Showing posts with label siege. Show all posts
Showing posts with label siege. 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.

###

Monday, July 25, 2011

Video: Josh Ruebner on "Rafah: Crossing Physical and Diplomatic Barriers"

Our National Advocacy Director, Josh Ruebner, participated in the following panel discussion on July 19, 2011, at the Palestine Center (a coalition member of the US Campaign). Following is a 25-minute excerpt showing only Josh's presentation and answers to audience questions. The full-length version is viewable at the Palestine Center.



"Rafah: Crossing Physical and Diplomatic Barriers"
-- with --
Mr. Josh Ruebner
National Advocacy Director, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation
-- and --
Mr. Matthew Reynolds
Head Representative, UNRWA, Washington, DC

SEE ORIGINAL POST...

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...

Monday, June 20, 2011

Press Conference with Passengers of U.S. Boat to Gaza

U.S. Boat to Gaza is a member group of the US Campaign, as well as a US Campaign-endorsed initiative.





New York, NY
June 20, 2011

Fifteen of the 36 passengers on the U.S. flagged boat, The Audacity of Hope, are joining with supporters today at 11 AM at the Church Center for the United Nations (44th Street and First Avenue) to discuss their plans and reasons for joining the international Freedom Flotilla II - Stay Human. They are departing for Athens today to join the rest of the passengers on the U.S. boat, and people from over 20 countries who will take part in the Freedom Flotilla sailing the last week of June to break the blockade of Gaza.

The passengers who will be on the U.S. boat, from 14 states and the District of Columbia, represent virtually every geographic region of the United States. Fifty eight percent women and 42% men, they are of all ages, and a variety of occupations. The group is approximately one-quarter people of color, and one-quarter American Jews.

The effort has been endorsed by more than 85 organizations across the United States and supported by thousands of small individual donations. The international Catholic peace group, Pax Christi, said, "The passengers are people of peace and compassion, as well as people of selfless courage. Their commitment to justice for those who are unjustly oppressed is an example for us all." The group added that "...we believe firmly that the blockade of Gaza is a crime against humanity."

The Israeli- and U.S.-backed siege and blockade is the longest in modern warfare, lasting 1,830 days. The European Parliament, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and many human rights organizations have all called the siege and blockade a violation of the human rights of the 1.5 million Palestinians who live in the Gaza strip. Contrary to statements by the Israeli government, the siege continues and the restrictions of imports, exports, and human movement remain severe, according to the most recent report of the United Nations.

Passenger Ann Wright (Ret. Col. U.S. Army reserve), an organizer of the U.S. boat and participant in Freedom Flotilla I, noted, "Citizen activists are coming to the Mediterranean from all over the world to confront the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza and U.S. government protection of Israeli criminal acts. As a former U.S. diplomat and retired military colonel, I strongly believe it is the responsibility of citizens to act when our governments fail to protect the human rights and dignity of any people--in this case, the Palestinians."

Passenger Ray McGovern, minister and retired CIA analyst, credited the inspiration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., "Injustice, like a boil, can never be healed until it is exposed."

Passenger Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CodePink, who traveled to Gaza in 2009, said, "I was appalled by the level of destruction, death and suffering brought about by the Israeli invasion. I feel a responsibility to do something when my government will not."

Leslie Cagan, U.S. boat organizer, who will chair the press conference, pointed out that the Israeli government acted with extreme violence against Freedom Flotilla I in 2010, killing nine passengers and injuring more than 50, and has threatened the use of attack dogs and snipers against this Freedom Flotilla II.

Cagan said, "Following the example of years of non-violent Palestinian protests, everyone participating in this project is deeply committed to non-violence. We hope and plan to arrive in Gaza City safely by the beginning of July. Any other outcome is the responsibility of the U.S. and Israeli governments' decisions to maintain the illegal and unjustifiable imprisonment of 1.5 million people in the Gaza strip."

Cagan added that the flotilla organizers have urged United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to put into place a UN inspection of the ships but have received no official response as yet.

For regular updates follow the US Boat to Gaza on Twitter: http://twitter.com/usboattogaza and visit the US Boat to Gaza website.
For additional information, including fact sheets, videos and the passengers' letter to President Obama, please go to:

Letter to President Obama from Audacity of Hope passengers

Bios for passengers and crew members

U.S. Boat to Gaza Highlights Emergency Response Plans

U.S. to Gaza is a US Campaign member group and a US Campaign-endorsed initiative.

