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iPhones, iPads and Suicides; Passenger of Flotilla Speaks About Raid; Global Criticism over Deadly Raid; Israeli Ambassador to U.S. Oren Speaks About Turkish Ship Raid
Aired June 1, 2010 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: And thank you both. Good morning, everyone. I'm Brooke Baldwin back in for Kyra Phillips this morning. And here is what we're working on for you this Tuesday.
The raid in the Mediterranean, the rage across the world. And conflicting tales about what exactly happened on both -- actually six of those ships. And another confrontation with Israel could possibly be ahead here.
And it looks almost too perfect to be real, doesn't it? Look at this. But it is real. Just ask some folks in Colorado.
And do you have an iPhone, iPad -- probably came from this factory. And the person who helped put it together might be dead now. Workers under so much pressure, they are literally killing themselves.
But first, global outrage erupting here over Israel's deadly raid on those six aid ships sailing to the blockaded Gaza Strip with food, medicine, building supplies for all those Palestinians.
Now the reaction. Take a look at these pictures here. Furious and instant. In Pakistan, Turkey, Gaza City and really all around the world, tens of thousands of people are protesting.
And another high-sea confrontation could be in the works. Pro- Palestinian activists say another aid boat is off the coast of Italy heading towards the Gaza Strip to challenge that blockade.
And all of this comes as the U.N. Security Council calls for this impartial investigation. Basically this is their attempt to untangle this web of conflicting stories about what it was that went down before dawn Monday morning.
Let me spell this out for you. Here's what we know. At least nine people died. Dozens are hurt. And more than 600 are still detained but Israel says its troops acted in self-defense. Meantime activists on board those boats were maintaining this was a massacre.
And I want you to take a look on two pieces of video here. We're splitting the screen for you. The video on the left, this is edited by the IDF, that's the Israeli Defense Force, showing naval troops being attacked by clubs.
Meantime, take a look on the right. This is a very different scene. Pictures from a Turkish TV station showing bloodied passengers.
Atia Abawi is live in Jerusalem for us.
And Atia, we have heard and we've seen these pictures of exactly how the world is reacting, entire governments coming out and condemning this attack. Meantime, what are you hearing from Israel?
ATIA ABAWI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Israel definitely has its own side of the story right now. After international condemnation from both friend and foe throughout the world, Israel is defending its actions of yesterday's raid on those six ships bringing humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.
There were 700 pro-Palestinian activists on those boats. Six hundred of them still detained. Israel says that's because they refuse to give them identification.
Israel also says that they're sending 45 of those activists back home in the process of deportation because they did identify who they were. And although they say those 600 activists are not under arrest, they are being held in an Israeli prison.
And when I spoke to the spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry here, he says that each case will be dealt with separately. And some of those people may be prosecuted depending on the actions that took place yesterday morning -- Brooke?
BALDWIN: Atia Abawi for us in Jerusalem.
And as Atia mentioned, and we're mentioning here this morning, a lot of world leaders really quick to condemn Israel over yesterday's raid. But coming up in half an hour, we're going to get some perspective from Michael Oren. He is Israel's ambassador to the United States.
I have all kinds of questions ready for him including what it was that happened and really who is to blame here. You won't want to miss that. That interview coming up about 9:30 Eastern Time.
Meantime, al Qaeda confirming one of its founding fathers has been killed. This is Mustafa Abu Yazid. He was considered the group's number three man handling, commanding operations in Afghanistan and even being a direct intermediary for Osama bin Laden.
CNN senior international correspondent Nic Robertson is live this morning for us in Kabul.
And, Nic, what -- what more do we know about this man?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know that al Qaeda has said that he is dead. His three daughters, wife, a granddaughter, other men, women, and children were killed.
So it appears that he was killed in a missile strike. That seems to have taken place in Waziristan just over the border from Afghanistan inside Pakistan. He was -- according to the 9/11 Commission -- responsible for the financial management of the 9/11 attacks. He has been very close to Osama bin Laden, sort of a key ideologue around him, if you will. He claimed responsibility for the attack on the CIA base in Afghanistan late last year that killed seven CIA officials.
And as well, we do know from our own research that he has been involved with would-be jihadists coming to the United States, coming to al Qaeda training camps in Pakistan, desiring to get involved in the fight in Afghanistan and turning them around and convincing them to go back to the United States with a plan of attacking inside the United States.
So a very, very important and active operative at a very high level for al Qaeda -- Brooke.
BALDWIN: Certainly, significant. Nic Robertson for us in Kabul. Nic, thank you.
Faisal Shahzad, you know the name. Remember this is the man accused of trying to detonate that homemade car bomb in New York's Times Square. He is set to make his second court appearance today.
