Showing posts with label flotilla. Show all posts
Showing posts with label flotilla. Show all posts

Friday, November 4, 2011

Video from Gaza Flotilla as Israeli Navy Prepares to Intercept Boats

U.S. To Gaza, which participated in the thwarted July 2011 flotilla and helped organize the current mission of the Canadian and Irish ships to Gaza, is a coalition member of the US Campaign.



Two Gaza-bound boats carrying pro-Palestinian activists are within 50 nautical miles of their destination, but reports are emerging that Israeli Navy ships have intercepted the "Freedom Waves to Gaza" flotilla. Communication with the boats has largely been cut off. Prior to losing contact, we received two exclusive video reports from aboard the "Tahrir," the Canadian ship. Speaking to Democracy Now! correspondent Jihan Hafiz last night, passenger Ehab Lotayef said, "We are approaching the 100-nautical-mile point away from Gaza, which is usually the point where Israel declares—starts the blockade ... Will they try to come and board us? All these questions are now at the moment of truth. The major preparation we did is to prepare that we don’t want anybody to act in any violent way or in any way that can even induce violence by the Israelis."

SEE ORIGINAL HERE...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

VIDEO: Aboard the "Freedom Waves to Gaza" flotilla


U.S. To Gaza, which participated in the thwarted July 2011 flotilla and helped organize the current mission of the Canadian and Irish ships to Gaza, is a coalition member of the US Campaign.




A Canadian boat and Irish boat quietly left a Turkish port Wednesday, bound for Gaza. Democracy Now! first broke the news on our live broadcast yesterday. This flotilla, named Freedom Waves to Gaza, marks the latest attempt by international activists to break the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza. The ships are hoping to reach Gaza by Friday, but Israel has threatened to stop the ships. "I anticipate that the Israeli army, probably, the navy, is probably considering boarding us at some point on our way to Gaza and the siege," said passenger Kit Kittredge of the group Code Pink. "I’m not feeling fearful. I’m feeling actually pretty peaceful. And that’s what we are: we are a peaceful boat and a peaceful flotilla going to end the siege." Democracy Now! correspondent Jihan Hafiz filed this video report from the Tahrir boat from international waters and joined us live on the telephone from the ship in international waters.

SEE ORIGINAL POST HERE...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

VIDEO: Voices from the Secret International Flotilla Now Sailing to Gaza


U.S. To Gaza, which participated in the thwarted July 2011 flotilla and helped organize the current mission of the Canadian and Irish ships to Gaza, is a coalition member of the US Campaign.



The Canadian ship Tahrir and the Irish ship Saoirse quietly left a Turkish port earlier today bound for the Gaza Strip. The mission of the "Freedom Waves to Gaza" flotilla was kept secret until they reached international waters just after 11:00 a.m. EDT. Democracy Now! first broke the news on our live broadcast this morning. Embedded on the Tahrir is Democracy Now! correspondent Jihan Hafiz. Prior to the ship setting sail, Hafiz spoke with three of the flotilla participants on board the Tahrir ship: David Heap of the University of Western Ontario; Kit Kittredge of Code Pink; and Michael Coleman, an Australian activist.

More information on the flotilla has been posted on Tahrir.ca

KIT KITTREDGE: I’ve been to Gaza five times in the last three years. The first time was right directly after Operation Cast Lead, when 1,400 Palestinians were brutally murdered. And going there just a few weeks following that onslaught impressed me in a way, in such an atrocious way, and the Palestinian people got to my heart, because they were basically saying, "Tell the world what’s going on. The world doesn’t know. We want peace." And truly, in my five returns there, that is what I’ve seen them working for.

We have to keep this pressure up, because our government is so complicit. And as an American who pays tax dollars, I don’t want my tax dollars going in support of this Israeli policy, this apartheid policy.

MICHAEL COLEMAN: Michael Coleman. I’m the Australian representative on the freedom flotilla. And yeah, there is a sense that this could possibly be déjà vu. I went home from the last flotilla feeling quite frustrated, as the ministerial edict that stopped us sailing to Gaza had no basis in law, and almost felt cheated out of doing the most meaningful thing I had ever set my mind to. And I’m hopeful that that won’t happen again, but if it does, it doesn’t deter my determination.