By U.S. to Gaza
June 19, 2011

In late June, a U.S.-flagged ship called The Audacity of Hope will join the Freedom Flotilla II, "Stay Human," as people from 22 nations set sail to Gaza challenging the Israeli naval blockade. Though the flotilla has the right under international law to do exactly what it is doing and has made abundantly clear its commitment to nonviolence, the government of Israel has publicly stated that it is prepared to act illegally and violently and take severe, even potentially life-threatening, action against the boats and their passengers.

The U.S. Boat to Gaza organizing committee urges people throughout this country to plan now for Emergency Response actions. The power of such actions will be the number of cities they are held in and the numbers of people who participate. Now is the time to start planning.

Once you have your local plans in place be sure to contact the U.S. Boat to Gaza organizing committee. We will add your information to our website, and provide a link to your site. Send your information to us at ustogaza@gmail.com.

First step: Now is the time to encourage people to sign onto the U.S. Boat to Gaza email alert list, as well as our Twitter and Facebook accounts, so they can receive the most up-to-date information directly.

Elements of your emergency response plans

1) Public protest activities

The goal is to be as visible as possible - both to the public generally and to the media.
As a local organizer you will know the best place to ask people to gather. Possible places include:
- Israeli consulate or other agencyU.S. federal building
- well-trafficked, major intersection
- major transportation hub
Think about what time of day will be easiest for large numbers of people to come out, to get media coverage and for the largest number of people to see your activity.

2) Media work

Be sure to have a list of media outlets and reporters in your area ready ahead of time.
Inform the media of any public activities and protests you are planning.
Monitor your local media to see if they are covering the story, and if so how. If they are not covering it, or not covering it well, call them!
Ask people to write letters to the editor and to call into radio talk shows.
The aim is to make sure the story is being covered, and being covered accurately.

3) Pressure on the Israeli and U.S. governments

It will be important that both the Israeli government and the U.S. government hear from as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.
Calls, email messages and faxes should go to the U.S. government: the State Department, the White and to your own Senators and House Representatives.

Calls, email messages and faxes should also go directly to the Israeli government.

Check often for more detailed contact information posted on our website.

Letter to President Obama

On June 14, the passengers on The Audacity of Hope sent this letter to Pres. Obama. Copies went to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and 12 members of the Administration and Congressional leadership. Call the White House - 202-456-1111 - and tell them you agree with the letter and expect the U.S. to take action to uphold the rights of peaceful citizens to safe passage on the seas.

READ LETTER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA...

U.S. Boat to Gaza participants appear on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman

The U.S. Boat to Gaza is a member of our coalition, and a US Campaign-endorsed initiative. Flotilla passengers Kathy Kelly and Richard Levy spoke with Amy Goodman this morning in the studio, hours before departing for Athens, Greece, from which the flotilla will sail this week. Watch below...

SEE ORIGINAL ARTICLE...

Friday, June 17, 2011

US Boat to Gaza has its determined enemies


The US Boat to Gaza is a member group of the US Campaign, and a US Campaign endorsed initiative.

Unprecedented Civil Suit Filed Today in N.Y. Court to Seize Gaza Flotilla Ships

PRNewswire-USNewswire
June 16, 2011

An American victim of a Palestinian terror attack today filed an unprecedented lawsuit to seize ships used by Islamic and anti-Israeli organizations to breach Israel's coastal blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The suit, Bauer v. The Mavi Marmara, was filed in Manhattan federal court. It seeks to confiscate 14 ships outfitted with funds unlawfully raised in the United States by anti-Israel groups, including The Free Gaza Movement ("FGM"). In May 2010, several of these ships, led by the Turkish vessel the Mavi Marmara, attempted to breach the blockade. The resulting violence caused the deaths of nine militants and injury to numerous Israeli Navy SEALs. A second such flotilla is planned in coming weeks.

The plaintiff, American biologist, Dr. Alan Bauer, who along with his son Jonathan was seriously injured in a Palestinian suicide bombing on March 21, 2002 in Jerusalem, alleges that FGM and other American-based anti-Israel organizations have raised funds in the United States to outfit the Gaza Flotilla ships. The lawsuit contends that furnishing and outfitting the ships, which are being used for hostilities against a U.S. ally, violates American law. The plaintiff rests his claim upon a rarely-utilized "informant" statute (18 U.S.C. section 962) that allows a plaintiff (called an "informer") to privately seize ships outfitted in the United States for use against a U.S. ally.