Shahzad faces five felony counts related to that May 1st incident. And he's reportedly been cooperating with investigators leading to the arrest of alleged co-conspirators both in the U.S. and in Pakistan.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people in that Fort Hood massacre, he will make his first appearance in a military courtroom today.
Major Nidal Hasan is not expected to make a plea or even speak at this proceeding. But the hearing basically is to determine whether Hasan will face trial for last -- last year's massacre.
And we are maintaining a count here at CNN. And we are on now day 43 of the gulf oil spill. And all eyes are on this latest attempt to smother that underwater geyser. At any point in time here, BP will be using these robots -- they call them ROVs, these robots -- to cut off the damaged pipe from that broken oil well.
Keep in mind this has never been done at this depth. We're talking 5,000 feet under water. Now crews hope to lower another containment dome. It's this custom-fit cap as early as tomorrow. BP is warning that even if the operation is in fact successful it will not trap all of the escaping oil. They say most, not all.
Also in a couple of hours, President Obama will be meeting with leaders of a new commission and their focus -- how to prevent future spills just like this one.
This is the first official day of hurricane season. And forecasters are warning that it will be a busy one. And that, of course, raises stark fears all along the western part of the Gulf Coast where this environmental disaster at sea really could be pushed deep inland.
CNN meteorologist Rob Marciano joins me now from Belle Chasse, Louisiana.
And, Rob, I was down there a couple of weeks ago and people were already so fearful for the big question. What if a hurricane hits?
ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. You know, it's like they don't have enough to worry about already. Today is the first day of hurricane season. And communities like this one all across the Gulf Coast meet every -- every year at this time of year to prepare for the coming hurricane season.
We're in Bell Chase, the heart of Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana where they're meeting today to do just that. But they have an added headache and that's the oil spill.
Well, this year on top of that, we've got record warm temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean plus an El Nino is beginning to fade. That's a combination for a lot of storms. And then you talk about that big puddle of oil in the Gulf of Mexico. When you include that, and it's a recipe for a nightmare.
MARCIANO (voice-over): Almost five years later, signs of Hurricane Katrina are still evident in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana. And this year's NOAA hurricane forecast calls for up to 23 named storms. Not exactly what Louisianans want to hear.
BILL NUNGESSER, PRESIDENT, PLAQUEMINES PARISH, LA.: It scares the hell out of me. And let me tell you, we're worn down. You know we're working 24/7. I'm sleeping two, three hours a night.
MARCIANO: Billy Nungesser's parish isn't just the bull's eye for hurricanes. Oil from the BP spill is already in the barrier wetlands here.
NUNGESSER: Scared (INAUDIBLE) -- you saw the Pass a Loutre. You saw the pelicans. Imagine a storm rolling that oil up and bringing it in and laying it down where we are here. Imagine that black gooky stuff on everything. We'll never clean it up. We will devastate coastal Louisiana forever.
MARCIANO: That's just the kind of unimaginable devastation that Dauphin Island, Alabama is trying to avoid.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What you see here is the tide is down right now. So the water is below the basket.
MARCIANO: The Alabama National Guard is erecting a 4 1/2 mile barrier to keep the oil from impacting protected wildlife here. The baskets are filled with a polymer powder which can turn the wet oil into a solid, making it easier to collect by hand.
But what happens to these oil barriers if a major hurricane hits? (LAUGHTER)
DAN KOONTZ, CI AGENT SOLUTIONS: They'll be gone just like everything else around here too. That category five will take out the houses and take out every building and structure on this island probably.
MARCIANO (on camera): We're on part of the thick oil here in the Gulf of Mexico. What does the oil do for hurricanes?
Well, it would have a hard time developing right over the oil because the oil actually suppresses evaporation. But that's actually one of the way that the water actually cools. So between the lack of evaporation and the darkness of that oil actually heats up the gulf.
This is going to actually feed it, if anything, and bring it onshore and everything with it, including this big mess.
(Voice-over): More bad news for Plaquemines Parish which lacks the needed funding and is still waiting for federal approval to reinforce its barrier islands. Nungesser knows his clock is ticking.
NUNGESSER: We've got to get this barrier out. This is the only thing that can give us a fighting chance of saving south Louisiana.
MARCIANO: Well, if this oil spill was a little further out, if it's in the Atlantic Ocean, a hurricane would actually help it. It would bang it around and disperse it, it would dilute the oil. But it's just way too close to shore for a hurricane to have really a positive impact. At least if you're on the right side or ride quadrant of that hurricane.
Now to be clear, it's not going to pick up the oil and rain it. It's not going to rain oil but it's certainly -- the storm surge would certainly bring that oil on the eastern half of the storm and push that inland.
And that's certainly a huge, huge concern, Brooke. And with the forecast being so dire and I've never seen such an aggressive seasonal forecast from the hurricane center. It's certainly cause for alarm just about everywhere along the Gulf Coast -- Brooke.
