Israel attacks Gaza-bound boat in International Waters, Defying International Law
Kidnaps Parliamentarians and activists
For immediate release
contact: US Boat to Gaza, Robert Naiman, 217-979-2857; firstname.lastname@example.org
Jane Hirschmann, 845 246 6494; email@example.com
New York, October 20, 10AM EDT -
Shortly after 4:00AM EDT, when the Gaza-bound Estelle was in international waters about 30 nautical miles from Gaza, Israeli warships surrounded the Estelle and forcibly boarded and took command of the ship and took its 30 passengers into custody.
PRESS RELEASE FROM BOAT TO GAZA: Imminent Israeli Threat to Seize Gaza-Bound Boat in International Waters
For immediate release
Canadian Boat to Gaza:
Ehab Lotayef: 514-941-9792
David Heap (in Gaza, with Noam Chomsky) +972 59 289 3106
Imminent Israeli Threat to Seize Gaza-Bound Boat in International Waters;
Estelle 120 Nautical Miles Outside of Gaza
Combat Veteran Yonatan Shapira on Board, former Crew Member on U.S. Boat to Gaza,
Reachable by Phone on Boat
At this writing, Friday 4pm ET, the Estelle is 120 nautical miles from Gaza. Israeli authorities have threatened to seize the boat in international waters and take it and its passengers to the Israeli port of Ashdod. Here are two pictures of the passengers on the boat, including Israeli combat veteran Yonatan Shapira. Shapira is a US national.
According to the New York Times, a quarter of the passengers on the U.S. Boat to Gaza are Jewish.
What does it mean that the U.S. Boat to Gaza is a quarter Jewish? According to the noted American Jewish commentator Adam Sandler, a quarter Jewish is "not too shabby!" Maybe the U.S. Boat to Gaza will be mentioned in Adam's next Hanukkah song.
What does it mean that the U.S. Boat to Gaza is a quarter Jewish? Maybe it means that the Israeli authorities will have some compunction about shooting up our boat. After all, isn't the official story of Zionism all about making a "safe harbor" for Jews in Palestine? We're not trying to make aliyah. We just want to visit. Should we be shot for trying to do so? Wouldn't it be a mitzvah to let us pass unharmed?
What does it mean that the U.S. Boat to Gaza is a quarter Jewish? Maybe it means that we can openly contest a construction of Jewish identity based on supporting the obstruction of Palestinian freedom, with a Jewish counter-narrative of universal human liberation.
U.S. Boat to Gaza passenger Hedy Epstein, an 86-year-old whose parents died in the Holocaust, told the New York Times,
In the grand scheme of things, Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky is one of my favorite Members of Congress: progressive, smart, articulate, willing to stand up for what's right even when the pressure is on from the party leadership to go along with injustice, as when she worked to block the President's deficit commission from recommending cuts to Social Security.
But when it comes to U.S. policy towards Israel and the Palestinians, Rep. Schakowsky not only fails to be progressive; she seems to go out of her way to sign onto the most outrageously right-wing "pro-Israel" initiatives imaginable, when she could just say: "let's let this one pass us by," as the vast majority of Democratic Members of Congress do, when confronted with the most outrageously right-wing initiatives of the "pro-Israel lobby."
This past week, Rep. Schakowsky signed a letter signed a letter to the Turkish government "Urging Turkey to Stop Another Flotilla from Departing for the Gaza Strip." The letter slammed the upcoming Gaza freedom flotilla as a provocation.
Anyone who knows anything about the region knows that a letter from these Members of Congress urging Turkey to stop the flotilla is likely to have about as much influence in Turkey as a group of Turkish parliamentarians would have in Washington if they urged President Obama not to veto a UN resolution condemning Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank.
The feedback that Turkey got from the region following last year's flotilla was: you rock. Arabs were coming to demonstrations carrying pictures of the Turkish Prime Minister.
A year ago, peace and solidarity activists tried to break the blockade of Gaza with an international flotilla of ships. They failed, in the sense that the Israeli government attacked the flotilla, took control of the ships, and brought the ships to Israel. They succeeded, in the sense that the flotilla and the Israeli attack brought attention to the Israeli-US-Egyptian siege of Gaza, dramatically increasing political pressure on the three governments, leading to a partial easing of the siege.
Now an even larger flotilla, with the participation of more ships and more activists from more countries - including, crucially, the U.S. ship Audacity of Hope - is preparing to set sail in June.
And - God willing - when the Audacity of Hope sets sail, I will be on it.
It is our hope and expectation that the Israeli government, after all the negative publicity it received for its attack on last year's flotilla, will allow our ships to pass to Gaza unimpeded. It is our hope and expectation that the Obama Administration will pressure the government of Israel not to attack us, especially with a U.S. boat with well-known American peace activists on board participating in the flotilla.
Former UN Assistant Secretary General Denis Halliday said it was imperative that the Obama administration supported Ireland's call on the Israeli authorities to ensure safe passage for the Irish-flagged Rachel Corrie to carry humanitarian aid to Gaza, the Irish Times reports. Speaking by satellite phone from on board the Rachel Corrie, Halliday called on Irish-Americans to lobby the Obama Administration: "We also feel there is a role for the Irish diaspora here, in the US and elsewhere to lobby politicians over this continued illegal blockade of Gaza, which is causing such hardship to the Palestinian people."
Halliday has some experience with this issue, having resigned from his position as UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq in 1998 over the impact of UN/US sanctions on Iraqi civilians.
The issue of the Gaza blockade has tremendous resonance in Ireland, partly because of Ireland's high degree of engagement in international humanitarian causes - John Ging, head of the UN Relief and Works Agency in Gaza, who had called on the international community to break the siege by sending ships loaded with aid, is also Irish - but also, of course, because the Irish people have some experience with the consequences for civilians of a colonial blockade.