Six Senators urge safe passage for US citizens to Gaza
Update: The Free Palestine Movement announced that Jimbo Simmons of the
American Indian Movement West (AIM West) will be a member of the Gaza
Freedom Flotilla Delegation.
By Brenda Norrell
June 24, 2011 Censored News
The United States warned activists on Friday against plans to send a new
aid flotilla to challenge Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip, saying it
could result in fines or incarceration.
Author and poet Alice Walker, and Tucson border activist Gabriel Schivone,
27, a member of the humanitarian border group No More Deaths, are among
those who will be on the Audacity of Hope. Schivone, a University of
Arizona student, has protested U.S. border-enforcement policies that fuel
migrant deaths in Arizona.
Former U.S. Ambassador Col. Ann Wright, who resigned from the State
Department in 2003 to protest the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and became a
voice against US torture in Iraq, will be onboard. Wright was on the
flotilla one year ago.
Hedy Epstein, an 86-year-old Holocaust survivor, and Medea Benjamin of
Code Pink, Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence,
and Richard Levy, New York labor attorney in the law firm Levy Ratner, are
among the passengers.
Walker, 67, remembered both Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., as she
gave her reasons for sailing.
"Our boat, The Audacity of Hope, will be carrying letters to the people of
Gaza. Letters expressing solidarity and love. That is all its cargo will
consist of. If the Israeli military attacks us, it will be as if they
attacked the mailman. This should go down hilariously in the annals of
history. But if they insist on attacking us, wounding us, even murdering
us, as they did some of the activists in the last flotilla, Freedom
Flotilla I, what is to be done?"
It is this type of courage, sincerity and world vision, that really
irritates the US State Department.
"Groups that seek to break Israel's maritime blockade of Gaza are taking
irresponsible and provocative actions that risk the safety of their
passengers," State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said.
"We urge all those seeking to provide such assistance to the people of
Gaza to use these mechanisms, and not to participate in actions like the
planned flotilla," Nuland said.
Israel said it has warned the United Nations that a new aid flotilla --
which activists say could depart from European ports in coming days --
could result in "dangerous consequences." Israel has made clear it will
prevent any new flotilla from reaching Gaza. One year ago, nine Turkish
activists, including one with dual U.S.-Turkish nationality, were killed
in an Israeli raid on a similar convoy.
Nuland said that recent weapons seizures and periodic rocket and mortar
attacks from Gaza against Israeli civilians illustrated the ongoing
necessity for Israel to screen Gaza-bound cargo.
"We underscore that delivering or attempting or conspiring to deliver
material support or other resources to or for the benefit of a designated
foreign terrorist organization, such as Hamas, could violate U.S. civil
and criminal statutes and could lead to fines and incarceration," Nuland
The passengers wrote President Obama on June 14 requesting safe passage.
"We are writing to inform you that 50 unarmed Americans will soon be
sailing in a U.S. flagged ship called The Audacity of Hope as part of an
international flotilla to Gaza.
"Our peaceful demonstration will challenge Israel’s blockade of Gaza,
which has effectively imprisoned 1.6 million civilians, almost half of
whom are under the age of 16. The blockade has impoverished the people of
Gaza, deprived them of needed materials and supplies to rebuild their
lives after the Israeli attack of late 2008 - early 2009, impeded those
who are ill or infirm from seeking outside medical aid, and prevented
students from seeking education outside of Gaza. 45 percent of the working
age population is unemployed.
"In addition to 36 passengers, 4 crew, and 10 members of the press, our
boat will carry thousands of letters of support and friendship from people
throughout the U.S. to the women, children and men of Gaza. There will be
no weapons of any sort on board. We will carry no goods of any kind for
delivery in Gaza. Our mission is from American civil society to the civil
society of Gaza. We do not serve the agenda of any political leadership,
government or group. We are engaged solely in non-violent action in
support of the Palestinian people and their human rights.
"In our country’s great tradition of citizen activists taking nonviolent
action to stand up to injustice, we sail in the hope that our voyage will
show the people in Gaza that they are not alone, and that it will call
attention to the morally and legally indefensible collective punishment of
a population of civilians.
"Mr. President, you have noted the unsustainability of the Gaza blockade.
And your administration has spoken boldly in support of peaceful
demonstrations throughout this “Arab Spring.”
"As U.S. citizens we expect our country and its leaders to help ensure the
Flotilla’s safe passage to Gaza - as our country should support our
humanitarian demand that the Gaza blockade be lifted. This should begin by
notifying the Israeli government in clear and certain terms that it may
not physically interfere with the upcoming Flotilla of which the U.S. boat
— The Audacity of Hope — is part. We-authors, builders, firefighters,
lawyers, social workers, retirees, Holocaust survivors, former government
employees and more-expect no less from our President and your
"Our boat will sail from the eastern Mediterranean in the last week of
June. We shall be grateful to you for acting promptly and decisively to
uphold the rights of civilians to safe passage on the seas," the
passengers wrote to Obama.
The passengers of The Audacity of Hope are: Nic Abramson, Johnny Barber,
Medea Benjamin, Greta Berlin, Hagit Borer, Regina Carey, Gale Courey
Toensing, Erin DeRamus, Linda Durham, Debra Ellis, Hedy Epstein, Steve
Fake, Ridgely Fuller, Megan Horan,Kathy Kelly, Kit Kittredge, Libor
Koznar, Melissa Lane, G. Kaleo Larson, Richard Levy, Richard Lopez, Ken
Mayers, Ray McGovern, Gail Miller, Carol Murry, Robert Naiman, Henry Norr,
Ann Petter, Gabe Schivone, Kathy Sheetz, Max Suchan, Brad Taylor, Len
Tsou, Alice Walker, Paki Wieland and Ann Wright.
Six Members of Congress Call on Clinton to help ensure safety of the U.S.
citizens on boat to Gaza
The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
United States Department of State
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Secretary Clinton,
We write to express our concern for the safety of American passengers on
the U.S. ship The Audacity of Hope, which will set sail for Gaza in the
next few days. We request that you do everything in your power to work
with the Israeli government to ensure the safety of the U.S. citizens on
A year ago, Israel took military action against the "Gaza flotilla" in
international waters, which resulted in the deaths of nine civilians,
including one American citizen. In addition, ten Israeli commandos and
more than 20 passengers were injured in this tragic incident. In order to
avoid another confrontation this year, we urge all parties to practice
maximum restraint and avoid violence.
We wholeheartedly support Israel's right, and indeed its duty, to protect
its citizens from security threats. The measures it uses to do so, as in
the case with any other nation, must conform to international humanitarian
and human rights law. We are encouraged that The Audacity of Hope
organizers have stated that their cargo "is open to international
inspection" and that they "are fully committed to nonviolence and the the
tenets of international law".
We look forward to working with you in any way we can and encourage you to
ensure the safety of all American citizens on board The Audacity of Hope.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Representative Dennis Kucinich (OH-10)
Representative William Lacy Clay (MO-1)
Representative Sam Farr (CA-17)
Representative Bob Filner (CA-51)
Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC)
Representative Barbara Lee (CA-9)