BALDWIN: Gosh, Rob, it's like Katrina was five years ago. The Saints just won the Super Bowl. It's like you think they were out of the woods but not yet.
Rob Marciano for us in Belle Chasse. Thanks, Rob.
Have you seen this video? Take a look what made this long white plume makes its mark on rural Colorado. We're taking you on a close look of this twister.
JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Plus the storm system that produced that tornado on the move today. Find out where the threat areas coming up in your forecast.
BALDWIN: Imagine this scary scene in part of China today. A gunman just burst into this court office killing three judges, wounding three other judges, and then killing himself.
Chinese news reports say the man was in charge of the security squad. Apparently he told a co-worker he was taking a submachine gun and two pistols to be inspected.
And as Rob and I were just chatting a couple of minutes ago, you know, we're thinking here about hurricanes. But imagine this sandstorm hitting a village, we're talking about central China.
Look at these pictures. This storm moved through an area 70 feet a minute. That is fast. As you can see tons of dust just suddenly blocking out the sun. The clouds towered over the buildings. Then all of a sudden it was just quiet. The dust settled back to earth and people left with major cleanup on their hands.
A village near the Gobi Desert, the largest desert in Asia, and apparently, every spring, you know, some of the strong winds really blow across the Gobi Desert. But what do you -- I mean looking at this picture, Jacqui Jeras.
JERAS: Amazing, yes.
BALDWIN: How do you clean up after that or does it just blow on through?
JERAS: Well, it will just blow on through. I mean, you're going to have dust on your surfaces. We get storms like that. You call them haboobs in the southwestern part of the U.S. so sometimes --
JERAS: Yes. H-A-B-O-O-B. Kind of a fun silly word to say by that a serious storm.
JERAS: And you want to be indoors when something like that happens.
BALDWIN: That will burn your eyes.
JERAS: It will. Yes. I mean it will literally can rip your skin. Yes. It's a very -- very painful thing. Great video you have. Check out the video that I have.
BALDWIN: All right.
JERAS: Between the wars of who's got better videos today. A tornado out of Colorado yesterday caught by storm chasers. Look at that big funnel there. BALDWIN: It's like it's just floating.
JERAS: It kind of does. Almost looks like a land spout to me. But didn't cause any damage, believe it or not. Just some power lines down. That's about it. And nobody injured. So we like to see video like that when we know nobody is getting hurt on that one.
BALDWIN: And then there was that sink hole. That was Guatemala, too, right?
JERAS: Yes. That was Guatemala.
BALDWIN: We will -- we'll show that picture.
JERAS: Amazing rain.
BALDWIN: We'll let the viewer be the judge. Looks like a green screen. We'll let you choose.
BALDWIN: OK. They're young, they're smart, and sadly they can't take it anymore. A giant mysterious tech factory -- there it is -- in China dealing with the sudden rash of suicides. This is where your iPhone, this is where your iPad probably came from.
You won't want to miss this. We're going inside and getting this rare look.
BALDWIN: Checking your top stories now. It is day 43 of the gulf oil spill. And those BP robots, they are hard at work, making a series of very precise cuts on that new custom made cap for that gushing well.
By the way, the president will be meeting with the co-chairman of his oil committee to figure out how in the world we can prevent this from ever happening again.
Also, more fallout today from the Israeli raid on that aid flotilla. Remember it was destined for Gaza early Monday morning. Well, Turkish prime minister calling this incident a turning point in the nation's once close relationship with Israel. Keep in mind, Turkey, one of the only Muslim allies Israel has.
Meantime, IDF says two Palestinians killed in Israeli-Gaza border clashes today.
And the accused Fort Hood triggerman having his first military court appearance today. This is U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan. He was charged with 13 murders. He is now in a wheelchair ever since that attack on that base back in November. He faces the death penalty if he is convicted.
And veggies, fruits and, oh, yes, toxins. Are you putting yourself at risk when you are trying to eat healthy? Dr. Sanjay Gupta has some disturbing new findings and some advice on how all of us can deal with all those hidden dangers. That's coming up.
BALDWIN: We're supposed to eat our fruits and veggies and be healthy, right? I had my apple this morning. But apparently not so fast. The new report shows that those healthy foods can be covered with pesticides.
And Dr. Sanjay Gupta brings all of us really inside a grocery store to expose which foods have the highest level of toxins and which ones are the safest.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: When you hear the term pesticides, a lot of people think about being outdoors. Things that you find in your grass, perhaps your flowers, especially in the summer time. But what if I told you that you're likely eating pesticides as well?
Look, I'll admit, I tell people all the time, you should be eating five servings of fruits and vegetables every single day. But a new study shows that if you're doing that, you are probably eating up to 10 different pesticides a day as well.