The aims of the flotilla are twofold. While we do have a small amount of aid on board—and that’s one of the goals, is to take aid to the besieged Strip—but the other is public awareness. And we’re well aware that the small amount of aid we have is tokenistic. It’s not going to prevent the suffering of 1.5 million people. Only governments and international institutions can do that. But we, as private citizens, can pressure governments and international institutions to do what is right.

DAVID HEAP: Coming out of the second freedom flotilla, we’re calling what—the current departure "Freedom Waves to Gaza," because rather than thinking of it as separate, countable waves that you can call one, two and three, we’re really thinking of it more as continuous waves of human solidarity, continuous waves of people intent on challenging the blockade in different ways, coming from different countries, from different ports, different groups of boats, whenever they’re ready to go, to challenge the blockade in a way which is less predictable than an annual flotilla, but also more creative.

SEE ORIGINAL POST...

Today's Gaza Flotilla: Spread the Word!!!


U.S. To Gaza, which participated in the thwarted July 2011 flotilla and helped organize the current mission of the Canadian and Irish ships to Gaza, is a coalition member of the US Campaign.

Israel and the U.S. outsourced the siege of Gaza to Athens last summer by preventing eight boats in the Freedom Flotilla 2-Stay Human from sailing from Greek ports to Gaza. Despite this we were able to bring worldwide attention to the blockade of the Gaza Strip. Our efforts in Greece only fueled our determination to challenge the imprisonment of the people of Gaza. We said we would continue to sail and so we are!!!

At this moment, two boats are in international waters in the Mediterranean Sea heading to Gaza.  One boat, the Saoirse from Ireland, includes parliamentarians among its passengers.  The other, the Tahrir, carries representatives from Canada, the United States, Australia and Palestine.  The U.S. representative on the Tahrir, Kit Kittredge, was a passenger on the U.S. Boat to Gaza, The Audacity of Hope, in Athens in July.  A journalist from Democracy Now is on the Tahrir also. Civil society organizations in Gaza await their arrival, and look forward to the delivery of letters collected from thousands of U.S. supporters in the To Gaza With Love campaign.

We need your help to make this mission a success. Please take these actions immediately.
  1. Check these websites for updates:  U.S. to Gaza, Irish Ship to Gaza and Canadian Boat to Gaza, watch or listen to Democracy Now for live coverage from the Tahrir. Look for twitter hashtag #Freedomwaves.
  2. Spread the word far and wide - send this alert to your contacts.
  3. Call the State Department  and the White House -- demand that they take immediate action to ensure the safe passage of these boats and to put an end to the siege of Gaza.
Call the State Department:
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton 202-647-5291
U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro 011-972-3-519-7575
Office of Israel/Palestinian Affairs Paul Sutphin 202-647-3672
Office of Consular Affairs, Kim Richter 202-647-8308
and the White House: 202-456-1414
Email President Obama at http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact
Here are some talking points or suggested messaging:
Gaza has been under siege since mid-2006, depriving 1.6 million people of their liberty and basic human rights.  Although the siege has been condemned by the United Nations, the Red Cross, and many national governments, nothing has been done to ease the plight of these civilians.  Civil society has had to act where governments would not.  Two ships with 27 passengers from five countries are sailing to Gaza to confront the Israeli naval blockade, and to bring medical supplies and letters of support.
As Americans we insist that our government (which sends Israel $3 billion in military aid every year), demands that Israel ensures the ships' safe passage and ends its illegal blockade of Gaza. There is absolutely no excuse to subject 1.6 million people to collective punishment. Ask your local media to cover this story.  Up-to-date information will be available at www.ustogaza.org, www.irishshiptogaza.org and www.tahrir.ca.

WHEN FORWARDING THIS ALERT TO YOUR CONTACTS, PLEASE INCLUDE THE PRESS RELEASE.

Thanks,
Felice Gelman, Jane Hirschmann and Ann Wright

Media Release: Two Boats With Passengers from Five Countries (Including U.S.) Are En Route to Gaza Strip


U.S. To Gaza, which participated in the thwarted July 2011 flotilla and helped organize the current mission of the Canadian and Irish ships to Gaza, is a coalition member of the US Campaign.



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

November 2, 2011

Contact:

In New York: Felice Gelman, 917-912-2597 and 917-679-8343

At sea: phone numbers will be released when you call the above press contact.