The plaintiffs are represented by attorneys Robert J. Tolchin Esq. of New York, and Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, Esq. of Israel, founder of Israeli human rights group Shurat HaDin (Israel Law Center).

This is the first lawsuit brought to seize the Gaza Flotilla ships.

Attorney Darshan-Leitner said, "We intend to seize the Gaza Flotilla ships and turn them over to a victim of Palestinian terrorism. The extremists organizing these hostile provocations against Israel must not be allowed to illegally raise funds for their operations in the U.S.  Escalating attacks on Israel from all directions require new and innovative responses. This unprecedented private action will help block their efforts to breach the coastal blockade and smuggle materials to Hamas in Gaza."

Attorney Robert Tolchin added, "This lawsuit will bring judgment to people who have until now ignored the law. Each flotilla ship is an attack on Israel and thus a slap in the face to the United States and every other nation that is at peace with Israel. The flotilla organizers, and the owners of these boats, should be held accountable for the damages and deaths they cause."

A copy of the complaint is available here.

SEE ORIGINAL ON PRNEWSWIRE...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Opinion: For this Gaza voyager, it's all about the children

The US Boat to Gaza is a US Campaign endorsed initiative and a member of our coalition.

By Debra Ellis, Special to the Mercury News
June 15, 2011

My motivation to board a boat to Gaza, The Audacity of Hope, with fellow Americans as part of a nonviolent international flotilla late this month comes from a simple place. It comes from the heart of a mom who has the capacity to unconditionally love a child, not just mine, but all children.

We are sailing to Gaza's shores to deliver letters of support as well as much-needed construction and medical supplies for rebuilding Gaza's schools, homes and hospitals. As a parent, it's simple, isn't it? We feed our children the best available food to ensure their health and nourishment.

I raised my daughter in lovely Santa Cruz. We enjoy a vibrant artistic community, ocean views and redwood forests. We have a wide range of shopping choices. I do not have to worry about how to get enough calories to my child.

According to a recent UNICEF report, however, 80 percent of families in Gaza are dependent on food aid.

When it comes to the health of our children, we seek the best care possible. Like parents in Gaza, I am concerned about my daughter's health and want her to have the best care. I am fortunate to be employed by the University of California, which provides excellent medical coverage. We can access Stanford or UCSF, two of the top medical facilities in the U.S.
Gaza's medical system contends with limited fresh water and frequent power cuts. According to the World Health Organization, emergency medications, CT scanners, X-ray machines, fluoroscopes, infusion pumps, laboratory equipment and uninterrupted power supply batteries are still awaiting Israeli clearance. Gazans cannot secure basic medical care.

ARTICLE CONTINUES...

Exhibition of Letters to Gaza Being Prepared

By U.S. Boat to Gaza, a US Campaign member group
June 15, 2011

The U.S. Boat, The Audacity of Hope, is ready to set sail to reach the shores of Gaza in a few short weeks. Thousands of people have sent letters, as our cargo, to deliver to the people of Gaza. It is with your words, that we will attempt to help end the siege of Gaza and connect in friendship and solidarity with the people of Palestine. Send a letter today and also pass this notice to your friends and family to ask them to join us, as we all reach out to reach Gaza...

Already, copies of some of the Letters to Gaza have been received by the Qattan Centre for the Children in Gaza City via email. They are using those letters to prepare a display that will be exhibited once they have all the letters being brought on The Audacity of Hope. Write your letter now and please send your personal message to us right away. We have to receive the letters by Friday, June 17th. If you are not sure your hard copy will arrive by this date then send it via email. For all the details, see the original call below and thank you for all your support and your participation.

Watch A Newly Released Video, TO GAZA WITH LOVE, Featuring Ali Abunimah, Kathleen Chalfant, Kathy Kelly, and Alice Walker for the U.S. BOAT TO GAZA

SENDING PERSONAL LETTERS TO THE PEOPLE OF GAZA

The U.S. Boat to Gaza Campaign is collecting thousands of personal letters to the people of Gaza from people like you in the U.S., in an act of friendship and solidarity. These letters will be carried as our cargo on the U.S. Boat to Gaza when it sets sail in June 2011 in the next International Freedom Flotilla Stay Human. The Audacity of Hope will sail as a human rights mission to help end the illegal Israeli naval blockade of Gaza.

