American flotilla passengers set to challenge U.S. support for Gaza blockade

The pressure is mounting on the second “Freedom Flotilla” to Gaza.  Anti-flotilla lawsuits in New York and Toronto have been filed, the Israeli government is ramping up its propaganda efforts and the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship is no longer sailing following U.S. pressure.

But the American passengers are still determined to sail on The Audacity of Hope later this month, and they are now on their way to Greece to complete the initial leg of their journey before setting off to the Mediterranean from an undisclosed port. 

And if there was one important and unifying message the American flotilla passengers conveyed yesterday at a press conference where they took questions from reporters, it was this:  the U.S. Boat to Gaza effort is a direct challenge to American support for Israel and its crippling blockade of Gaza.  

Gabriel Schivone, an Arizona resident and activist, said that he will be wearing a Star of David around his neck on his journey to Gaza to “symbolize the root meanings of Judaism that are not emphasized enough, namely welcoming a stranger as you were a stranger, helping free the slave as though you were once enslaved.  So rather than travel to contribute to more death and suffering, I choose to travel there to directly and nonviolently protest the support and participation of my own government in these crimes.” 

Schivone is joining 36 other Americans who are off to Gaza.  Hundreds of people from some 20 countries are set to take part in the flotilla aiming to break Israel’s blockade. 

“We have a special responsibility,” said Richard Levy, a labor and civil rights lawyer joining the boat.  “Our country is not supporting what [Bashar] Assad is doing.  It is not supporting what [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad is doing…But the fact is, we are the main supporters of what Israel is doing in the Middle East.  And that support has been destructive not only to the Palestinian people but to this country in a very, very large way.” 

Levy also reported details of a meeting U.S. flotilla activists had with the State Department in which they provided details about the mission and asked for protection.  The activists also wanted to “talk policy issues,” which the State Department declined to meet with them about. 

A State Department spokesperson told reporters June 1 “that groups and individuals who seek to break Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza are taking irresponsible and provocative actions that entail a risk to their safety.”

Shortly after the meeting, according to Levy, the State Department sent them a communique that “warned people not to go on the flotilla, that Israel could be expected to use force, and that Israel expected to enforce its blockade.” 

“The State Department is on notice, the president is on notice,” said Levy. “Communications have been made with all levels of the State Department and the administration to let them know that this is a boat of U.S. citizens on a peaceful mission, and that we expect the United States government to speak to Israel or to do what it needs to do to protect its citizens.”

Alex Kane, a freelance journalist based in New York City, writes on Israel/Palestine and Islamophobia at alexbkane.wordpress.com.  Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is an assistant editor for Mondoweiss and the World editor for AlterNet. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.
Posted in Gaza, Israel/Palestine | Tagged , , , ,

{ 12 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Citizen says:

    Alex recently pointed out that US Senator Mark Kirk (Illinois) is trying to get the US military/SpOPs to aid Israel forces in Israeli determination to stop the free speech flotilla, including the boat from America, home of free speech. Kirk is currently at the top of recipients of AIPAC orchestrated funding of US congress folks. Seems Kirk cares more about Israel than he does about the needs of his own US constituency. He gets an A (for AIPAC) for the class he took in how to get and maintain US congressional office. The US government has also promised Turkey it will allow Turkey to be a major player at Ankura in the I-P peace process, and otherwise will aid Turkey’s growing power in the ME–if Turkey disconnects from the flotilla.

    • yourstruly says:

      …the u.s. will aid turkey’s growing power in the ME-if only turkey disconnects from the flotilla?

      for the purpose of preventing freedom flotilla 2 from reaching its destination, our government is in cahoots with the zionist entity israel?

      and will do almost anything to block this attempt to break the naval siege?

      what’s more the president is ok with this?

      what if an american aboard the audacity of hope gets hurt?

      or worse? -

      “Members of the jury*, on the charge of involvement in the committing of crimes against humanity, what is your verdict?”

      “We find barack hussein obama guilty as charged, your honor”

      *at the international court of justice

      • RoHa says:

        “the u.s. will aid turkey’s growing power in the ME”

        I’m not convinced that Turkey needs aid. Seems to be doing OK by itself.

  2. Les says:

    Here’s some positive news to share, a very very public warning by Saudi Arabia,

    “There will be disastrous consequences for U.S.-Saudi relations if the United States vetoes U.N. recognition of a Palestinian state.”

    link to consortiumnews.com

    • iamuglow says:

      Not an idle threat.

      The oil in KSA is produced by Aramco. Once a 100% American owned company. There is public memo from a KSA sent to the state dept…before the 1973 war expliciting saying that if the US continues with its one sided support of Israel…they would fully nationalize it…and of course when nothing changed they did just that. What was the cost to the US for its support Israel there? Quite a bit I imagine.

      Today its the world’s most valuable company, with an estimated value in 2010 of 2.2 trillion USD to 7 trillion USD.

      link to en.wikipedia.org

      • yourstruly says:

        by supporting israel in the ’73 war the u. s. forfeited a company now worth between 2.1 – 7 trillion dollars?

        yet subsequent u. s. governments haven’t wavered in their support of the zionist entity?

        except back then the israel lobby wasn’t as powerful as it is today

        so does the tail wag the dog?

        or is there something else going on?

        trillions of dollars forfeited?

        by whom?

        & for what?

  3. pabelmont says:

    I’d hoped for better from Turkey. After all, if a “deus ex machina” is going to come to the fore to put pressure on Israel (and thereby thumb its nose at USA), one would have expected these nations to be led by Turkey.

    • lysias says:

      Especially disappointing that Turkey chose not to back down until after the election in Turkey.

    • Dr Gonzo says:

      Indeed Turkey gained a huge amount of good will and respect for its independent and popular foreign policy. It seems in all areas it is backtracking on that. It started off opposed to the Libya war and then once it started rushed over to the Pro-War side.

      The below link to Haaretz also gives this more context. It appears that Turkey and Israel are in secret talks to mend relations.

      link to haaretz.com

  4. radii says:

    as they said in Jaws … “we’re gonna need a bigger boat” because Mossad is going to disable the U.S. boat and mess with the participants and do everything they can to keep the U.S. participation from happening – those Americans planning to embark had better have a back-up plan and/or a strong public statement ready … israel fights dirtier than anybody

  5. Amazing isn’t it, that a small number of boats, full of activists, food and medicine causes such a panic in Israel and America. My god, nuclear armed states with armies equipped to the teeth, belligerent and bullying, used to getting their own way, are rushing around threatening legal action and violence, utterly desperate to stop some AID getting to some of the poorest people on the planet. What kind of threat is that to the overfed, mollycoddled bullies who insist on the most savage punitive treatment of poverty stricken, starving people? The only threat is to their ego and their ideology, their presumption that they alone have the right to decide who lives and dies in Gaza, that they have the right to cage people and cut them off from the world, and deprive them of enough food, water and shelter to survive. The only threat to them is the publicity which will make even more people around the world aware of the Gestapo style behaviour of the IDF, their complete disregard for human life and their unbearable cruel indifference to those who don’t belong to their tribe. All they care about is keeping the people in Gaza in misery and the people of the world in ignorance of their crimes. A handful of decent, humane people in a few boats bear zero threat to them, but look at the panic in their eyes as they realise more people will be repulsed by their ugly racist supremacism and hatred for the poor indigenous people of the country they occupy.

    • yourstruly says:

      yes!

      & why?

      one victory

      all it’ll take

      bloodless?

      provided freedom flotilla 2 gets through

      if it doesn’t get through?

      we try, try, try again

      based on?

      the people united will never be defeated