Organizers say: "It is time to lift the siege of Gaza which deprives 1.6 million civilians of their rights to travel, work, study, develop their economy and be free."

The Canadian ship Tahrir and the Irish ship Saoirse have successfully reached international waters, initiating the "Freedom Wave to Gaza." The boats have embarked from Turkey and are on the Mediterranean Sea.  In all, the 2 boats carry 27 passengers from Canada, Ireland, United States, Palestine, and Australia.
                               
Kit Kittredge on board the Tahrir was previously a passenger on the U.S. boat, The Audacity of Hope, which attempted passage to Gaza last July, organized by U.S. to Gaza, a coalition member of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.

Kittredge said:
"The only obstacles in our way are Israel's military and the complicity of the Obama administration but in our sails is the wind of worldwide public opinion which has turned against the illegal blockade."

Ann Wright, retired U.S. army colonel and former U.S. diplomat said:
"We carry inspiration from the Arab Spring and the worldwide 'Occupy' movements that are demanding freedom and justice. Where governments fail, civil society must act. As Americans we are fed up with our government's unquestioning support of Israel no matter how violent, illegal and  oppressive its actions.  We will not stand by and watch $30 billion of our tax money committed to buying Israel weaponry used to carry out this illegal occupation of Palestine including the blockade of Gaza."

Jane Hirschmann, U.S. Boat organizer, added:
"Our sailing coincides with UN agency UNESCO's recognition of Palestine as a member state, defying US threats to cut off $80 million of US funding in retaliation. This shows the growing strength of opposition by the international community to U.S. and Israeli policies in Palestine. We call on the international community to go further and take effective action to lift the siege of Gaza."

The U.S. Boat to Gaza, The Audacity of Hope, has been held in a Greek port since last July.

###

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Nadia Hijab on HuffingtonPost: Flotilla said "No to a kinder, gentler siege"

Nadia Hijab
A member of our Advisory Board published the following on the Huffington Post:

By Nadia Hijab
July 4, 2011

It was never about aid.

Freedom Flotilla II is, like its assaulted predecessor of a year ago, a political act. The passengers came together in shared determination to challenge Israel's five-year siege of Gaza and to exercise their right to travel through international waters to Palestinian shores and, by so doing, support the Palestinian right to freedom.

Many have misrepresented this political act as being about aid. If Palestinians had a dollar for every time the State Department bleated, "there are established channels for aid to Gaza," they would never need another donated dime. Instead, because of U.S. policy the highly educated and enterprising Palestinians have been stripped of their dignity and forced to live on international charity.

Israel has never made any secret of its intentions for Gaza. Dov Weisglass, key advisor to former Israeli prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, reportedly explained in the wake of Hamas' electoral victory in 2006, "the idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet but not to make them die of hunger." This was later revealed to be Israeli strategy according to official documents.

ARTICLE CONTINUES...

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Guardian publishes Cindy Corrie on U.S. complicity in collective punishment


The Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice is a coalition member of the US Campaign. The US Boat to Gaza--The Audacity of Hope--is also.

US collusion in the Gaza blockade is an affront to human rights 


My daughter's death shows the cruelty of an America that won't protect its own and is complicit in harming Palestinian civilians

By Cindy Corrie, in The Guardian
July 8, 2011

When Greek authorities prevented the US ship the Audacity of Hope leaving its port in Athens this week, they dealt a blow to a group of brave and principled Americans who were trying to carry thousands of letters from US citizens to those who wait on Gaza's shores.

I know many of the people who were on this boat, and my family's letter was part of their cargo. In 2003 my daughter Rachel Corrie made her journey to Gaza and was run down and killed by a US-made Israeli military Caterpillar D-9 bulldozer. She was trying to protect a Gazan family and their home, one of thousands illegally destroyed in Israeli military clearing operations.
Now my family is on a parallel journey with those activists as we return this week to Israeli court to confront Colonel Pinhas Zuaretz, the commanding officer of the Gaza Division's Southern Brigade in 2003. His testimony should shed light not only on actions of troops responsible for Rachel's killing but also on the Israeli military's broad failures as an occupying power to protect civilian life and property.