Which is why they've come up with this list of the dirty dozen which I'll put on our Web site. There are some foods that they say you should buy organic. For examples, peaches over here, or some of the vegetables that you find over here. Celery, for example, they say you should buy organic.
Lettuce, all kinds of different, they say those are good candidates to buy organic. Apples as well. Now one thing that people immediately bring up is the cost. It simply costs more to buy organic.
It's true but maybe not as much as you think. Now celery, for example, about 50 cents more. You look at apples, 10 cents more per pound. This day, the lettuce was actually about 20 cents cheaper.
There are some foods that they also say, you know what? Save your money. You don't necessarily need to buy these foods organic. Pineapples, for examples. Pineapples are a good candidate for that. Watermelon. Watermelon ,again, you can buy these non-organic.
Cantaloupe is another good thing. Corn on the cob. I love corn on the cob. Again, especially in the summertime. You peel this off. You can grill that corn. You don't need to buy this organic.
You may see a theme emerging here. And that is that those are all foods that you can peel. Simply peeling away the outer skin that can get rid of a lot of those potential pesticides.
Now one thing I want to point out is that when they tested for pesticides that was after these foods had already been power washed. So even if you wash this at home, a non-organic apple, you're probably still going to have the pesticides.
So a good rule of thumb, if you don't buy organic, make sure to peel this first then wash it. That's going to be your best bet.
I want to be clear. The evidence about the relationship between pesticides and adverse effects on human health, it's not clear. There are some studies suggesting that it may cause birth defects for pregnant women, may cause never damage. Even cancer.
But simply by following these rules, you could rid your body about 80 percent of the pesticides you might be taking in on any given day.
BALDWIN: And make sure you tune in Wednesday and Thursday evenings for a special investigation. We're calling this "TOXIC AMERICA." And Sanjay investigates what dangerous chemicals our families are exposed to each and every day. That is beginning tomorrow night at 8:00 Eastern only here on CNN.
And let's talk about a toxic work environment here. The kind that is driving these young, smart, ambitious workers to kill themselves.
It is happening at the factory in China where your iPhone, where your iPad came from. We are getting this amazing, rare look inside this enormous yet mysterious and troubled place.
BALDWIN: Last month, a brutal month for stocks. The Dow had its worst May in 70 years. And today starts a new trading week, a trading month, but the same problems still around.
Alison Kosik is at the New York Stock Exchange with a look at what to expect.
Alison, I just checked BP numbers. I guess we shouldn't be surprised by the fact that they are going down.
ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No surprises there. Everybody fastening their seatbelts this morning, Brooke. We are expecting a selloff at the opening. You're hearing the opening bell right now.
What we've got are concerns about China because there's a new report out that shows that the economy slowed down a bit last month. And of course there are still those fears about Europe's debt problems that continue to linger right here on Wall Street.
In fact, the Euro dropped to a new four-year low today, $1.21. And the U.S. economy not out of the woods yet with those job cuts. Hewlett-Packard says it's cutting 3,000 jobs. The company is spending $1 billion to create a fully automated data center, and that's going to reduce the need for humans.
And you talked about shares of BP are taking a tumble right now. Shares of BP are down over 6 percent. We're also watching shares of HP. Those are down 1 percent. We're watching the BP shares continue to glide as well, now, down 13 percent. This is the first day investors are able to respond to the failure of the top kill effort. So, this is how investors are responding to that. As for the broader market right now, the Dow Industrial down about 66 points, not as bad as we expected. The Nasdaq off about 11.
As you said, Brooke, May was a really terrible month for investors. The Dow tumbled 872 points or almost 8 percent. And finally, Brooke, not such a huge surprise here, Apple hitting another milestone. The company has sold 2 million iPads in just 59 days. The new device went on sale overseas last week. There were those long lines and many stores just ran out of the device. At the current sales pace, Brooke, Apple is selling 24 iPads per minute. Though, I'm not one of those waiting in line. I'm going to wait until that things goes down in price a little bit.
BALDWIN: I'm a good old-fashioned Blackberry girl, Alison. I do not have any kind of iPad. I don't have an iPad. Alison, thank you.
BALDWIN: Now, you know, we talk about jobs, and we also talk about, as she mentioned, those iPads, iPhones, and maybe you probably like everyone else has one, right? But did you ever think about who actually put it together? Chances are it came from this mysterious Foxconn in Southern China. This is a factory. It's also a city, and as I'm hearing, it's a pressure cooker. So much pressure, in fact, that nine employees have killed themselves this year.
