Monday, 4 July 2011

US flotilla boat's captain John Klusmire to appear in court Tuesday and may face charges

(pic: Activists fasting in front of US consulate in Greece - image by US Boat to Gaza)

From US Boat to Gaza

We want to give you all a quick round up of several items related to the U.S. Boat to Gaza and the flotilla. But first….

Given the tremendous obstacles placed in the way of the flotilla we should not for a moment think this work has been in vain. Just the opposite. We have called greater attention to the urgent need to end the Israeli blockade and siege of Gaza, as well as the overall occupation of the Palestinian Territories. The lengths to which the Israeli government has gone to stop the boats only expose the real story: they are determined to hold on to their repressive, inhuman and illegal policies at any cost. Israel has outsourced its naval blockade of Gaza to Greece.

We cannot for one moment forget that the flotilla project is about our solidarity with the people of Gaza. Changing the Israeli policies and stopping the support they get from the U.S. government requires the strongest movement we can possibly build!

Here’s the latest news we have:

1) U.S. passengers harassed and arrested by Athens police

Nine of the passengers on the U.S. Boat to Gaza began a fast last night (7/3). They are Ken Mayers, Carol Murry, Medea Benjamin, Paki Wieland, Ray McGovern, Brad Taylor, Kit Kitteridge, Kathy Kelly and Linda Durham. After a rousing gathering in front of the U.S. Embassy (see photos and video on our website), they were all “cited” by the Athens police with occupying the sidewalk across the embassy and they were let go right away.

Today, 6 members of the U.S. Boat to Gaza were held at an Athens police station after Greek police arrested them for sitting on a park bench across from the residence of the U.S. Ambassador to Greece. Ray McGovern, Linda Durham, Debra Ellis, Ridgeley Fuller, Ken Mayers and Carol Murry were put into squad cars and taken to the police station. We are not sure of the status of these 6 people at the moment.

2) The captain of The Audacity of Hope – John Klusmire – is set to be at a hearing at 12 noon (Athens time) on Tuesday. There are 2 Greek lawyers serving as his defense council. It is important to keep the pressure on the U.S. State Department to make sure they in turn pressure the Greek government to release our captain. Below are numbers and email addresses you can use to contact them. Please keep the pressure on!

3) Status of some of the other boats in the flotilla

Shortly before 6 pm (Greek time) today the Canadian boat, named Tahrir, left its dock in Crete to set sail for Gaza. They got to within 4 miles of international waters when Greek Special Forces stopped them from going any further. The Greek military boarded the Canadian boat and there are reports that when they asked for the captain of the boat all 30 people on board answered, “I am the captain.” The Greeks took command of the boat and at least report where headed back to be docked. We have heard reports that all of the people on the boat will be arrested, but we do not have confirmation of that.

Two boats from France – a cargo ship and a smaller passenger boat – are in international waters in the Mediterranean Sea. (They did not set sail from Greece.) We are not sure what they are planning on doing.

The Irish boat was sabotaged beyond repair last week and the Greek boat was also sabotaged but we do not have an update on their status.

Be sure to check our website regularly for update, as well as photos and video footage of much of the activity in Greece.

Leslie Cagan

Coordinator, U.S. Boat to Gaza

——————————-

Keeping the pressure on the U.S. State Department

Let them know you want them to help secure the release of John Klusmire, as well as the release of the U.S. Boat to Gaza. Tell them you expect the U.S. government to support the right if its citizens to sail freely to Gaza.

State Department general number: 202-647-4000 – ask for the Overseas U.S. Citizen Services Duty Officer and you’ll get a live State Dept. official who has to hear you out.

The voicemail for Kim Richter – also at the State Dept. – says she’s out of the office for several days, and that callers with urgent issues should contact a colleague at 202-647-4578. Hopefully, you will be able to reach Kim Richter’s office directly tomorrow by calling 202-647-8303. (She is in the office of Consular Affairs, Overseas American Citizen Services at the State Dept.

You can email the U.S. Embassy in Athens at: athensamemb@state.gov or you can send an email to them at: athensamericancitizenservices@state.gov

If you can place an international phone call, the number for the U.S. Embassy in Athens is 011-30-210-721-2951. There are several other “after hour” numbers that you can call for emergency situations: 011-30-210-729-4301, 011-30- 210-729-4444. And you might also be able to get through on these “after hour” numbers: 011-30-210-720-2490, 011-30-210-720-2491.

Please also try to call, fax or email your members of Congress as well.