ARTICLE CONTINUES...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

ADC Calls on U.S. Government to Stand for the Safety and Rights of U.S. Citizens Traveling to Gaza

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) and The US Boat to Gaza are both coalition members of the US Campaign.
ADC expresses deep concern over recent statements issued by the U.S. Department of State, warning U.S. citizens against traveling to Gaza.
As a result of the ongoing Israeli siege, Palestinians in Gaza have been suffering physical and psychological trauma, economic strangulation, the destruction of infrastructure, injury and death. The United Nations has called the situation in Gaza a humanitarian crisis.

In an attempt to bring awareness and much needed relief to Gaza, peace activists on the “Audacity of Hope” flotilla will travel with humanitarian aid to Gaza by sea. In so doing, they will also mark the one-year anniversary of the tragedy that transpired upon other flotillas, most notably the Mavi Marmara flotilla, when Israeli naval forces boarded the vessel in international waters by force and killed nine peace activists, including one U.S. citizen.

An independent investigation by the United Nations Human Rights Council following the tragedy found that Israel had violated international humanitarian and human rights laws in its conduct. Specifically, it found evidence of “willful killing; torture or inhuman treatment, willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health.”

In apparent anticipation of the “Audacity of Hope” setting sail for Gaza, the State Department published a travel warning on June 22, 2011, stating that “U.S. citizens are advised against traveling to Gaza by any means, including via sea.” The State Department then released a press statement on June 24, 2011, saying “[g]roups that seek to break Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza are taking irresponsible and provocative actions that risk the safety of their passengers.”

ARTICLE CONTINUES...

Friday, July 1, 2011

Take Action: U.S. Boat to Gaza Stopped From Sailing



Above: U.S. Boat participants in the Athens port waving signs and U.S. flags. Click to enlarge and see more pictures.


A few hours ago, we found out from activists in our member group U.S. Boat to Gaza that the Greek coast guard has prevented the U.S.-flagged ship The Audacity of Hope from sailing to the Israeli-occupied and -blockaded Palestinian Gaza Strip as part of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla II--"Stay Human."

Currently, the ship is returning to port and we need your help today and throughout this holiday weekend to put pressure on Greece and the United States to allow the U.S. Boat to Gaza to sail and fulfill its mission of delivering thousands of letters of solidarity from the United States to the people of Gaza.

Here's how you can help:

1. We urge you to immediately contact the Greek Embassy in Washington, DC, by phone at 202-939-1300 and by fax at 202-939-1324.  You can find contact information for your nearest Greek consulate here. Tell them to let The Audacity of Hope leave Athens safely and sail to Gaza.

2. Call the State Department at 202-647-6575 and demand that it retract its June 24 statement that the flotilla and the U.S. Boat to Gaza are "irresponsible and provocative actions."

Demand that the United States stop threatening U.S. citizens acting peacefully to break Israel's illegal and immoral blockade of Gaza that their actions "could violate U.S. civil and criminal statutes and could lead to fines and incarceration." 

Demand that the United States ensures safe passage for the flotilla and that it ends U.S. support for Israel’s illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip.



Above: Clck to download our double-sided flyer.


3. Take to the streets this holiday weekend to be visible and to educate our fellow citizens that as we celebrate our freedom, the United States is supporting Israel in denying freedom to Palestinians.  We've just prepared this downloadable flyer about the Gaza Freedom Flotilla II and U.S. support for Israel's illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Download, copy, and distribute the flyer at your community's 4th of July celebrations and throughout the holiday weekend.

4. Find emergency actions or events near you on the website of the U.S. Boat to Gaza.  Add your action or event to the calendar by sending it to ustogaza@gmail.com.

Thank you for taking action to change U.S. policy to support Palestinian freedom this 4th of July holiday weekend, and stay tuned for updates by visiting ustogaza.org

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Obama should support the Audacity of Hope, condemn Israeli naval blockade


Ann Wright is a retired U.S. Army colonel and diplomat, and participated in the May 2010 flotilla to Gaza. She will be aboard the U.S. Boat to Gaza, which is organized by a US Campaign member organization, and is a US Campaign-endorsed initiative.


By Ann Wright
June 28, 2011

This week, some 40 American citizens, including myself, will peacefully attempt to break Israel's illegal naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. The flotilla that we will be a part of is expected to consist of 10 boats carrying human rights advocates from around the world and humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza.

