Both Israel and the U.S. have urged the flotilla not to violate the Gaza blockade. The mission is a dangerous attention getting stunt.
The United Nations and European Union have backed Israeli and the U.S. in their position, which calls for the flotilla to dock in an Israeli or Egyptian port and transfer their cargo to Gaza legally over land. Activists reject this peaceful solution for getting aid into Gaza, and say that the blockade is illegal and immoral. Breaking the blockade and drawing international attention to themselves seems to be the activists’ highest priority and not actually getting aid and medical supplies to the people in need.
Speaking from Athens, Greta Berlin says the mission to Gaza will go ahead.
”Our intent is to sail; it’s always been our intent,” Berlin added. “And we don’t give up very easily. We will continue to sail until Gaza is free.”
Israel has warned the flotilla that if it does try to break through the blockade to Gaza, the Navy will intercept. The naval blockade is necessary to prevent weapons and outside communication, which the activists are also carrying, from reaching the Palestinian militant group Hamas that rules Gaza. Israel and the West consider Hamas a terrorist organization and a threat to world peace.
The Greek government has stepped to the front by curbing tempers, preventing an international incident and ultimately saving the activists from themselves
July 2, 2011
U.S. Boat to Gaza Seized by Greek Authorities
and Captain Jailed
Passengers Determined to Free Captain
and Set Sail Again
Athens–After a two hour stand off at sea, the U.S. Boat to Gaza - The Audacity of Hope - was seized by the Greek Coast Guard and forced to return to the port of Piraeus under military escort. The boat’s captain has been put in jail, charged with disturbing sea traffic–which includes endangering the lives of those on the ships– and disobeying a police order to remain at dock. The crew is being detained on the boat, which is being held at a military dock just outside Athens. Most of the 36 passengers remain on the ship in solidarity with the captain and crew.
Earlier today the U.S. Boat to Gaza - The Audacity of Hope – was stopped by the Greek Coast Guard. After a stand off that unfolded over several hours a 2nd Greek Coast Guard boat arrived. This boat carried heavily armed Greek commandos and this shifted the dynamic. Soon after a decision was made to bring the boat back to a dock in Athens, not the same one the boat had previously been at.
Once docked the flotilla learned that the Greek authorities are most likely going to bring some type of charges against the captain of the boat, and that should happen tomorrow (Saturday) morning. In solidarity with the captain, most of the activists and crewmembers decided to spend the night on the boat. It is reported that they do not yet know what their plans are for tomorrow, or what the next steps in all of this will be. Up dates will be posted as they come in.
Of course the activists feel that the good news today was not that they were turened back, but that there was a tremendous outpouring of calls and emails sent to the Greek Embassy in Washington, DC as well as Greek consulates around the country. According to the activists on the flotilla with limited communication, they state that many people have also contacted the U.S. State Dept. urging them to stop supporting the Israeli efforts to undermine the flotilla.
Currently detained by the Greek Coast Guard with a second, more heavily armed ship arriving, the Flotilla humanitarian aid ship named, The Audacity of Hope, has now agreed to return to the Greek port.
- Photo by Karl W Hoffman
Who we are;
We are a coalition of organizations and a grassroots campaign of individuals who together are joining to launch a U.S. BOAT TO GAZA. When the U.S. boat, THE AUDACITY OF HOPE, sails it will take its place in the next Freedom Flotilla to participate in the great international effort to break the blockade of Gaza and to end the occupation of Palestine. From the deck of The Audacity of Hope, we will be in a powerful and unique position to challenge U.S. foreign policy and affirm the universal obligation to uphold international law and human rights.
We agree to adhere to the principles of nonviolence and nonviolent resistance in word and deed at all times.
Humanitarians claim there has been pressure put on Greece by Israel and the U.S. to block the flotilla. They further claim Israelis have threatened economic sanctions if Greece did not cooperate in preventing the flotilla from leaving Greek ports. Greek authorities have blocked the boats from leaving by levying unwarranted administrative burdens. A complaint against The Audacity of Hopeboat turned out to have been filed by a Jerusalem based organization called the Israel Law Center, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanayahu publicly acknowledged the Greek prime minister’s cooperation in efforts to stop the flotilla.
The issues involving Israel and the Gaza Strip are complex and have been at the center of social and religious conflict for centuries
Involved in anti American and international affairs it is not surprising to find the subversive anti government group No More Deaths behind this international demonstration, with several of their members aboard the Ship. It is interesting that this group will use the American Flag to give a false impression of sanction and validity.