The campaign To Gaza With Love allows you and thousands of other people to take part in this effort. To include your voice please write a letter, card or postcard and send it to:

LETTERS TO GAZA
119 West 72nd St. #158
New York, NY 10023

or

Letterstogaza@gmail.com

Americans Are Joining Flotilla to Protest Israeli Blockade

By Laurie Goodstein, New York Times
June 1, 2011

When an international flotilla sails for Gaza this month to challenge Israel’s naval blockade of the Palestinian territory, among the boats will be an American ship with 34 passengers, including the writer Alice Walker and an 86-year-old whose parents died in the Holocaust.

A year ago, nine people in a flotilla of six boats were killed when Israeli commandos boarded a Turkish boat in international waters off the coast of Gaza. The Israelis said their commandos were attacked and struck back in self-defense, but the Turks blamed the Israelis for using live ammunition. The raid soured relations between Israel and Turkey and intensified pressure on Israel to end the naval blockade.

Organizers said the new flotilla, scheduled to leave in late June from a port they would not identify, had at least 1,000 passengers on about 10 boats. One boat will carry Spaniards, another Canadians, another Swiss and another Irish.

The Americans have named their boat “The Audacity of Hope,” lifting the title of a book by President Obama to make a point, said Leslie Cagan, a political organizer who is the coordinator of the American boat.

ARTICLE CONTINUES...

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Rafah: a return to the status quo?

By Laila El-Haddad, GazaMom.com
May 30, 2011

The big story of the week has been the much-acclaimed re-opening of the torturous Rafah Crossing.  It had been operating intermittently, if at all, and for limited categories of people for more than 4 years now.  For what seemed like eternity, the Mubarak regime- الله لا يردهم -, colluding with the United States and Israel to keep Gaza closed, had “conditioned” the re-opening of the crossing on a Fateh-Hamas reconciliation agreement, the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, and a return to the much-maligned US-brokered AMA (Agreement on Movement and Access),  in which European monitors and live-video streams acted as proxies for Israel, who ultimately retained control over the crossing.

There were some dark, dark times over the course of those four miserable years, and beyond, during which I and tens of thousands of others were prevented from entering our own homes over and over again, during which we were beaten and detained, humiliated and abandoned, when I wondered how would it ever end? How on earth could we as Palestinians find a way out of even this smallest and seemingly inconsequential dimension of our struggle, Rafah, this sole gateway, this portal, in and out of tortured little Gaza? How could such a routine aspect of life, movement, have become so impossible, yet made to seem so threatening, its stifling designed to seem so ordinary and justified? And why could no understand we we were mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters, lovers, students and teachers…and we were tired like ordinary human beings get tired, of this miserable, hell. How could the status quo finally change? I can honestly tell you the last thing I expected was for an epic overthrow of Mubarak.

But back to Rafah.  Not to be a buzzkill or anything, but I think its time to break down the facts here. Its true that the crossing has been open on a more regular basis (6 days a week) and to a greater number of Gaza residents for visa-free travel (unless you happen to fall into the dreaded 18-40 “male security threat” age-range), and as anyone who has suffered long hours (or days or weeks or months) in the punishing heat or bone-numbing cold of this little corner of the world awaiting entry or exit can attest, this news should be celebrated.

ARTICLE CONTINUES...

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"We Are Unarmed and We Are Sailing."

The U.S. Boat to Gaza is a US Campaign member organization and a US Campaign-endorsed initiative.

On Anniversary of Mavi Marmara Killings, U.S. Boat to Gaza Announces Passenger List
New York, NY-May 31, 2011. Organizers of the U.S. Boat to Gaza announced today that they expect some 50 people will be aboard The Audacity of Hope when it joins the second "freedom flotilla" in late June to break the siege of Gaza.

The announcement came on the year's anniversary of the 2010 Israeli attack on unarmed passengers aboard the Mavi Marmara, killing nine, including an 18-year old U.S. citizen of Turkish descent.

Leslie Cagan, coordinator of the U.S. Boat to Gaza, said, "We are sailing-despite threats by the Israeli armed forces to use attack dogs and snipers against us-and despite frantic diplomatic pressure by the Israeli government to prevent other countries from allowing the flotilla to sail." She commented that while Egypt has just opened the Rafah border to Gaza, the maritime blockade and the Israeli siege of Gaza still exist.