The U.S. boat to Gaza, the Audacity of Hope, which I will be aboard, will be carrying letters of solidarity to Gazans, who live under siege in a virtual prison, cut off from the rest of the world and any semblance of a normal life.  Our goal is to bring attention to their plight, and to bring about an end to Israel's illegal siege, which amounts to collective punishment of 1.7 million people.

Ann Wright
Although we will be sailing unarmed and have no intention of entering Israel or Israeli waters, the U.S. State Department issued an unusually specific and blunt travel advisory last week, warning Americans against traveling to Gaza. Without giving any details, State Department officials also suggested that Americans taking part in the flotilla might be violating U.S. law.

ARTICLE CONTINUES...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Jerusalem Post covers congressional letter to protect flotilla

The US Boat to Gaza -- The Audacity of Hope -- is a coalition member of the US Campaign, as well as a US Campaign-endorsed initiative.

Congressmen ask Clinton to protect Americans in flotilla

By Jordana Horn
June 28, 2011

6 Democrats send secretary of state letter asking her to work with Israeli gov't "to ensure safety of US citizens on board” 'Audacity of Hope'.

NEW YORK - Six Democratic members of the US House of Representatives wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week, asking her to “do everything in [her] power” to help “ensure the safety of all American citizens on board The Audacity of Hope.”

The Audacity of Hope is a US-flagged ship bearing 36 American passengers intending to participate in this week’s flotilla challenging Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza. Its passengers include Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Alice Walker, former US ambassador to Ecuador Samuel Hart, and Jewish activist Hedy Epstein.

The flotilla is expected to consist of up to 15 vessels.

The six signatories are Dennis Kucinich of Ohio; William Lacy Clay of Missouri; Sam Farr, Bob Filner and Barbara Lee of California; and Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia.

ARTICLE CONTINUES...

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Greek Officials Attempt to Block US Boat to Gaza

The U.S. Boat to Gaza--the Audacity of Hope--is planned to set sail in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla II in the next few days, and is a coalition member group of the US Campaign, and a US Campaign-endorsed initiative.

It looks as though the Israelis, with probable collusion from our government, are trying yet another tactic to prevent the US Boat to Gaza to sail, and keep the people of Gaza isolated and delegitimized, having no rights to travel, import and export goods, have clean drinking water, or have the basic freedoms that Israelis and Americans have.

Any kind of pressure we can place on the Greek Government, i.e,, calling the embassy, may be helpful here.  With all the effort and work people have put in to have this boat sail and make a statement for justice, in the face of the silence of the rest of the world, would be a really sad thing, and yet another blow for human rights for the Palestinian people.

Greek Officials Attempt to Block US Boat to Gaza from Leaving Greek Port


Passengers Suspect US/Israel Economic Pressure on Beleaguered Greek Government


By US Boat to Gaza
June 26, 2011

Athens - Passengers on the U.S. Boat to Gaza, The Audacity of Hope, are asking Greek government officials to clarify whether the boat they are leasing is being blocked from leaving Greece because of an anonymous request of a private citizen concerning the seaworthiness of the ship or whether a political decision has been made by the Greek government in response to U.S. and Israeli government pressure. They specifically want to know if the U.S. is using its leverage at the International Monetary Fund over the implementation of an ongoing bailout of European banks with massive Greek debts to compel the Greek government to block the U.S. Boat to Gaza from leaving Greece.

On the morning of June 23, the American passengers learned that a "private complaint" had been filed against the U.S. Boat to Gaza, which is part of an international flotilla scheduled to sail to Gaza in the next few days. This complaint, its origin still unknown to the Americans, claimed that the boat is "not seaworthy" and therefore requires a detailed inspection. On June 25 a police order declared that until the complaint is resolved the boat will not be permitted to leave.

The passengers are wondering if Israel, which has extensive economic trade and investments in Greece, is using its clout to pressure the Greek government. "Israel has said openly that it is pressuring governments to try to stop the flotilla, and clearly Greece is a key government since several of the boats plan to leave from Greece," says passenger Medea Benajmin. "It is unconscionable that Israel would take advantage of the economic hardship the Greek people are experiencing to try to stop our boat or the flotilla."

