Gardell, a professor of religious history at Uppsala University and the brains behind the expedition, returned to Stockholm on Thursday afternoon. He was accompanied by six other Swedes who had been held captive in Israel after their ship was boarded by Israeli soldiers.
The activists were met at Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport by a crowd of journalists and sympathizers. Members of the crowd presented flowers Gardell and his colleagues, and chanted “long live Palestine” and anti-Israeli slogans.
Against the backdrop of Palestinian flags, Gardell repeated his account of what he called the murder of nine “civilian humanists.” He described the action of the Israelis as “an incomprehensible bloodbath”, saying that the Israelis knew the ships’ cargo was harmless.
He also said that activists had picked up whatever implements they could find to wrestle Israeli soldiers to the ground:
“There were no weapons on board.”
Gardell added that he had not personally witnessed many of the events on the ship:
“Everyone has a partial picture. It was dark and chaotic,” he said, but claimed that he had formed a more complete understanding of what happened by talking to other activists in prison in Israel.
Asked whether he thought the flotilla had brought a Palestinian state closer he said:
“I hope that these nine people did not die in vain. I hope that it at least undermines the blockade of Gaza so that Palestinians can access the same human rights as everyone else.”