The US Boat to Gaza campaign announced today that it will send a US flagged boat, The Audacity of Hope, to Gaza in late June as part of the International Freedom Flotilla II. The passengers on the boat, which will sail from a port in the Mediterranean, are US citizens from many different backgrounds, ages, and communities across the United States.
Flotilla organizer Jane Hirschmann said, "The Israeli blockade of Gaza is a clear violation of international human rights and maritime law. 1.5 million people in Gaza have been effectively imprisoned for five years. The blockade is maintained only with the support of the United States government. That is why it is imperative that it be confronted nonviolently by American citizens."
The Audacity of Hope, which will carry a cargo of thousands of personal letters of friendship and solidarity with people in Gaza, will join with boats from other countries in an international flotilla headed to Gaza City.
The Israeli government has attempted to characterize the flotilla as a risk to the security of Israel because of the possibility it will carry arms. However, the flotilla participants are fully committed to non-violence and the tenets of international law, and its cargo is open to international inspection. Although the seven ships that made up Freedom Flotilla I last May carried only humanitarian supplies, Israel nonetheless attacked and confiscated the ships in international waters, killing nine unarmed passengers, including one American citizen.
Thirty-six members of the House of Representatives recently sent a letter to the Turkish government urging Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Erdogan to stop the departure of the Freedom Flotilla II. The letter states, "If flotilla organizers carry out their confrontational plans, the Israelis will have little choice to board the vessels and search for weapons. We fear violence could erupt..."
Retired US Army Col. and US Boat to Gaza campaign organizer Ann Wright said, "This is patently ridiculous. The cargoes are open to international inspection. The passengers are committed to non-violence. The siege is illegal. But these Members of Congress are more interested in guaranteeing impunity to Israel than in defending their own constituents who will be on board the boats. Just as The Freedom Riders of the 1960s had the right and obligation to confront racism and segregation in the South, we too are confronting our government's complicity in Israel's violation of international law. We have the right to sail and we will sail."