisted. We didn’t. We had already talked amongst ourselves as to what we were going to do. I got there too late to lock arms around the wheelhouse because it was all over by that time.”
Amused by 'deportation'
After being put on planes which returned him and other activists to their countries, Peck landed in Washington with only the clothes on his back and the hat on his head.
Despite the weariness and tense moments, he appeared amused by his "deportation".
'The Israelis told me, 'You’ve broken Israeli law.' I said, ‘Which one?’ They said, 'You have entered the country illegally.' I said, 'I’m sorry.' But if I’m brought into the country under armed escort that is not entering the country illegally. Forcibly. We’ll they don’t agree with that. I was deported so I suppose that goes on my record.“
Peck doesn't regret the sail for a minute. He believes this will be a “major political flap” for Israel and that “bad things have happened, are happening and will happen as long as what’s going on in Palestine and what isn’t going on in Palestine continues, that’s a dead end street, as several of Israel’s leaders have said.”