Help us keep the pressure up!!

US Boat to Gaza

Two arrested as Greece uses special forces against peaceful activists on Canadian flotilla boat


From rabble.ca

Canadian activist Dylan Penner describes what has happened to The Tahrir, its crew, and international activists since it made a dash to leave Greece early Monday. The interview is abruptly cut short.

Cathryn Atkinson: Where are you?

Dylan Penner: At port. I am below deck. The Tahrir has been damaged by the Greek coastguard when they forced us into port. [Editor's Note: The Tahrir was slammed into a concrete wall -- with the boat taking on water and its diesel tank having been damaged, though it is not sinking.] We're still on board, but essentially what we've seen is the very clear expansion of the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza to Greece.

CA: What is happening currently?

DP: There is a crowd gathered at the port. We're still here. Most of us are gathering in the main gathering area above deck, and we are about to have some discussions to decide our next steps. Essentially, what happened was we managed to get about 15 minutes out of port, from Agios Nikolaos, which is a port in Crete where we were docked.

We were boarded by the Greek coastguard following the economic blackmail by Israel and Western nations of Greece in the midst of their economic crisis. The coastguard, under ministerial order by the Greek government as a result of all of that, boarded our vessel similarly to how they took control of the U.S. vessel The Audacity of Hope, and have brought it part into port.

CA: Have they tried to arrest your captain, as they did with The Audacity of Hope?

DP: When they asked who the captain was, we've been saying "We are all the captain." I have to go for now for the meeting.

More to follow: Interview ended 8:50 p.m. local time (1:50 p.m. EST)

Continued: 10 p.m. local time (3 p.m. EST)

CA: So you had a meeting. Tell me about it.

DP: Basically, our understanding from our legal representatives is that there is significant increased likelihood of arrest if we leave the boat, so we are all remaining on the boat right now. There was some damage, it looks like it was not extensive enough to be a safety issue but it is still something we are concerned about, given that there was no right for the Greek authorities to board our boat in the first place.

At the moment, we're just waiting for further legal advice to assess the damage to the boat and that's the situation at the moment.

CA: I understand The Tahrir was slammed into a concrete wall. Is that right?

DP: I believe that may have been the cause of the damage. I didn't witness it myself. It's hard to fully assess it from on board the boat, but I believe it was something along those lines.

CA: But did you feel an impact?

DP: I didn't, but there was a lot going on at the time, with soldiers running back and forth and that kind of thing.

CA: Did they have guns trained on you?

DP: There weren't any that I could see, but there were certainly lots of special forces on board with automatic rifles. One of the coast guard [officers], when he boarded and several of them were stepping over me while I was telling them to get off our boat, had his sidearm pistol drawn.

CA: How many special forces and other Greek authorities boarded The Tahrir?

DP: There was a lot of movement, so I can only estimate, but I think somewhere around 10 special forces and coastguard.

In the moment, we've been in discussions with local city counsellors and trade unionists who are on the dock just a couple of feet away from us. They are expressing their solidarity, and are doing what they can to build the necessary solidarity at this point in time.

CA: Are your lawyers local Greek lawyers?

DP: Yes.

CA: They have advised you to stay aboard The Tahrir right now?

DP: For the time being. Until we have further legal advice.

CA: Are they trying to negotiate with the authorities?

DP: Yes, the mayor had gone down to the port authority to negotiate the release of a couple of our Tahrireans, who were still on the ground and currently in detention.

CA: How many are in detention?

DP: Two. From what I understand no one has been charged as yet, but they are in plastic handcuffs and being detained, but otherwise being treated all right.

CA: And they are being kept at the port?

DP: At the port authority from what I understand.

CA: Who are they?

DP: I can't release their names at the moment.

CA: Why were they arrested?

There was a special part of the action where a couple of our delegates volunteered just before we left, [to get] in kayaks and paddle in front of the coast guard vessel to give us a little extra time to leave port.

CA: It's after 10 p.m. there. It's dark now. What is the mood?

DP: Yes....

At this point the connection is disrupted and the interview abruptly ends. Despite repeated attempts to call back, there has been no success.

Cathryn Atkinson is rabble.ca's news and features editor.

Icelandic MP visits US flotilla boat to show solidarity, urges other parliamentarians to do the same


Birgitta Jonsdottir, an Icelandic parliamentarian for The Movement, is the first MP from any country to visit the Gaza Freedom Flotilla this year.