So, what kind of work environment are we talking about? CNN's senior international correspondent John Vause got a rare inside look.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Rarely does the world's biggest supplier of electronic and computer parts open up to the outside world. Foxconn, best known as the maker of Apple's iPhone and iPad is obsessive about secrecy and security. This complex is spread over less than a square mile and 3,000 mostly young workers from the country site, live, sleep, and work here.
(on camera): And this could be their first job away from home, right?
LIU KUN, FOXCONN SPOKESMAN: Most of them. Most of them is first job.
VAUSE: And a growing number of these workers are either killing themselves or trying to, and Foxconn doesn't know why. We've never seen anything like this before, says Liu Kun the company spokesman.
Workers spend long hours on the assembly line not only supplying parts for Apple but also for tech giants, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and Nokia earning less than $300 a month. Under the watchful eye of Mr. Liu, we talked to this young one.
(on camera): So, a model happy employee.
(voice-over): But critics say that's not the whole story.
GEOFFREY CROTHALL, CHINA LABOR BULLETIN: They wake up. They have breakfast. They go to work. They work a solid shift. They come back to dormitory. They sleep. It's a very dehumanizing place, and the workers are little more than machines there.
VAUSE: Employees live in dormitories, eight to a room, common to the factories in China. Often roommates, though, will not know each other's names.
(on camera): Do you know these guys? Do you know their names? Do you know where they're from and all that kind of stuff?
(voice-over): She arrived three days ago. I didn't know her name, she says.
CROTHALL: There is no real sense of community there, and I think that is one of the significant factors behind this alarming number of suicides.
VAUSE: And Foxconn admits managers have been known to abuse workers if they make mistakes or miss deadlines.
What we can and must change is the rude attitude some managers have towards our workers, he said.
While this complex is like a city within a city, with three hospitals, five stations, restaurants and supermarkets, recreational facilities are few -- five pools, libraries, and 400 computers, that's one for every 750 workers.
The company has set up a hotline.
(on camera): How many suicides have you prevented in recent weeks here?
KUN: Over the one month --
VAUSE: One month, yes?
KUN: Actually maybe over 30 of them.
VAUSE: More than 30.
(voice-over): Counselors have been called in. And in this stress room, employees can work out their frustration. Even so, Mr. Liu says another suicide is a matter of when, not if.
KUN: I don't think our prevention is enough to stop the suicide trend.
VAUSE (on-camera): So, what could be happening here, according to some experts, has all the hallmarks of what's known as a suicide cluster, when the idea of suicide quickly spreads amongst a group of people, often teenagers or young adults.
(voice-over): Still, none of that is putting off the hundreds who line up every day hoping for a job.
(on camera): Have you heard about people who have been dying at Foxconn, some people who have committed suicide?
(voice-over): Some people might find it stressful and difficult work, he says, but it's not a problem for me. Because for many young workers moving to the city, a job at Foxconn is still a much better option than staying at home on a farm.
John Vause, CNN, Shenzhen, China.
BALDWIN: All right. Back to this fast-moving story, Israel bombarded with criticism over a deadly raid on this humanitarian convoy. Nine killed, hundreds held, countless questions here. We are asking the top one to Israel's ambassador to the U.S. right after this break.
BALDWIN: Checking our top stories now, day 43 of that Gulf oil spill, and here's what's going on right now, BP is lowering this other custom cap similar to that containment dome and doing that tomorrow, but later today, there will be cuts, those precise cuts made to where the cap will then be placed. The danger here, even more oil, possibly 20 percent more oil, will spill if that cap does not fit.
And big well-formed tornado touching down there in Southeastern Colorado. There it is. Amazingly, despite these pictures, no reports of injuries or major damage in the rural areas, but as you can imagine, power lines were definitely down.
And here's a story out of Israel. Israeli officials saying Israel regrets the casualties during the raid on the Gaza aid flotilla. Remember this happened pre-dawn raid Monday morning, but he's blaming activists for inciting the violence saying Israeli military simply defending themselves. At least nine people were killed yesterday.
And hundreds of people on board that flotilla are being held in Israel, but one American citizen has just been released. Her name is Huwaida Arraff. And she is now good enough to join me live by phone from Jerusalem.
Huwaida, let me just first ask you how you're doing?
HUWAIDA ARRAFF, PASSENGER OF FLOTILLA (via telephone): I'm OK. A little bruised, but otherwise, Ok. I'm just worried about my other colleagues because I haven't heard anything from them about where they are or what has happened to them.
BALDWIN: OK. Huwaida, let's just start so simply and at the very beginning here. What ship were you on and how did you even get involved in this mission to go to Gaza in the first place?
ARRAFF: Sure. I'm one of the organizer of the free Gaza movement which quote the international coalition together to send this aid flotilla to Gaza. We have been on other missions before to challenge the illegal blockade of Gaza. And our last three voyages before this one were brutally attacked by the Israeli navy. Therefore, we wanted to mobilize more people and get more aid involved in challenging Israel's blockade which is lethal in killing people in Gaza.