Given the very close relationship between Israel and the U.S., and the public efforts by Israel to denounce and try to stop the flotilla, the passengers on the U.S. boat want to know if the Obama Administration is using U.S. leverage at the IMF to compel the Greek authorities to stop the U.S. boat from leaving Greece. Greece's economic and political crisis is a result of extreme austerity measures imposed by the European Union and the largely U.S.-controlled International Monetary Fund. Past U.S. governments have used their influence at the IMF to impose political conditions on indebted countries that have nothing to do with restoring economic growth.

Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, said: "Greece is not going to be able to meet the targets that it is pledging to the IMF and the European authorities. In this situation the IMF and therefore the U.S. government will have enormous leverage because the Fund and EU authorities will decide what will be acceptable benchmarks for Greece to receive future tranches of IMF/EU funding."

"We are guests here," said Robert Naiman, a passenger on the U.S. boat. "But we ask the Greek authorities to be honest with us. What is the origin of this complaint? Is the decision to stop our boat from leaving truly due to legitimate technical issues that can be resolved, or is it a sign that our boat will be stopped from leaving no matter what we do? What is the role of the Israeli and U.S. governments in the Greek decision to stop our boat from leaving?"

"We have a right to protest the blockade of Gaza," said Ann Wright, an organizer and passenger on the U.S. boat. "To its credit, the Greek government, like the Red Cross, Amnesty International, and Oxfam, agrees with us that the blockade on Gaza must be lifted. But for years, the only effective international action to challenge the illegal blockade has been freedom flotillas. We call upon the Greek government, which agrees that our cause is just, not to stand in the way of our peaceful protest in pursuit of our shared goal of lifting the blockade. The boat we are leasing for this journey, after its refitting for the voyage to Gaza, was surveyed by a professional surveyor and successfully completed its sea trials. There is no reason for any further delays on this matter, we are ready to sail."

SEE ORIGINAL...

Letters Needed: Thank LA Times for op-ed by Hagit Borer


The US Boat to Gaza is a coalition member of the US Campaign, as well as a US Campaign-sponsored initiative.

The Los Angeles Times has run an important Sunday op-ed by Hagit Borer that touches on her particpation with the US Boat to Gaza.  Other op-eds about the effort to break the blockade have been receiving a ferocious response in letters to the editor and comments.  It is crucial that activists rally to support of this op-ed to show the strong support the flotilla has.

Please write your letter to the editor today, particularly if you are in the Los Angeles area.  Letters can be sent to letters@latimes.com and should be 150 words or shorter.  "Please include your full name, mailing address, daytime phone number, and e-mail address. This information is seen only by the letters editors and is not used for any commercial purpose."

Getting on board with peace in Israel

An Israeli American explains why she will be among many boat passengers trying to break through Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip.

By Hagit Borer 
June 26, 2011

Later this month an American ship, the Audacity of Hope, will leave Greece on a journey to the Gaza Strip to attempt to break Israel's blockade. It will join an expected nine other ships flying numerous flags and carrying hundreds of passengers from around the world. I will be one of those passengers.

I am an Israeli Jewish American. I was born in Israel, and I grew up in a very different Jerusalem from the one today. The Jerusalem of my childhood was a smallish city of white-stone neighborhoods nestled in the elbows of hills. Near the center, next to the central post office, the road swerved sharply to the left because straight ahead stood a big wall, and on the other side of it was "them."

And then, on June 9, 1967, the wall came down. Elsewhere, Israeli troops were still fighting what came to be known as the Six-Day War, but on June 9, as a small crowd stood and watched, demolition crews brought down the barrier wall, and after it, all other buildings that had stood between my Jerusalem and the walls of the Old City, their Jerusalem. A few weeks later a wide road would lead from my Jerusalem to theirs, bearing the victors' name: Paratroopers Way.

A soldier helped me sneak into the Old City. Snipers were still at large and the city was closed to Israeli civilians. By the Western Wall, a myth to me until then, the Israeli army was already evicting Palestinian residents in the dead of night and demolishing all houses within 1,000 feet. Eventually, the area would turn into the huge open paved space it is today, a place where only last month, on Jerusalem Day, masses of Israeli youths chanted "Muhammad is dead" and "May your villages burn."

ARTICLE CONTINUES...

