Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to ask for UN assistance to stop the planned flotilla scheduled to break the Gaza blockade in late May, 2011.
He argued to the UN Secretary General that the flotilla is a conglomerate of “extreme Islamists that are interested only in provocation” and hell bent on the destruction of Israel. Nothing could be further from the truth. We, who are actively engaged in the U.S. Boat to Gaza, named The Audacity of Hope, are appalled by this flagrant misrepresentation, so typical of right-wing Israeli propaganda. The organizers and passengers of the U.S. Boat, a committed, non-violent, human rights mission sailing as part of the International Flotilla, are people from all walks of life—lawyers, social workers, artists, fire fighters, midwives, writers, doctors, film makers, retired US army personnel, veterans, women’s rights organizers, teachers, nurses, etc.–all of whom share one common commitment: ending the insupportable oppression of the Palestinian people both in the West Bank and Gaza. In the West Bank we see one of the last colonial occupations left in the Middle East since the French, British and Italians withdrew a half century ago. The lives of all Palestinians are confined by this brutal occupation which constrains movement, impoverishes lives, disrupts education and is aimed at destroying their land, their dignity, their personhood, and in essence Palestine.
Gaza, the largest open air prison in the world, has deprived 1.5 million civilians of the basic necessities of life—building materials, food, housing, clothing, employment and free travel in and out. The siege of Gaza results in a gross denial of human rights which the world can no longer ignore. The U.S. flagged ship –and all the ships in the Flotilla– that sails to Gaza in May – will sail in peace and with a single nonviolent message—“The people of Gaza are entitled to the same life, liberty and pursuit of happiness that are the right of every human being.”
Ban Ki-moon should remind Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, siege of Gaza, expansion of settlements, destruction of homes, usurpation of water and air rights, walls of confinement , brutal military presence, and daily sniper attacks on innocent civilians constitute the paramount violence and terrorism in the Mideast, conduct that we all abhor. The 2nd International Freedom Flotilla comprised of 22 countries and many boats, heading toward Gaza, including The Audacity of Hope, is not the problem. Israel’s conduct in Palestine is the problem and should be condemned by the UN, the U.S. and all people who care about freedom and justice.
Jane Hirschmann and Richard Levy are volunteers with the US Boat To Gaza.