So far, 34 passengers and four crewmembers have confirmed that they will be sailing on The Audacity of Hope. They range in age from 22 to 87 years old and live in 14 states in every region of the U.S. All are committed to non-violence. Members of the press will also be on the boat.

Varied occupations are represented by the passengers, including retired film producer, construction worker, retired teacher and engineer, student, author, nurse, EMT, firefighter, activist, jazz musician, retired military personnel, professor social worker and lawyer. More than half the participants are women.

Passengers and crew will gather in Athens on June 21, 2011 in advance of the anticipated sailing date, which will depend on weather conditions and logistics.

The Audacity of Hope will carry as its cargo thousands of letters of friendship and solidarity with the people of Gaza from people throughout our country. Cagan said that inspections of the boat and its passengers prior to departure will prove the non-violent nature of the mission.

Richard Levy, attorney and passenger on The Audacity of Hope, explained that "Because Israel occupies Gaza, and accordingly has obligations under the Geneva Conventions, it cannot legally blockade Gaza." Therefore, he continued, "attempts by the Israeli government to prevent ships from going to Gaza are equally illegal."

A list of confirmed passengers and crew is attached. Short biographical statements from each of them can be found at http://ustogaza.org/passengers-on-the-audacity-of-hope/

PASSENGERS ON THE AUDACITY OF HOPE

Nic Abramson - Woodstock, NY
Johnny Barber - Gallatin Gateway, MT
Medea Benjamin - Washington, DC
Greta Berlin - Los Angeles, CA
Hagit Borer - Los Angeles, CA
Regina Carey - San Rafael, CA
Gale Courey Toensing -Canaan, CT
Erin DeRamus - Portland, OR
Linda Durham - Sante Fe, NM
Debra Ellis - Santa Cruz, CA
Hedy Epstein - St. Louis, MO
Steve Fake - New Orleans, LA
Ridgely Fuller - Waltham, MA
Megan Horan - West Seattle, WA
Kathy Kelly - Chicago, IL
Kit Kittredge - Quilcene, WA
Libor Koznar - New Britain, CT
G. Kaleo Larson - Northern CA
Richard Levy - New York, NY
Richard Lopez - Tumwater, WA
Ken Mayers - Sante Fe, NM
Ray McGovern - Arlington, VA
Gail Miller - New York, NY
Robert Naiman - Urbana, IL
Henry Norr - Berkeley, CA
Ann Petter - New York, NY
Gabe Schivone- Tucson, AZ
Kathy Sheetz - Richmond, CA
Max Suchan - Chicago, IL
Brad Taylor - New York, NY
Len Tsou - New City, NY
Alice Walker - Northern CA
Paki Wieland - Northampton, MA
Ann Wright - Honolulu, HI

CREW OF THE AUDACITY OF HOPE

John Klusmire, captain
David Smith, engineer
Yonatan Shapira, mate
David Schermerhorn, mate

I'm Setting Sail for Gaza Again & You Can Help

Dear Friends,

One year ago today, as Israeli naval commandoes attacked the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in international waters, I was on board The Challenger, a U.S.-flagged ship that was part of this international effort to break Israel's illegal blockade of the Palestinian Gaza Strip. 

Israeli commandoes grabbed me by my hair and rammed my head into the deck. They then stepped on my head in order to cuff my hands behind my back and then put a sack over my head. Worse yet, the commandoes killed nine of my fellow passengers, including 19-year old U.S. citizen Furkan Dogan, on the Mavi Marmara.

An international fact-finding mission of the UN Human Rights Council concluded that Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip is "collective punishment"--a war crime--and that its May 31, 2010, attack on the flotilla in order to enforce its blockade was "illegal." The mission found that six passengers, including Furkan, were killed "in a manner consistent with an extra-legal, arbitrary and summary execution," and that survivors were subjected to "torture."

Rather than put pressure on Israel to end its illegal blockade of Gaza, investigate Israel's killing of a U.S. citizen and attack against a U.S. ship, and sanction Israel for misusing U.S. weapons to attack the flotilla, the Obama Administration shamefully has tried to shield Israel from accountability for its actions. 

