Saturday, August 7, 2010


New Yorkers Turn Out to Support U.S. Boat Sailing to Break Gaza Blockade

More than 400 New Yorkers crowded into the Marco Polo Marina on 23 rd Street at the FDR Drive last night for a sunset cruise around Manhattan to support the U.S. Boat to Gaza.

The boat, named The Audacity of Hope, will sail under the U.S. flag as part of a new international Freedom Flotilla whose organizers are vowing to break the siege of Gaza this fall.

Ranging in age from 18 to 89, supporters from around New York and as far away as Hawaii heard prominent journalists, actors, musicians, poets, and survivors of past flotillas express feelings of urgency about the situation in Gaza and distress at their own country’s role in it.

Jane Hirschmann, an organizer of the U.S. Boat to Gaza, emphasized the significance of sending a U.S. boat as part of the next flotilla: We in the United States participate in this siege whether we know it or not, because the U.S. gives over three billion dollars a year to Israel, most of which is military aid. We need to say a resounding No! to U.S. complicity in the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the siege of Gaza, she said. Interest in the venture has been overwhelming, and the capacity crowd on tonight’s cruise is indicative of a new surge of popular support for a change in U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine.

Speaker Ann Wright, a former deputy ambassador to Afghanistan and retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel, was a participant in the most recent flotilla this past May when Israeli armed forces killed nine passengers as Israeli soldiers rappelled down from a helicopter onto the deck of the Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara. Wright spoke about the importance of continued international efforts to break the blockade and specifically of the need for a U.S. boat as part of the next flotilla.

The effort to send a U.S. boat to break the blockade also comes in the aftermath of Operation Cast Lead, a massive Israeli military attack in December 2008 January 2009, which resulted in the deaths of over 1400 people in Gaza, most of them civilians, and exacerbated a dire humanitarian crisis there. An extensive and detailed list of human rights violations and possible war crimes were documented as part of the UN investigation that produced the Goldstone Report. After vilifying the Report and its lead author, Justice Richard Goldstone, Israel has recently admitted that many of its findings were in fact accurate as determined by an internal investigation.

Concern for the humanitarian situation in Gaza was on the minds of many aboard tonight’s New York City cruise. Joel Bitar, another organizer, explained, Despite Israeli government propaganda to the contrary, the siege of Gaza is ongoing. Though the Israeli government is allowing a few more goods into Gaza in the wake of the May 31 attack, the Palestinians of Gaza are still prevented from coming and going. They can’t sell their goods, they don’t control their air space, their electricity or their water, and they have been unable to rebuild all the homes, schools, hospitals, police stations and other essential structures destroyed by the Israelis in the winter of 2009. She added, They are living, as British Prime Minister David Cameron said last week, in a prison camp.

“The comparison to a prison camp is an apt one,” said Laurie Arbeiter, another U.S. Boat organizer. “The definition of a prison camp is a place where people and goods cannot go or come without the say-so of the guards , in this case, Israel. One can argue whether the guards are nice guards or mean guards or whether the prisoners are well treated or poorly treated. But there can be no dispute that Gaza is a prison for 1.5 million people who have committed no crime other than voting. The purpose of these flotillas is to open the gates of the prison.”

The U.S. Boat to Gaza is part of the larger international movement to achieve justice and freedom for the Palestinian people. As nonviolent protests against Israeli government policies, including the vast expansion of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, are held regularly in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and as the Palestinian-initiated non-violent campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel grows in international support, the U.S. Boat to Gaza joins the growing global movement to end the Israeli siege of Gaza and its illegal occupation of Palestine.

1 comment:

  1. "The Audacity of Hope" Haha, somehow this ship name is perfect. Brave people, so glad that the US people are doing this, no weapons, just food and medical supplies, Godspeed!