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US Government Threatens to Arrest American Activists Participating in Gaza Flotilla, Boat Maybe Sabotaged in Greece

US government threatens to arrest US flotilla participants

Sunday June 26, 2011 20:40 by Saed Bannoura - IMEMC News

As 38 US citizens prepare to join hundreds of others from around the world on a humanitarian aid mission to the Gaza Strip, the US State Department issued a statement that their participation in the 'Freedom Flotilla' of aid ships could be a violation of US law, and threatened to arrest those participating.

The statement by the US government comes several days after a US citizen who was injured in a Hamas-claimed bombing in Israel in 2002 sued the US Delegation to the Flotilla, claiming that he should be given possession of their leased boat because they are “supporting Hamas”.

No evidence has ever been presented to support a claim that the Flotilla supports the Hamas party, which was elected to run the Palestinian Authority in both the West Bank and Gaza in 2006. In fact, Flotilla organizers have made numerous statements that the aid and support they are bringing to Gaza is non-partisan, and is made up of medical and school supplies to help the 750,000 children who live in Gaza under an intense Israeli siege.

The US boat also includes hundreds of letters written by US children and adults to the people of Gaza, offering love, prayers and support as the Gazans continue to suffer under the fourth year of an Israeli blockade of their borders.

As one 9-year old boy in Gaza put it, “We don't have food, we don't have clean water, we have to live in these ruined houses like bums. Other children in other countries have fun and play, why do we have to live under this siege?”

Although the US government claimed that “there are legal means” to get aid into the Gaza Strip, Israeli government statements and policy documents contradict this claim. As Just Foreign Policy Director Robert Naiman notes in a recent article, “Exports from Gaza remain largely blocked; restrictions on Gazans' travel to the West Bank and East Jerusalem for work, study, and medical care remain; imports of construction materials remain largely blocked; restrictions on Gaza's farming and fishing remain. Unemployment in Gaza is among the highest in the world, the UN reports.”

In response to the US government's threat to arrest participants, the US delegation to the Gaza Strip, which include writer Alice Walker, Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, and a large number of American Jews, issued a statement saying, “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.”

Hagit Borer, a professor of Linguistics at the University of Southern California and a passenger on the U.S. Boat, said, “Apparently, the State Department subscribes to the view that Israel’s anticipated violence against unarmed protesters is an immutable act of nature. 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.”

Petitions with thousands of signatures have been submitted to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and six US members of Congress have signed on to a letter urging the US government to stop Israel from attacking the flotilla as it has threatened to do. Last year, the Israeli government attacked a similar flotilla, killing nine humanitarian aid workers, mainly with gunshots to the head. No one has ever been prosecuted for that attack, in which one US citizen, Furqan Dogan, and eight Turkish aid workers were killed.

Us Boat To Gaza Delayed By Anonymous Complaint

Monday June 27, 2011 05:14 by IMEMC Staff

Greek officials claim they received an 'anonymous tip' over the weekend that the US Boat to Gaza, part of the ten-boat Freedom Flotilla, was not seaworthy. The officials demanded that the boat be subjected to a rigorous inspection before leaving Greek waters, and issued a warning to all ship captains in Greece that they should avoid the area around the Gaza Strip.

Some Israeli media sources have reported that Shurat Hadin, the 'Israel Law Center', has claimed credit for filing the complaint.

Although the Greek government would not reveal the source of the 'anonymous tip', participants in the Flotilla have speculated that it is just the latest in a series of measures taken by the Israeli government to try to prevent the boats from reaching the besieged Gaza Strip.

“The boat we are leasing for this journey has been worked on for months by qualified technicians and is ready to sail,” said organizer and passenger Ann Wright. “We do not believe it needs to be re-inspected, but we are open to the Greek authorities doing this quickly so that there will be no further delays.”

In an article by US Flotilla passenger Medea Benjamin, she writes, “The passengers speculate that Israel, which has extensive trade and investment ties with Greece, is callously taking advantage of the economic hardship the Greek people are experiencing right now to put the screws on the Greek government.”

She added, “The U.S. passengers speculate that the Obama Administration is using economic blackmail on the Greek government. Greece's economic and political crisis is a result of extreme austerity measures imposed by the European Union and the largely U.S.-controlled International Monetary Fund (IMF). The United States may well be using its leverage at the IMF over the implementation of an ongoing bailout of European banks with massive Greek debts to compel the Greek government to block the U.S. Boat.”

The US and Israeli governments have both publicly threatened the participants in the Gaza flotilla with arrest or worse. Israel has declared its plan to attack the aid ships before they reach the Gaza coast, and has conducted extensive training exercises to that effect.

The flotilla, consisting of 500 humanitarian activists from 20 different countries, plans to sail to Gaza on Tuesday, breaking the siege that has been imposed by the Israeli government for the last four years and bringing much-needed humanitarian supplies to the civilian population of Gaza. Although Israel has claimed that there are “appropriate channels” to get aid to the Gaza Strip that would not entail breaking the siege (a claim that has been parroted by US officials), Israeli government documents and policies have revealed that there are no such “appropriate channels”, and the 1.5 million people in the Gaza Strip continue to suffer from a severe lack of many basic items.

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