Sunday, June 26, 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.”

With no comment about the moral deficiency or illegality of Israeli actions last year upon the Mavi Marmara, nor any warning to Israel about its responsibility to respect international humanitarian and human rights laws, these statements may be misconstrued as offering Israel the “green light” to act with impunity.

ADC calls on the U.S. government to clarify its position, which is undoubtedly first and foremost its commitment to the safety of U.S. citizens and the protection of their rights under all circumstances. ADC also calls on the U.S. government to clearly warn Israel that illegal actions against U.S. citizens, such as those conducted by Israeli forces last year, will not be tolerated by the United States.