Flotilla Raid Eyewitness/Former Ambassador: This Wasn't a Threat, It Was Humanitarian

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," June 1, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: We continue with our coverage of Israel's deadly ship raid. American Edward Peck, a former ambassador for the United States government, was on one of those ships during the early morning Israeli raid. Ambassador Peck went "On the Record."


VAN SUSTEREN: Take me back to about 4:00 o'clock in the morning in this flotilla of ships. How many -- there were six ships?


VAN SUSTEREN: Were you on the ship on which the people died or not?

PECK: No, I was on the small Greek ship. And it was interesting the way it happened because we knew it might. But they caught us by surprise because they did (ph) this well out at sea, as you know, you know, in international waters. If this had happened off the coast of Somalia, it would be called piracy because you can't do this. But they did it.

And I was kind of dosing in the little salon of the ship. The freeboard was about this high, Greta, so the commandos stepped off of their ship right onto ours, and there they were. So the people downstairs caught totally by surprise, and it was all over downstairs.

Upstairs, where the people were on the -- kind of on the deck up there, they tried to go into the drill we'd practiced of passive resistance. You know, you lock arms...


PECK: ... to keep them away from the wheelhouse. And the Israelis -- they hurt some people getting them loose, you know. But our training was, you know, Don't get them angry and don't hurt them because then you can get into real trouble.

VAN SUSTEREN: It was designed, though, to be -- I mean, you know, I'm trying to understand this -- to be provocative, right? I mean, to bring these ships, this flotilla into violence -- I mean, you knew you were going to run into some resistance.

PECK: Well, there was a question. There were some people on the ship -- there was a discussion that took place, and some guy said who knows something about the area, he says, This is an opportunity for the Israelis to appear like nice guys, you know, let the cargo ships go in, keep the other boats out...

VAN SUSTEREN: Did you tell them you were coming?

PECK: Oh, they knew. It's been announced a long time since.

VAN SUSTEREN: That you were coming. But they didn't know what was on board, right?

PECK: We told them what was on board, and they...

VAN SUSTEREN: Had they -- had they an opportunity to inspect the cargo and -- at all?

PECK: No. But the -- the idea was that this is not a threat. It isn't religious or political, it's humanitarian. What we had on the Greek cargo ship, which I watched being loaded, we had 128 motorized wheelchairs, 150 prefab houses, two water purification systems, a bunch of medicinal supplies, some construction materials, and it filled this small little freighter, which was also captured. But the idea was -- somebody said, Maybe they'll just let the cargo go in because that's for the people. They don't need to feed us and drink their water, you know? But I said, Well, think now. When was the last time that you got the impression that the Israelis are really concerned about being seen as nice guys?

VAN SUSTEREN: Here's the problem, though, Ambassador, is that, I mean, it was designed to be provocative. The Israelis don't know what it is. It's -- you know, it's a poke in the eye. It's -- it is not a diplomatic mission. I mean, it is definitely going to -- there's bound to be trouble.

PECK: Well...

VAN SUSTEREN: Bound to be trouble. Not -- there's not -- it's not bound to be good to come out of something like this, but bound to be provocative.

PECK: Well, yes, and you can handle provocation in different ways. And they chose -- you know, when that -- when the Goldstone report came out after Operation Cast Lead, there was a -- you know, the one about...

VAN SUSTEREN: Yes, I understand.

PECK: And there was this big -- and I said, Look, I've been working in and on the Middle East for most of my adult life, and I have come to know that when the Israeli government, civilian or military, says very clearly, If you provoke us, our response will be over the top, I believe them.

VAN SUSTEREN: Then why -- why -- I mean, if you believe them, if the blockade's been there since '07 and they hadn't inspected the cargo and you knew that they were going to, you know, react over the top, why did you do it?

PECK: Because we felt that they would not make a big thing out of it in order to avoid the kind of political backlash that they've encountered.

VAN SUSTEREN: But it puts a risk of -- it has a risk of destabling (ph) much of an already unstable region of the Middle East. People are taking sides. Ahmadinejad has come out and said something. I mean, everybody is now -- it has now created a -- you know, making a boiling point even hotter.

PECK: Well, this is -- this is why I said my principal reaction was disappointment that it had worked out like this because the people -- you know, the -- I was interested in the Israeli government's statements that these ships were filled with Hamas supporters and al Qaeda terrorists and all of that thing. What would you expect them to say, that we were all, you know, tree-hugging, you know, Kumbaya singers? They had to say that. But this was a humanitarian -- 30 countries participated.

VAN SUSTEREN: That's something different. The humanitarian aspect is something different. I guess my attention is the whole idea of provoking a situation, and you know, the risk of provoking. And in this instance, the provocation has now lead to nine people being dead and the Middle East all up in arms, with people taking sides and not created a better situation but a more dangerous situation.

PECK: That's how it -- that certainly was not our intention. This was a European thing. I don't know whether you know this. It was a European thing a long time because all of the stuff that we took was donated. People raised money and donated stuff. And the Americans were added at the last moment when they figured that some Americans could be there. But you know, on our little ship, there were Swedes and Germans and Italians and French and Greeks, Czech Republic, you know, Bulgaria had people there, I mean, you know, because folks are concerned. So this was an effort to focus attention in the hope that this might permit the people in Gaza to live something resembling a little more normal life.


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