BALDWIN: Go ahead.
ARRAFF: They made it very clear with this flotilla via the media and otherwise, that we will be unarmed, carrying cargo destined for the Gaza's trip, this cargo in quip (ph), reconstruction supplies, school supplies, books and papers for students, medical equipment, all things that Israel doesn't let in as part of its collective punishment against the people living in Gaza. Personally, I was on the vessel called the challenger one, it's an American flag ship. We were five American citizens on board that ship in addition to our British and Irish and others.
Israel started radioing us in the middle of the night. We were in international waters, approximately 90 miles off the coast of Gaza and very far from Israeli territorial waters.
BALDWIN: Huwaida, let me just jump in. Let me interrupt you. I understand you have maybe some prepared statements. I understand that.
ARRAFF: No, I don't at all. Go ahead.
BALDWIN: OK. You don't. So, let me just have a conversation. I just want to ask you, you mentioned as part of that, you were unarmed. We're hearing 600 plus passengers on six different ships. Do you know, to your best knowledge, were there any guns? We're hearing about knives, guns on board. You say you weren't armed. Was anyone else armed?
ARRAFF: No, to the best of my knowledge, nothing at all. In fact, I was on the challenger, but at some point, I was first on the challenger II. It had mechanical trouble and the Turkish ship Mavi Mamara rescued as we got on that ship, and so, I was able to see a lot of things on that ship, talk to the people when we first got on that ship. The Turkish security searched us completely. Our bags and everything to make sure that we weren't carrying any arms. And then, I switched to the challenger I when that came aboard. So, I know that the people on the ship which they claim, you know, had guns and knives on it. I saw their security, and it was very tight. I sincerely, seriously doubt that there was. I'm sure there were some kitchen knives and other things, but other than that, we had an agreement as a coalition that we will be unarmed. There will be no violence from our side.
BALDWIN: To be clear, Huwaida, to be clear, let's just reiterate this, you're saying your mission, purely humanitarian, because Israel is saying this is a political ploy, you were provoking their three- year blockade? Reiterate you mission.
ARRAFF: We were certainly challenging their blockade, because it is illegal and it is collective punishment, and we feel that the international community isn't doing anything about it. When Israel says no, these things won't enter, certain medical supplies, books, paper, these things have nothing to do with security. Therefore, our boats were carrying these things.
Our goal was not simply to deliver humanitarian aid but to also draw attention to the illegality of the blockade and to mobilize international solidify to stand up against it because Palestinians in Gaza don't just want to live off of handouts which is what this really blockade is doing, letting in barely enough so people just barely survive and you call that life or you call that humanitarian. No.
People in Gaza want a right to live, to create an economy, to be able to connect with the outside world. And right now, they're being denied that. So while we were taking in humanitarian aid, we also had a goal of challenging this illegal blockade, because our government wasn't doing anything about it.
BALDWIN: So clearly you say, yes, you acknowledge the fact that this blockade, the fact that you were challenging it, that was -- that was illegal, you were breaking that blockade.
Why, though --
ARRAF: But at the same --
BALDWIN: -- why though, not hand over the cement, the medicine, the instant coffee, everything you are bringing through, why not hand it off to Israel as they had said, as I've read, they would be willing to bring it to Gaza themselves? Why did you need to defy Israel?
ARRAF: Because Israel's blockade has -- keeps these things out. It has been a year and a half since Israel's brutal attack on Gaza which destroyed thousands of homes and schools and mosques and hospitals. And they have not let in reconstruction supplies, they do not let in things like coffee and tea and paper and books.
So why is that? The international community needs to question that. That is a violation of people's human rights. So, yes, we want the people of Gaza to have these things that we are carrying. But we also don't want to perpetuate this cycle of people living off aid and just what Israel lets in. The things that Israel let's in are barely enough to meet the needs of the people of the Gaza --
BALDWIN: Ok, Huwaida --
ARRAF: There's nothing you -- so right, but just real quickly, I want to tell you about the attack. Because I -- I saw --
BALDWIN: Yes, I want to ask you. Let me -- let me just jump in. Let me ask you about that. Because, there are, obviously, as we know, two sides to every story. And we've seen two different pieces of video. We've seen video from Turk TV showing these different passengers, these activists, perhaps including yourself, on this especially this one boat who were being attacked. And it's bloody. You can see the blood in the pictures. And they appear to be defending themselves.
On the other side, I've seen it, I've gone to the Web site, the (INAUDIBLE) Web site where you see these members of the Israeli military coming down and they are, it appears being attacked. What did you see?