She went aboard a ship called ‘The Audacity of Hope’ — which was turned round and sent back to port on Saturday by an armed Greek coastguard patrol. The ship is docked in Athens, where Birgitta Jonsdottir is currently visiting, Visir.is reports.

The ship was on its way to the Gaza strip hoping to distribute aid in defiance of the Israeli blockade.

Jonsdottir released a statement on her website encouraging her political colleagues all across Europe to travel to Greece, where civil unrest continues over the country’s severe economic problems. She also called upon the Greek foreign minister to stand up to Israel. more

Hundreds of activists plan 'fly-in' protest to Ben Gurion airport scheduled for July 8


JERUSALEM (JTA) -- Hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists plan to fly to Israel's Ben Gurion Airport and protest the country's policies toward the Palestinians there.

Activists hope the "fly-in," scheduled for July 8, will disrupt airport operations, including departing and arriving flights. Most of the activists are from Europe, the Jerusalem Post reported.

The activists plan to declare "Palestine" as their destination once they land in Israel, according to reports. They face being denied entry to Israel and deportation. They reportedly will demonstrate if denied entry. more

Canadian boat to Gaza intercepted by Greek coastguard

(pic: The canadian boat The Tahrir being towed back to port by the Greek coastguard)

From the Jerusalem Post
ATHENS - The Greek coastguard on Monday intercepted a Canadian ship which had set sail for Gaza carrying medicine and pro-Palestinian activists who had defied a ban by the Athens government, an activist said.

The boat, named "Tahrir", had left a port in Crete, a Reuters witness said. Greek authorities have said that ships carrying activists destined for Gaza with aid for Palestinians were prohibited from leaving Greek ports.

The activist told Reuters that the crew of nearly 50 people was comprised mostly Canadians. There were no further details immediately available.
More detail on Al Jazeera
A Canadian boat taking part in a planned aid flotilla to Gaza has been boarded by Greek coast guards after attempting to break out of Crete harbour, according to activists aboard the vessel.

Most of the boats which hoped to sail to Gaza in an effort to break Israel's blockade of the Palestinian territory have been stuck in Greek ports after being refused permission to embark on the journey by Greek authorities.

The Tahrir sailed 15 minutes out of harbour in an attempt to reach international waters before it was intercepted by coastguards, activists told Al Jazeera.

Al Jazeera spoke with activists on the boat as it was being boarded by members of the Greek coast guard.

"Some of the Greek coast guard have boarded and are trying to take control of the vessel," Dylan Penner, a member of the steering committee of the boat, told Al Jazeera while the boat was still sailing away from the harbour.

"We’re about 15 minutes out of port, and still under power. We are still moving forward. We still have control of the Tahrir."

But members of the coast guard promptly took control of the vessel and are currently bringing it back to port, Penner said.

"We were going 15 knots for 15 minutes, attempting to reach international waters that are 95km from the coast," Penner said. "I estimate that we made it a quarter of the way."

The coast guard boat was parked near the marina guarding the Tahrir, Penner said: "We saw a window of opportunity and took it by using kayakers to block the coast guard. But eventually the coast guard ship caught up with us, and launched a Zodiak from which we were boarded.”

On Friday the US boat, The Audacity of Hope, left port, only to be blocked by the coast guard, who towed the ship back to port, where it is being detained. The captain of that boat was jailed and charged with a felony.

Earlier, David Heap, aboard the Tahrir, said that preventing the boats from sailing was a "clear violation" of human rights.

"The Tahrir is leaving port in Crete, and we are breaking through Israel's Gaza blockade which now extends to Greek ports," Heap said. more
And more at Electronic Intifada including the statement issued before the Canadian boat set sail
Agios Nikolaos, Greece - With the support of Greek civil society and people from all around the world the Tahrir is casting off from Greece today. “The Tahrir is leaving port in Crete, and we are breaking through Israel’s Gaza blockade which now extends to Greek ports,” said David Heap from aboard the Tahrir. ”Israel’s expansion of the Gaza blockade to Greece is just the latest example of how the blockade of Gaza is about attacking freedom, not increasing security.”

Article 13.2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right to leave any country”. Preventing flotilla ships from leaving Greek ports is a clear violation of this human right.

“Greece has no right to detain foreign-flagged ships in its ports other than for purposes of assuring seaworthiness via timely inspection. And they cannot interfere with ‘innocent passage’ through their territorial waters, and this passage is definitely innocent,” said Richard Falk, American professor of international law and an appointee to two United Nations positions on the Palestinian territories.