On Saturday, Egypt permanently reopened its border crossing with Rafah. This is an important step toward ending Gaza's isolation. But because Israel is still illegally blockading Gaza by land, sea and air, and because my country--the United States--is still enabling Israel to get away with it (in April, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice even publicly pressured governments to block future flotillas), in June I plan to sail for Gaza again with "Freedom Flotilla II -- Stay Human."

I need you to help us break Israel's illegal blockade of Gaza, bring messages of solidarity to the 1.5 million Palestinians who are suffering Israel's collective punishment, and make sure that Israel does not repeat its illegal attack on us.

Here's how you can help today!

1. Tell President Obama to ensure safe passage of the Freedom Flotilla II to Gaza.

2. Visit the website of US Campaign member group U.S. Boat to Gaza, which is organizing The Audacity of Hope, the U.S. component of this flotilla. There you can take action by writing a letter of solidarity to Palestinians in Gaza, sign up for email updates, and much more.

I am proud to be an Advisory Board Member of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation because of all the amazing work we do together to change U.S. policy to support freedom, justice and equality for Palestinians.  I'm so glad that the US Campaign has endorsed the U.S. Boat to Gaza.

Thank you for taking action with me to ensure the success of the Freedom Flotilla II!

In solidarity,

Huwaida Arraf
Member, US Campaign Advisory Board
Chair, Free Gaza Movement

Saturday, May 28, 2011

What Opening Rafah Means & Doesn't Mean


By Yousef Munayyer, Executive Director of the Palestine Center (a US Campaign member organization)
May 28, 2011

The news was welcomed by many around the world this week when reports about a decision taken by Egypt's current military government to open the Rafah crossing with Gaza surfaced. But what does the opening of Rafah mean? There will undoubtedly be those trying to proclaim that life is on the up and up in Gaza now and that the siege is over. But Gaza and the siege that entraps it is immensely complicated. Ignoring the nuances of this policy and thinking that Gaza is equivalent to a solid black box that just had its lid opened is entirely misleading. It is important, especially as the anniversary of the attack on the Mavi Marmara approaches, to understand what the opening of Rafah means and does not mean, and to redouble our efforts to raise awareness about, and challenge, the continued Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip.

What the Opening of Rafah Does Not Mean: The siege is over.

The siege of the Gaza Strip is a multi-layered closure with many dimensions. Several closure policies contribute to the siege effect, and the opening of Rafah is unlikely to have a major impact on the overall effect simply because the remaining closure policies, enforced by Israel, are not changing.

First, what exactly is the Rafah Crossing? Rafah is a Palestinian town in the Gaza Strip which straddles the border with Egypt. A terminal at the border exists to facilitate the travel of people across the border, but Rafah is not designed as a crossing for supplies. The opening of Rafah, while it may allow for people in Gaza to exit (with the permission of Egypt still required of course), has little effect on the actual quantity of goods coming in and out of Gaza.

ARTICLE CONTINUES...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

“Gaza Blockade Quiz” Draws Attention to Plight of Palestinians

Looking for a way to raise awareness about the siege of Gaza to a new audience?

The Madison Area Peace Coalition did this creative action...

Cinnamon or cumin, chocolate or coffee, fishing line or toilet paper - which of these household items are allowed into Gaza under the Israeli blockade? Shoppers at the Madison, Wisconsin farmers' market were challenged to test their knowledge by taking the “Gaza Blockade Quiz.” Each participant was asked to identify banned items from a table of everyday products.

“This is a real eye-opener,” said one college student. Many contestants stayed after taking the quiz to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Others gathered around to watch the game being played. This provided an opening to ask shoppers how they would get by without fabric or vegetable seeds or toys for their children. Many were shocked by the capricious nature of the Israeli blockade. Not one respondent thought the prohibited items could be legitimately classified as military contraband.

Shoppers who would be hesitant to approach a table full of literature were intrigued by a table of everyday products. The interactive nature of a “quiz” also attracted attention. One unexpected benefit of including toys in the display was that kids flocked to the table, bringing their parents in tow.

Setting up your own Gaza Blockade Quiz is easy. All you need is a card table, a few household items and labels made from note cards. Include a mix of banned and permitted products. The list of banned items is available from Gisha, an Israeli human rights organization (www.gisha.org). Be sure to suggest an action to be taken by contestants. Have them sign a petition to congress or hand out post cards addressed to your senators.

Ordinary Americans have compassion for Palestinians when they identify with their predicament. Nothing provokes the righteous indignation of American consumers like a table of forbidden products!