ARRAF: Well, when we were well into international waters. We were traveling relatively close, the six vessels. And our vessel was right next to -- our vessel is much smaller but it was right next to the Mavi Mamara, the Turkish ship.
And we saw the Israeli naval boats go up to them and start firing. And we heard a number of explosions. From the -- from the people -- passengers that were on Mavi Mamara, we could see them using hoses to defend themselves, to keep the soldiers back. But the soldiers were throwing some concussion grenades and firing also at the ships. And the Israeli navy just started --
BALDWIN: So from your vantage point -- from vantage point, Huwaida, you probably couldn't tell who fired first? Could you tell?
ARRAF: I saw the people on the ship just using hoses. And I saw the Israeli Navy, soldiers throwing things; I'm assuming concussion grenades because we heard explosions. But from the ship, all we could see was people on the ship; we can just see them using hoses in order to keep the soldiers away.
But then, they came via air also. And then they started coming after our ship. So we took off and they charged us also. Eventually, they overtook our ship and they used concussion -- they use concussion grenades, sound bombs and pellets. They fired at us and then jumped aboard the ship. And we tried to keep them off. We told them, we are unarmed. This is an American vessel where international civilians get off of our ship.
And they just started beating people. My head was smashed against the ground where people were stepping on my head. They later cuffed me and put a bag over my head. And they did that to everybody.
BALDWIN: So I understand, I can't -- I can't imagine, it sounds incredibly frightening for you. But let me ask --
ARRAF: But the point is also that we --
BALDWIN: Hang on, hang on. Hang on I got one more question and then I've got to go. But I want to ask about you, your friends you mentioned. I know 45 or so of these activists from what I understand have been released. But there are still 600 or so passengers that are still in the southern Israeli prison.
Talk to me just briefly about their conditions, your conditions the past 24 hours?
ARRAF: Well, I know nothing yet about their conditions. I haven't been able to contact them. I was recently released after being beaten up again by the Israeli police and just asking for my stuff back, so I can have money, and I can have phones. And they wouldn't give it back to me. They forced me into a police car and just threw me, pushed me out of the police car somewhere where I didn't know.
And then I was knocked unconscious. An ambulance came and got me. And when they released me, I went back to the police station to say, where was I, how do I get to where I need to go? So I just got to a friend's place Jerusalem who has given me a phone and some water and some food and I'm trying to find out what's happening to the rest of my colleagues.
BALDWIN: Well, we are trying to find out as well. And we're on top of this story and Huwaida Arraf, an American calling us in Jerusalem.
ARRAF: But can I just tell you that we told Israel --
BALDWIN: Huwaida, final -- one final thought.
ARRAF: -- and urged them not to attack us.
BALDWIN: Thank you Huwaida.
ARRAF: We urged them to not attack us. We told them we were unarmed.
BALDWIN: Thank you, Huwaida Arraf calling in. That was really sort of the first insight we've had in terms of these activists. Again, she was with the Free Gaza movement, that was the group really that organized this flotilla headed to Gaza.
I want to though, reiterate that CNN has been unable to independently verify her story and so we want to make sure that we get the Israeli side. And so we want to speak with Michael Oren, who is the Israeli Ambassador to the United States joining me now live from Washington.
And Mr. Oren I want to get to you first, we'll get you to respond to Huwaida Arraf in just a moment, but I want to begin though with some of these criticisms. And then we talk about really it seems like global condemnation, looking down France condemning this disproportionate use of force, Gaza calling it a brutal attack, Palestinians calling them war crimes.
In your best estimate, sir, Mr. Ambassador was the Israeli use of force disproportionate to what was going on onboard that flotilla.
MICHAEL OREN, ISRAEL'S AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: Good morning, Brooke.
Well, let me first say that Israel does regret all casualties including the Israeli casualties. We sustained several severe casualties including casualties inflicted by knives, iron bars and by gunshots. There were guns used by these so-called protesters.
Disproportionate for us? The Israeli commandos who landed on these ships landed with paintball guns, those were the pellets that your previous interviewee referred to. They landed with paintball guns in order to dissuade this -- this flotilla from landing in Gaza which is not a peace-loving entity.
It's not as if they -- Gaza is neutral here. Gaza is run by a regime, the Hamas regime which has sworn to destroy the state of Israel. And by the way if you read its covenant it's also to destroy -- it's sworn to destroy the Jewish people worldwide.
This is an entity that has fired over 7,000 rockets at Israeli civilians and therefore, Israel does what any normal state can do and that is to defend its citizens against rocket attacks.
And we have to maintain this blockade in order to prevent Hamas from acquiring weaponry. Not food and medicine; over 100 trucks every day laden with food and medicine go into Gaza. There's no shortage of food. There is no shortage of medicine.
BALDWIN: Mr. Ambassador --
OREN: But Israel has to defend itself.