“Greece’s position is disturbing but this should not divert our attention from Israel and its illegal and inhumane blockade of Gaza. Israel is the source of the problem and it will be held accountable by the international community – sooner or later,” said Sandra Ruch, from the Tahrir steering committee.

Support actions have been and continue to be held at Greek consulates all over Canada (as well as in cities all over the world) calling on the Greek government to end its support of the Israeli blockade of Gaza and immediately lift the blockade it is imposing on the Flotilla boats from Greece’s ports.

The Canadian Boat to Gaza has sent letter to all Greek MPs asking them to let the flotilla boats go: http://www.tahrir.ca/content/letter-members-greek-parliament
more

Palestinian Authority will pay employees only half their salaries because donor pledges unfulfilled


RAMALLAH, West Bank — The Palestinian Authority will pay its employees only half their monthly salaries in July, the prime minister told reporters here on Sunday, because of what he said was “the failure of donors, including our Arab brothers, to fulfill their pledges.”

Prime Minister Salam Fayyad added that the salaries would be paid in full when the promised funds arrived.

Mr. Fayyad last warned of a financial crisis in May when Israel briefly delayed the transfer of tax revenue it collects on behalf of the Palestinians. The delay was a response to a reconciliation accord reached between Fatah, the party that dominates the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, and Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza.

Then, too, Mr. Fayyad appealed for assistance, particularly from Arab countries, saying that they had been slow to fulfill their pledges since 2010. more

Gas supplies from Egypt to Israel cut after pipeline bombed for third time


CAIRO (AFP) -- Saboteurs bombed an Egyptian gas pipeline in the Sinai peninsula on Monday, sending flames into the sky and cutting supplies to Israel and Jordan, a security official said.

Officials said a car had parked near the pipeline in the Bir Al-Abd area, 80 kilometers from the north Sinai town of El-Arish, shortly before the explosion.

They said the bomb was activated remotely.

Emergency services were deployed to the area to try to bring the fire under control, an official said.

Witnesses said the flames reached as high as 10 meters. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

It was the third attack since February, when an uprising toppled former President Hosni Mubarak and saw power handed over to a military council. more

Canadian boat Tahrir plans to head to third-party port to circumvent Greek edict against Gaza travel


From the Montreal Gazette
The pro-Palestinian flotilla stuck in various Greek ports by government edict may try to reach ports in another country on its way to Gaza, the Quebec representative of the Canadian ship in the 10-boat fleet says.

Stéphan Corriveau, Quebec coordinator of the Canadian delegation, said in a telephone interview from Agios Nikolaos on Crete's northern shore that "we intend to get to Gaza, although we may have to make a pitstop or two along the way."

Athens has prohibited the humanitarian mini-armada from leaving port if they are headed to Gaza to try to breach Israel's blockade of the Palestinian enclave. But Corriveau said the ships may be able to leave if they sail to third-country ports.

"But we will not divulge which (port or country)."

Greece tried to appease activists Sunday, offering to deliver aid "through existing channels" and reaching out to the Palestinian Authority. more

Imprisoned American captain of US boat to Gaza held in 'shocking conditions', receives no consular help


ATHENS (AFP) -- The captain of a US vessel intercepted after it tried to defy a ban and sail for Gaza from Greece was being held in "shocking conditions" Sunday and has not received consular assistance, a lawyer said.

Captain John Klusmer was arrested when the US boat Audacity of Hope -- the flagship in a flotilla of pro-Palestinian activists -- attempted to leave Greek waters on Friday after Athens banned all Gaza-bound ships from setting sail.

Klusmer was charged with two felonies and ordered to appear in court Tuesday. The US Boat to Gaza organization said he was being held in jail in "shocking conditions" and as far as it was aware, had not yet received consular assistance.

New York lawyer Richard Levy -- a passenger on the boat who has visited Klusmer in jail in a port town near Athens -- told enraged US activists that "he had no bed or toilet in his cell, and is receiving no food or water". more

Israeli group Stand With US 'flotilla facts' are bogus and a misrepresentation of the truth


The pro-Israeli group StandWithUS has created a website aimed at rebutting the charges against Israel vis a vis the siege of Gaza and the naval blockade. Fortunately for the pro-Palestine movement and those who support the latest anti-blockade flotilla, its nine 'basic facts' are mostly opinion and half truths. In fact that is too generous: the 'facts' are entirely made up of biased assertions and downright distortions. Unfortunately, some Western governments are either parroting uncritically the same assertions and/or allowing the underlying pro-Israel bias of these supposed 'facts' t guide their current policy towards the flotilla which has many of its boats currently ensnared by the Greek government. Let's have a look at these 'facts' below [numbered and in italics].