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Letters Needed: CNN Op-Ed Attacks Alice Walker and Gaza Flotilla

WRITE! For Justice is a coalition member of the US Campaign.
June 25, 2011

Today, CNN has published an outrageous op-ed by Howard Jacobson 'Why Alice Walker Should Not Sail to Gaza' (6/24) which attacks author Alice Walker and her recent piece 'Why I'm Sailing to Gaza' (6/21).  The article characterizes Walker as a good person who could do 'great harm' -- it implies that she is simply naive in traveling on the flotilla and being used for propaganda purposes.  While lecturing Walker about morality, at no time does Jacobson acknowledge the devastating impact of the siege on Palestinians or respond specifically to Walker's concern about the plight of Palestinian children growing up under unacceptable conditions -- except to say that Walker "chooses the Palestinian child over the Israeli."

As for the flotilla, Jacobson maintains that it is "by its very essence a provocation" and "half inviting a violence which can then be presented as a slaughter of the innocents."  Even worse, the op-ed attempts to justify the blockade and collective punishment in Gaza by claiming "we must assume that Hamas's implacable hostility towards Israel fairly represents the implacable hostility felt by the people of Gaza."

Please WRITE! to CNN using the feedback form in support of Alice Walker, the Gaza Flotilla, and a free Gaza.  Letters should be kept under 150 words and be sure to include your name, address, and phone number for verification purposes.

Why Alice Walker shouldn't sail to Gaza

By Howard Jacobson
June 24, 2011

It should not need arguing, this late in the ethical history of mankind, that good people can do great harm. One of the finest and funniest novels ever written -- Don Quixote -- charts the damage left in the wake of a man who would make the world a better place.

Howard Jacobson
Human beings are seldom more dangerous than when they are sentimentally overcome by the goodness of their own intentions. That Alice Walker believes it is right to join the Freedom Flotilla II to Gaza I do not have the slightest doubt. But beyond associating her decision with Gandhi, Martin Luther King and very nearly, when she talks about the preciousness of children, Jesus Christ, she fails to give a single convincing reason for it.

"One child must never be set above another child," she says. A sentiment that will find an echo in every heart. But how does it justify the flotilla? Gaza is under siege, Israelis will tell you, because weapons are fired from it into Israel, threatening the lives of Israeli children. If the blockade is lifted there is a fear that more lethal and far-reaching weapons will be acquired, and the lives of more Israeli children endangered.

ARTICLE CONTINUES...

Friday, June 24, 2011

Amb. Michael Oren dishes out anti-flotilla “marching orders” in private Jewish Federation call

The U.S. Boat to Gaza--the Audacity of Hope--is planned to set sail in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla II in the next few days, and is a coalition member group of the US Campaign, and a US Campaign-endorsed initiative. This article also involves the issue of Palestinian UN membership and statehood, which the US Campaign has also been tracking closely.

By Max Blumenthal
June 22, 2011

On June 22, the Jewish Federation of America's new, multi-million dollar "Israel Action Network" hosted a conference call with Israel's Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren. The call was an urgent response to the flotilla preparing to cruise towards Gaza in order to challenge Israel's maritime blockade of the destitute coastal strip. David Sherman, the vice chair of the Federation's board of trustees, introduced the new initiative and Oren's involvement in it as a key to combating Israel's "delegitimization."

Throughout the call, Oren seemed more concerned about the Arab Spring, Israel's relations with Turkey, and the Palestinian unity arrangement than the upcoming flotilla. He opened his remarks by launching into a fast paced survey of the myriad regional threats Israel supposedly faced, then explained how the state would tamp down on each one.

...

Amb. Michael Oren
The new flotilla — Oren attacked the organizers of the flotilla as "radical anti-Israel organizations…known also for anti-American activities." He cited statements by the US State Department and UN Secretary Ban Ki-Moon criticizing or condemning their actions. Then Oren claimed that the flotilla could simply deliver its aid through a "responsible organization" like UNRWA, or bring their materials through El Arish and allow Israel to offload it. "It's not a fight between us and the people of Gaza," Oren claimed. "It's between us and the group Hamas which is determined to destroy the state of Israel." (Never mind this Israeli government document). He went on to claim that Israel's maritime blockade was "in full accord with international law," though he did not explain how besieging a civilian population that was not actively engaged in a full-scale war against Israel comported with the 4th Geneva Convention or the San Remo Accords.

