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Freedom Flotilla 2 U.S. Boat to Gaza Responds to State Dept. Warning
by U.S. Boat to Gaza
Friday Jun 24th, 2011 8:29 AM

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Athens: Felice Gelman, 30-694-266-0406;
New York: Donna Nevel, 917-570-4371
Twitter @USBoatToGaza

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State Department Officials Have an Obligation to Speak Out
Against Israeli Threats to Attack U.S. Boat to Gaza

Athens, June 24, 201 — U.S. peace activists preparing to set sail on the U.S. Boat to Gaza, The Audacity of Hope, expressed profound disappointment over a statement issued by the U.S. State Department on Wednesday, June 22, 2011. Instead of calling on the Israeli government to let a flotilla of unarmed civilians sail to Gaza, the United States government is pressuring its own citizens to refrain from legal acts.

On Wednesday, the State Department sent out a "travel advisory" urging Americans not to participate in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. According to the statement, U.S. citizens are advised against traveling to Gaza by any means, including via sea, noting that previous attempts to enter Gaza by sea “have been stopped by Israeli naval vessels and resulted in the injury, death, arrest, and deportation of U.S. citizens.”

“Apparently, the State Department subscribes to the view that Israel’s anticipated violence against unarmed protesters is an immutable act of nature,” said Hagit Borer, a professor of Linguistics at the University of Southern California and a passenger on the U.S. boat. “This is a remarkable attitude, coming from a government that provides the Israeli government with billions of dollars in military aid and routinely uses its veto to protect the Israeli government from censure of its occupation policies by the UN Security Council.”

Passengers on the boat noted that the U.S. State Department has a legal obligation to act to protect U.S. citizens when they are traveling abroad. “So far, U.S. government officials have failed to use their influence to discourage Israeli authorities from ordering a physical assault on us,” said Just Foreign Policy policy director Robert Naiman, another passenger on the U.S. boat. “Of course, State Department officials have an obligation to speak out against threats to attack us. It is deeply disappointing that they have so far failed to do so.”

Below is a copy of a letter the passengers of The Audacity of Hope sent of June 14, 2011 to President Obama, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and other high-ranking government officials. There has yet to be a response to the letter.

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14 June 2011

The President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. Obama:

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% 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 administration.

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.

Sincerely,
The passengers of The Audacity of Hope

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, Ann Wright

cc:
The Honorable Ban Ki-moon, U.N. Secretary General
The Honorable Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State
The Honorable Jeffrey Feltman, Assistant Secretary of State
The Honorable Susan E. Rice, Permanent U.S. Representative to the United Nations
The Honorable James B. Cunningham, U.S. Ambassador to Israel
The Honorable John F. Kerry, Chairman U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee
The Honorable Richard G. Lugar, Ranking Member U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee
The Honorable Robert P. Casey, Chairman Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs
The Honorable James E. Rish, Ranking Member Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs
The Honorable Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Chairman U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs
The Honorable Howard L. Berman, Ranking Member U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs
The Honorable Steve Chabot, Chairman Subcommittee on Middle East and South Asia
The Honorable Gary L. Ackerman, Ranking Member Subcommittee on Middle East and South Asia

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by IMEMC
Saturday Jun 25th, 2011 12:41 AM
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United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, stated Thursday that solidarity ships heading to Gaza come in defiance of the Israeli Blockade on the coastal region, and are considered “unnecessary effort” that is likely to draw a reaction.

Clinton said that Israel approved this week the entry of construction materials to ensure the construction of houses in the coastal region.

She added that the U.S. Administration does not believe that flotillas are helpful, and claimed that such ships “entering Israeli water” are an act of provocation that draws a response from the Israelis “who will have to defend themselves”.

She failed to mention that solidarity ship heading to Gaza do not enter “Israeli territorial waters” as they sail to Gaza shores without having to enter any “Israeli waters”.

The Secretary of State avoided a direct reference to the Israeli attack against the Turkish Mavi Marmara Ship on May 31 2010, and the killing of nine Turkish activists, including a Turkish activist who carried U.S. citizenship.

The Freedom Flotilla 2 – Stay Human will be sailing to the besieged Gaza Strip in the coming few days to deliver urgently needed medical and humanitarian supplies.

In a statement by the US State Department on Wednesday, the US government mentioned last year's attack and warned US citizens against participating in the flotilla, stating, “U.S. citizens are advised against traveling to Gaza by any means, including via sea.

Previous attempts to enter Gaza by sea have been stopped by Israeli naval vessels and resulted in the injury, death, arrest, and deportation of U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens participating in any effort to reach Gaza by sea should understand that they may face arrest, prosecution, and deportation by the Government of Israel.”

An investigation by the Turkish government of last year's Israeli attack released its results two weeks ago, showing that the nine men killed were hit by 30 bullets fired at close range, with five of the men killed by shots to the head.

The 19-year old American citizen who was killed, Furqan Dogan, was killed by five bullets fired at a distance of 45 cm to his face, the back of his head, his leg and his back.