The 2011 Flotilla II: 9 Basic Facts

1) The flotilla organizers blatantly violate international law by trying to breach a legal maritime blockade. According to international and customary law, Israel has the legal right to impose a land and naval blockade on Hamas-controlled Gaza. Hamas is openly dedicated to Israel’s destruction, has been in an ongoing state of armed conflict against Israel, and has fired over 10,000 rockets into Israeli civilian centers. Israel has the legal right and responsibility to protect its citizens by inspecting goods entering Gaza to prevent weapons from reaching Hamas.

‘The legal position is plain. A vessel outwith the territorial waters (12 mile limit) of a coastal state is on the high seas under the sole jurisdiction of the flag state of the vessel. The ship has a positive right of passage on the high seas. The coastal state can regulate economic activity exploiting the resources of the seas and continental shelf up to 200 miles, the extent of the continental shelf, or the agreed boundary, but there is no indication of fishing, oil drilling or analagous economic activity in this case. The vessel is entitled to free passage.

‘This right of free passage is guaranteed by the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas, to which the United States is a full party. Any incident which takes place upon a US flagged ship on the High Seas is subject to United States legal jurisdiction. A ship is entitled to look to its flag state for protection from attack on the High Seas.

‘Israel has declared a blockade on Gaza and justified previous fatal attacks on neutral civilian vessels on the High Seas in terms of enforcing that embargo, under the legal cover given by theSan Remo Manual of International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea.

‘There are however fundamental flaws in this line of argument. It falls completely on one fact alone. San Remo only applies to blockade in times of armed conflict. Israel is not currently engaged in an armed conflict, and presumably does not wish to be. San Remo does not confer any right to impose a permanent blockade outwith times of armed conflict, and in fact specifically excludes as illegal a general blockade on an entire population.

‘It should not be denied that Israel suffers from sporadic terrorist attacks emanating from Gaza. However this does not come close to reaching the bar of armed conflict that would trigger the right to impose a limited naval blockade in terms of San Remo. To make a comparison, in the 1970′s and 1980′s the United Kingdom suffered continued terrorist attack from the Irish Republican Army, with much more murderous impact causing many more deaths than anything Israel has suffered in recent years from Gaza. However nobody would seek to argue that the UK would have had the right to mount a general naval blockade of the Republic of Ireland in the 1970′s and 1980′s, even though the Republic was undoubtedly the base for much IRA supply and operations. Justifications of Israeli naval action against neutral civilian ships by San Remo is based on special pleading and an impossibly strained definition of the term “armed conflict’. “

http://workforjusticenow.com/blog/?p=45

2) The flotilla organizers intend to aid and support Hamas, which is designated a terrorist organization by members of the international community, including the U.S., Canada, Israel, the EU, Japan, and Jordan. Hamas’ founding document calls for the murder of Jews, the “obliteration” of Israel, and Israel’s replacement with an Islamist theocracy.
The majority of the countries of the world DO NOT designate Hamas as a terrorist organisation.
As for the Charter red herring, this from Wikipedia:

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal indicated to Robert Pastor, senior adviser to the Carter Center, that the Charter is "a piece of history and no longer relevant, but cannot be changed for internal reasons."[73] Hamas do not use the Charter on their website and prefer to use their election manifesto to put forth their agenda.[74][75] Pastor states that those who quote the charter rather than more recent Hamas statements may be using the Charter as an excuse to ignore Hamas.[73]

British diplomat and former British ambassador to the UN Sir Jeremy Greenstock stated in early 2009 that the Hamas charter was "drawn up by a Hamas-linked imam some [twenty] years ago and has never been adopted since Hamas was elected as the Palestinian government in 2006".[76] Mohammed Nimer of American University comments on the Charter, “It’s a tract meant to mobilize support and it should be amended... It projects anger, not vision.”[77] Dr. Ahmed Yousef an adviser to Ismail Haniyeh has questioned the use of the charter by Israel and its supporters to brand Hamas as a fundamentalist, terrorist, racist, anti-Semitic organization and claims that they have taken parts of the charter out of context for propaganda purposes. He claims that they dwell on the charter and ignore that Hamas has changed its views with time.[78]