Next, Oren proudly announced that Israel had tentatively authorized an aid shipment to Gaza containing construction materials for 1200 new buildings and 18 new schools (UNRWA officials were skeptical that the aid would actually arrive as Israel said). The timing of the shipment and Oren's promotion of it suggested that the flotilla had already made an impact. Would Israeli authorities have authorized the aid in without outside pressure? Whether or not they would have, Israel was seeking to extract as much propaganda value as it could from its agreement.

The Palestinian unilateral declaration of statehood — The ambassador seemed far more troubled about the Palestinian Authority's plan to introduce a statehood resolution at the United Nations General Assembly in September than about any other issue. Oren suggested that Israel would attempt to force the Palestinians back to the negotiating table in order to keep them away from the UN. In other words, the peace process would be Israel's tool for blocking Palestine from winning statehood on a unilateral basis. In this effort, Oren described Dennis Ross, the White House special advisor on Middle East affairs, as Israel's ally.

"We are working closely with the Obama Administration in trying to find a common framework that would enable the European Union to support negotiations in the framework to get them back to negotiations and keep them away from General Assembly," Oren commented. "Dennis Ross is in Israel today conducting negotiations so we have reasons for some optimism. But we have to prepare for the worst. [With the statehood resolution] we are preparing for various scenarios of unrest in the West Bank, further attempts by the P.A. to use their improved status to delegitimize israel a la Goldstone type initiatives. Netanyahu has been meeting with the Italian government about this, and they are working tirelessly. And he is working closely with the Canadians who are very supportive."

When Oren finished his remarks, the administrators of the call allowed time for a few questions. One caller asked Oren what Jews in the United States could do about the flotilla. "Stress that there's no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, the border is open for all materials, there is no shortage of food or medicine, and that our maritime blockade is upheld by the United States as completely legal and necessary for Israel's defense," Oren said.

Before I could ask a question about the legality of Israel's siege of Gaza, Martin Raffel, the director of the Israel Action Network, came on the line to conclude the call. "I want to echo [what Oren said]," Raffel remarked. "Our role is not to be passive observers. We have to shake the public discourse so we're sending message points and program guidance to everyone involved. And we hope you have some marching orders for when you go back to your communities."

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Take Action: Support the Freedom Riders

As the Gaza Freedom Flotilla II, "Stay Human," is preparing to set sail this month, it's more important than ever to ensure its safe passage and prepare to take emergency action if Israel follows through with its threats of using attack dogs and other violent--potentially life-threatening--means to intercept the boats, as was done in the past.

Please join us for a conference call this Thursday, June 23, with Leslie Cagan, organizer for the U.S. Boat to Gaza, and Laila El-Haddad, author of Gaza Mom, to talk about actions we can take to support the Freedom Flotilla.

Laila will brief participants on the political and humanitarian developments in Gaza, including the changing situation with Egypt at the Rafah border. Leslie will update participants about the flotilla and lay out concrete ways for people to prepare and spring into action once it sets sail.

Please RSVP here to participate in the flotilla response organizing call this Thursday, June 23, at 6:00 pm Pacific / 9:00 pm Eastern.


Above: Peace activist and author Kathy Kelly explains her reasons for going on the U.S. Boat to Gaza (click to watch).


Above: Gail Miller explains her reasons for going on the U.S. Boat to Gaza (click to watch).

Last week the courageous passengers of the U.S. Boat to Gaza, "The Audacity of Hope," sent this letter to President Obama demanding that the U.S. government ensure safe passage for the unarmed passengers:

We need to keep the pressure on! Please sign this letter to President Obama to support the right of The Audacity of Hope to safe passage.

You can read the flotilla passengers' biographies here and hear their reasons for going on the U.S. Boat here.

The situation in Gaza remains dire. Just last week, Chris Gunness, spokesperson for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), reported here that Palestinians in the Gaza Strip live under an Israeli blockade that "deliberately impoverishes ... and condemns hundreds of thousands of potentially productive people to a life of destitution."

The U.S. Boat to Gaza organizing committee is urging people around the country to plan now for emergency response actions. The power of such actions will be determined by the number and geographic spread of participants. If you haven't already, it's time to start planning!

Let's keep the pressure on by signing this letter to President Obama and preparing to act together and quickly to support the courageous freedom riders in their journey to break the siege of Gaza.

Hoping to talk with you Thursday!


Rana Libdeh
Membership & Outreach



Anna Baltzer
National Organizer