BALDWIN: I want to ask you the same question I just asked Huwaida. I want to -- let's just drill down on this -- on this attack. Did the Israeli military fire first?
OREN: No, it did not. If it fired first it was with paintballs and there were six ships in this Flotilla. Five of them were taken and towed to port without any problem whatsoever, without any use of force. The force was used only when our soldiers were beaten and fired upon and stabbed.
They had side arms. They were told to use the side arms only in the case where there are lives were threatened. I think if you go on to that YouTube clip --
BALDWIN: I've seen it.
OREN: -- and it's readily available, you will see these soldiers being beaten, one of them being thrown over the side of the ship. They did not fire first. BALDWIN: Huwaida says that to her best knowledge they had security systems in place. They could not bring on guns. They did not have knives. Perhaps she mentioned kitchen knives. She maintains her group, Free Gaza movement, their purpose to going into Gaza was purely humanitarian, purely to deliver aid to the people of Gaza.
What is Israel's stance? Was it an act of provocation or was it humanitarian?
OREN: If their purpose was to deliver humanitarian aid, it's very strange then that they rejected our repeated offers to take whatever cargos they had and to transfer them to the people of Gaza. I was personally involved in those efforts, Brooke. We tried assiduously over the last few weeks to dissuade this flotilla from breaking the blockade, to try to facilitate the transfer of whatever they wanted to bring to Gaza provided it was not military aid for Hamas to facilitate that transfer.
They rejected our offer. They also rejected our offer to provide humanitarian aid to Gilad Shalit, the young Israeli soldier who has now been four years held in captivity without any visits from the International Red Cross or any word to his parents in violation of international law. They violated that, too -- they rejected that.
This organization on that Turkish boat is not a peace-loving protesting organization. It's an organization which the CIA and other international institutes have linked to al Qaeda. It's an organization whose members before they got on the boat chanted death to the Jews and that video clip is available online as well.
BALDWIN: Mr. Ambassador, I want to talk about Israel's relationship with multiple nations, of course, including the United States, and you've heard it before. The U.S. and Israel has a very close bond that is now deemed to be strained; strained over the lack of progress and the peace process, strained over Israel's continual buildup of homes in the disputed east Jerusalem and now this attack on this flotilla.
The U.S. President has asked for, I think -- to quote him -- he's asked for facts and circumstances. Do you plan to provide that information to the White House?
OREN: We are in constant contact with the White House. During yesterday, it began early in the morning and it went to late at night; and we had an open, frank discussion about this. We appreciate the contributions of the American delegation to the U.N. which worked to defend Israel's right itself before the -- in the face of threats from Hamas and other terrorist organizations.
Brooke, we've had our disagreements about certain aspects of the peace process, but right now we are engaged in talks with the Palestinians with the mediation of the United States and we deeply appreciate America's contribution to that process as well.
BALDWIN: And finally sir, I mean we have to talk about Turkey because it is really one Israel's few allies in the Muslim world and we've seen -- we've heard the words coming in from the prime minister of Turkey calling the incident a turning point in its relationship with Israel.
We've heard a lot of strong words coming from Turkey. How do you manage relations? How do you repair this relationship?
OREN: Well, we also have open relations -- we have communication with the Turks. I talked to my Turkish counterpart here in Washington. The Israel defense minister Ehud Barack was on the phone to Turkish leaders yesterday. Certainly we do not want to see deterioration in our relationship with Turkey. But again, we appeal to Turkey over the course of several weeks to assist us in preventing this flotilla from reaching Gaza, to assist us in transferring that cargo to the people of Gaza and Turkey did not cooperate with us. Alas, I say this with a great sense of regret.
BALDWIN: Mr. Ambassador, knowing what you know, looking at the pictures, seeing the violence we're seeing, nine fatalities, many others injured and many of these passengers in this prison, could this have been avoided? Could the Israeli military have gone about this a more pacifistic way?
OREN: Well, We did go about it in pacifistic way. Again, five out of the six ships were towed to port without incident. Only on that Turkish ship where our soldier, who again, came aboard with paintball guns.
OREN: Were greeted with knives and with iron bars and apparently with guns as well because they did suffer some gunshot wounds.
I am hard pressed to see how any state could defend itself against such surprises. I think if the U.S. Coast Guard were attacked with knives and guns they would do what was necessary to defend themselves as well.
BALDWIN: You say it was purely self-defense.
OREN: Purely self-defense and I say that without the least bit of reservation.
BALDWIN: Ok. Mr. Ambassador, Michael Oren, Israeli ambassador to the United States. Thank you very much for your conversation.
OREN: Thank you, Brooke.
BALDWIN: I want to again thank Huwaida Arraf, an American onboard one of the ships, on the flotillas.
CNN NEWSROOM will be right back.