In March 2006, Hamas released its official legislative program. The document clearly signaled that Hamas could refer the issue of recognizing Israel to a national referendum. Under the heading “Recognition of Israel,” it stated simply (AFP, 3/11/06): “The question of recognizing Israel is not the jurisdiction of one faction, nor the government, but a decision for the Palestinian people.This was a major shift away from their 1988 charter”[79]

3) The flotilla organizers are trying to provoke a violent confrontation. If they were sincerely concerned about humanitarian aid for Gazans, they would deliver it through official Israeli entry points. Israel has repeatedly offered to deliver goods after officially inspecting them for weapons. The organizers have refused to comply. Instead, they hope their provocative, hostile breach of the blockade will compel Israel to use force and make Israel look like an aggressor.
StandWithUS produce no evidence to back their claim that Flotilla 2 plans to deliver anything other than humanitarian aid or to show that those involved are intent on violence. On the contrary, passengers have been engaged in nonviolence training and have all pledged not to use violence. Israel has only allowed one crossing to be opened, sporadically, into Gaza at Kerem Shalom in the south. All the major commercial crossings remain closed. Attempts to transfer goods through Israel in the past have either been obstructed or arrived late in soiled and unusable condition or been confiscated. Although the Rafah crossing into Egypt is now open it is not a commercial crossing and does not have the facilities and infrastructure to handle such movements. Egypt continues to place restrictions on the movement of people through the crossing.
4) Gazans are not facing a humanitarian emergency that justifies breaching the blockade. Humanitarian and consumer goods enter Gaza on a daily basis. UN officials repeatedly confirm that there is an ample supply of food and consumer goods. Israel only limits the entry of dual-purpose goods that could be used for weapons. International statistics indicate that Gazans have a higher standard of living than people in nearly all of Africa, including South Africa, as well as parts of Asia and the Middle East. In fact, Gaza faces a glut of goods, not a shortage of goods, according to recent press reports.
According to the UN more than half of the population are dependent on aid and unemployment is among the highest in the world. Most water in Gaza is not fit for human consumption. There is currently a severe shortage of medical supplies.
An Israeli government document released as a result of a lawsuit in 2010, entitledFood Consumption in the Gaza Strip – Red Lines, “meticulously details the minimum caloric intake required, based on age and sex, to keep Gazans hovering just above malnutrition levels, and specifies the corresponding grams and calories of each type of food allowed into Gaza.” In 2007, Gaza’s UNRWA Operations Director John Ging stated that “the entire civilian population in Gaza” was subject to “human suffering and misery” and said his agency was “unable to provide more than 61 per cent of the necessary calories to refugees.” Accordingto the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, “between 2007 and 2009 the caloric intake per capita in Gaza and the West Bank decreased by 18 percent.” http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2011/07/02/the-no-humanitarian-crisis-in-gaza-canard/
5) Hamas, not Israel, has caused the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza. Hamas has chosen war against Israel instead of peaceful coexistence. It has imposed a repressive, dictatorial, fundamentalist regime on Gaza residents and has murdered its political rivals.
Clearly these are statements of opinion and not facts but it is worth reminding the authors of these 'facts' that it is was Hamas that won the election in Gaza and an armed coup was launched against them at the behest of the US and Israel, using Fatah as their proxy. It was Israel not Hamas that killed 1,400 people, mostly civilians, in Operation Cast Lead in 2008/9. Only 13 Israelis were killed, mostly soldiers.
6) Flotilla organizers claim to be “nonviolent peace activists” and “human rights activists.” They are not. They are members of extremist organizations that support terrorist groups and are dedicated to the destruction of Israel. The Free Gaza Movement is an affiliate of the International Solidarity Movement, which opposes the existence of the Jewish state. The IHH (Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation) is a Turkish Islamist organization with links to jihadist organizations in Bosnia, Syria, Iraq, Libya, and elsewhere.
In no documents or pronouncements has the Free Gaza Movement, the International Solidarity Movement or the IHH called for the destruction of the state of Israel and no attribution is provided by StandWithUS to support this claim. The suggestion that they are 'extremist' organisations is not supported by the evidence, unless calling for an end to the occupation of the Palestinian territories is 'extremist' - if it is, then it requires the addition of the overwhelming majority of the governments of the world and the United Nations to StandWithUs's list of 'extremist' organisations. No members of the organisations mentioned have killed any Israelis. However, members of both ISM and IHH have had members killed at the hands of Israeli armed forces.
7) If flotilla organizers really were peace and human rights activists, they would not go to Gaza but to Libya or Syria, where the brutal Assad regime has arrested, tortured, and murdered thousands of nonviolent, freedom-seeking demonstrators and has caused thousands of others to become refugees.
Again, there are no facts presented here, merely assertions and opinions. The Arab revolutionaries are taking on their brutal and dictatorial rulers, in the case of Tunisa and Egypt quite successfully so far. Incidentally, the dictatorial rulers Stand With US refer to have been kept in power with the support of the West and Israel.
8) The flotilla organizers are violating, not upholding, one of the most fundamental human rights—a nation’s right and responsibility to protect itself from enemies bent on murdering its citizens and destroying its state. “As a country, we will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by when our people have been killed. We will be relentless in defense of our citizens.” —U.S. President Barack Obama, May 1, 2011

9) International leaders oppose the flotilla:

US: “[G]roups and individuals who seek to break Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza are taking irresponsible and provocative actions. … We want to just reiterate that there are established and efficient mechanisms for getting humanitarian assistance through to Gaza.” —U.S. State Department Spokesman Mark Toner, June 1, 2011

UN: “The secretary-general called on all governments concerned to use their influence to discourage such flotillas, which carry the potential to escalate into violent conflict.” —Spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, May 27, 2011

Canada: “Unauthorized efforts to deliver aid are provocative and, ultimately, unhelpful to the people of Gaza. Canada recognizes Israel’s legitimate security concerns and its right to protect itself and its residents from attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups, including by preventing the smuggling of weapons.” — Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, May 28, 2011

France: “[T]he boarding of any naval vessels which are known to have the intention of breaking the naval blockade imposed on Gaza is strongly discouraged, given the security risks associated with such an undertaking.” —Official Statement

EU: “I don’t consider a flotilla to be the right response.” —Catherine Ashton, EU High Commissioner for Foreign Policy

Turkey: “We are reconsidering our plans [about participating in the flotilla]. … From our point of view, the developments in neighboring Syria are critically important.” —IHH Board Member Hüseyin Oruç, June 14

Most governments and people would agree that there is not a state of war existing between Hamas and Israel at the moment. In the past two months at least 60 Palestinians have been killed by Israel while not a single Israeli citizen has died. It is the Palestinians that are in need of defence, not the Israelis. The international community is not composed merely of western nations but of all the countries of the world. From that standpoint it is clear that the overwhelming majority do not oppose the flotilla. On the one hand StandWithUS declare the Turkish charitable organisation IHH to be supporters of 'Jihadists' while on the other quoting them approvingly, as above. They really can't have it both ways. And, besides, the quote is entirely out of context as members of IHH have joined the other vessels in the flotilla and IHH has put down the non-appearance of the Mavi Marmara to 'technical difficulties'.

Greece offers to ferry aid to Palestine so why won't they escort flotilla to deliver direct to Gaza?


(pic: Greek commandos boarding The Audacity of Hope)

(Reuters) - Greece offered to ferry humanitarian aid to the Palestinian Authority on Sunday after banning a pro-Palestinian flotilla bound for Gaza from departing from its ports and arresting the captain of one of the boats.

The convoy of cargo and passenger boats carrying volunteers from countries including the United States, Canada, France and Spain was due to depart at least a week ago.

In a telephone call with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou offered to ferry the humanitarian aid, mainly food and medicines, to Gaza in cooperation with the United Nations. more

British pro-Palestine groups to deliver letter to Greek Ambassador demanding release of flotilla boats


Freegaza.org

British Peace groups to deliver letter to Greek Ambassador demanding the release of the Freedom Flotilla boats to Gaza

London, 3 July 2011 - On Monday the 4th of July at 12:30 activists from Free Gaza, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Friends of Al Aqsa, Britain to Gaza, Palestine Forum in Britain, and Action Palestine will go to the Greek Embassy, 1A Holland Park, London W11 3TP with a request to see HE Mr Aristidis C Sandis. We will deliver a letter from the above groups demanding the release of the Freedom Flotilla boats to Gaza.

Organisers of the Gaza-bound flotilla said Sunday in Greece they have not abandoned their plans to breach Israel's sea blockade of the territory despite a Greek government ban on their vessels leaving the country's port. The organisers of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla 2 have called on world citizens to request their governments advocate for the release of the boats and their safe passage to Gaza. A call has also been put out for citizens to protest at Greek embassies around the world and demand they release the boats.

The campaign experienced a major setback when Greece announced its restrictions on Friday stating that no boats in Greek ports would be allowed to leave. Several protesters from the American vessel that was intercepted by Greek authorities began what they described as an "open-ended fast" outside the U.S. Embassy and planned to stay there overnight. They want Washington to pressure Greece to release their American captain, John Klusmire, and allow them to depart for Gaza.

Activists believe that Israel, which has extensive economic trade and investments in Greece, is exerting pressure on the Greek government. According to an American passenger, Medea Benjamin, "It is unconscionable that Israel would take advantage of the economic hardship the Greek people are experiencing to try to stop our boat or the flotilla."

For further information go to: freegaza.org

Contact (London):
Alex Harrison, 07594 857448
Mary Thomas, 07542 358318
Munir Nuseibah, 07521 378029 (Arabic Contact)

Copy of the letter below:

HE Mr Aristidis C Sandis
Embassy of Greece
1A Holland Park
London W11 3TP

4th July 2011

Dear Ambassador,

We, members and supporters of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla II, are outraged by your government?s decision to close the ports of Greece to our initiative. In doing so, it has allowed Israel to export the blockade of Gaza to Greece.

The Israeli Government siege of Gaza has been declared illegal collective punishment by the International Red Cross. We remind the Greek government that it has a responsibility to prevent the commission of war crimes such as this. Participating in Israel?s naval blockade and illegal siege on the Gaza Strip is against international law and humanity.This decision not only violates the consecrated principle within international law of the freedom of the seas and the ancient tradition of freedom of the Mediterranean, but also disregards the claim to self-determination of the people of Palestine.

The Freedom Flotilla seeks to peacefully challenge the unlawful siege of Gaza. Greece?s obstruction is unjustifiable and immoral. It places Greece in the position of being a collaborator with injustice.

Flotilla passengers have come from across the globe to the shores of Greece in order to put into practice our solidarity with the oppressed people of Gaza. The members of this international human rights mission demand, on behalf of the people of Gaza, the same right to move that has been granted for centuries to the Greek people in our countries.

Do not allow Israel to export the blockade to Greece. Do not collaborate in the siege of Gaza. Let us sail immediately!

Sincerely,

Alex Harrison, for the Board of Free Gaza
Sarah Colbourne, Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Ismail Patel, Friends of Al Aqsa
Zaher Birawi, Britain to Gaza, Palestine Forum in Britain
Action Palestine

Free Gaza Movement Board of Directors
Huwaida Arraf, (chair)
Greta Berlin
Audrey Bomse
Eliza Ernshire
Alex Harrison
Ewa Jasiewicz
Fathi Jaouadi
Niamh Moloughney
Adam Shapiro

Annex: ICRC News Release 10/103 Gaza Closure - Not Another Year!
http://www.icrc.org/eng/resources/documents/update/palestine-update-140610.htm

Eight arrested outside US embassy in Athens - keep up pressure on Greek and US governments


[July 4 2011 -all the detained have been released - none were arrested]

From US Boat to Gaza

Just got word from Athens: the 8 people who were fasting in front of the U.S. Embassy have been arrested. They are Ken Mayers, Carol Murry, Medea Benjamin, Paki Wieland, Ray McGovern, Brad Taylor, Kit Kitteridge and Kathy Kelly. We will not have any more news until the morning.

In the meantime, let's keep the pressure on Washington. They need to pressure the Greek government to release our captain, our boat and now these 8 people as well! Let them sail to Gaza!!!

Throughout this country people have responded to our call to contact the U.S. State Department to demand that they take the steps necessary to ensure that the Greek authorities immediately release the captain and let our boat sail to Gaza. In fact, there has been such a strong response that we are hearing their voice mailboxes are full! That's great, but of course frustrating for those of you trying to make those calls.

Here are some other phone numbers and email addresses to try:
State Department general number: 202-647-4000 - ask for the Overseas U.S. Citizen Services Duty Officer and you'll get a live State Dept. official who has to hear you out.

The voicemail for Kim Richter - also at the State Dept. - says she's out of the office for several days, and that callers with urgent issues should contact a colleague at 202-647-4578.

If you can place an international phone call, the number for the U.S. Embassy in Athens is 011-30-210-721-2951.

You can email the U.S. Embassy in Athens at: athensamemb@state.gov or you can send an email to them at: athensamericancitizenservices@state.gov

Please also try to call, fax or email your members of Congress as well.

Help us keep the pressure up!!