“The U.S. Boat to Gaza, THE AUDACITY OF HOPE, is committed to breaking the siege of Gaza by sailing a U.S. flagged ship in the International Freedom Flotilla this summer.” Gabriel Matthew Schivone is a Chicano-Jewish American from Tucson. He is the founder and coordinator of the initial chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace at the UA campus, one of nearly 30 JVP chapters throughout the country, which has a mailing list of 100,000 – and thereafter branches in the general Tucson and Northern Arizona communities, and at Arizona State University, in Phoenix. Schivone is also a member of No More Deaths and a passenger on the flotilla.
The risk of an Israeli attack on the flotilla is real. Israeli commandoes assaulted a similar flotilla in international waters on May 31 of last year, killing nine people on board one of the vessels, including Furkan Dogan, a 19-year old activist and U.S. citizen. Scores of others, including a number of Americans, were brutally beaten and more than a dozen others were shot but survived their wounds. The Obama administration never filed a complaint with the Israeli government.
This administration appears to have given a green light to Israel to defend them selves from activists who seem bent on aiding and supporting their enemies. Either at our own borders or internationally there should be no sanctions or support from the U.S Government for those taking the law in to their own hands even if it is passive and non violent.
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
June 23, 2011
SECRETARY CLINTON: “Well, we do not believe that the flotilla is a necessary or useful effort to try to assist the people of Gaza. Just this week, the Israeli Government approved a significant commitment to housing in Gaza. There will be construction materials entering Gaza and we think that it’s not helpful for there to be flotillas that try to provoke actions by entering into Israeli waters and creating a situation in which the Israelis have the right to defend themselves.”
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Israel, the West Bank and Gaza
June 22, 2011
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of traveling to Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip, and about threats to themselves and to U.S. interests in those locations. The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to remain mindful of security factors when planning travel to Israel and the West Bank and to avoid all travel to the Gaza Strip. This replaces the Travel Warning issued August 10, 2010, to update information on the general security environment and to warn against participation in any attempt to reach Gaza by sea.
The Gaza Strip and Southern Israel
The Department of State strongly urges that U.S. citizens refrain from all travel to the Gaza Strip. This recommendation applies to all U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens should be aware that as a consequence of a longstanding prohibition on travel by U.S. citizen employees of the U.S. Government into the Gaza Strip, the ability of consular staff to offer timely assistance to U.S. citizens there is extremely limited, including the provision of routine consular services.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) strictly controls the crossing points between Israel and the Gaza Strip. The security environment within Gaza, including its border with Egypt and its seacoast, is dangerous and volatile. U.S. citizens are advised against traveling to Gaza by any means, including via sea. Previous attempts to enter Gaza by sea have been stopped by Israeli naval vessels and resulted in the injury, death, arrest, and deportation of U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens participating in any effort to reach Gaza by sea should understand that they may face arrest, prosecution, and deportation by the Government of Israel. The Government of Israel has announced its intention to seek ten-year travel bans to Israel for anyone participating in an attempt to enter Gaza by sea. On May 31, 2010, nine people were killed, including one U.S. citizen, in such an attempt. The U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv and the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem are not able to provide consular assistance in Gaza or on the high seas or coastal waters.
From December 27, 2008, through January 17, 2009, Israel conducted a military operation in Gaza. Israel and Hamas, a State Department-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization that violently seized power in Gaza in June 2007, declared separate truces to end the fighting. Small clashes continue to occur along the boundary of the Gaza Strip. Rockets and mortars are still fired into Israel from Gaza, and Israel continues to conduct military operations inside Gaza, including airstrikes. Israel has also declared an exclusion zone inside Gaza along its boundary with Israel and has taken lethal measures against individuals who enter it. The Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza is open, but it does not operate full time, and U.S. citizens are not always able to leave Gaza at a time of their choosing.
In the past, some rockets have traveled more than 40 km (24 miles) from Gaza and landed as far north as Yavne and Gadera and as far east as Beersheva. As a result of possible military operations by the Government of Israel in Gaza and the ever-present risk of rocket and mortar attacks into Israel from Gaza, U.S. government personnel travelling in the vicinity of the Gaza Strip boundary, to include the city of Sderot, require approval from the Embassy’s Regional Security Office. U.S. citizens in the area should be aware of the risks and should take note of announcements by the Government of Israel’s office of Homefront Command.
The West Bank
The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to exercise caution when traveling to the West Bank. Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces are now deployed in all major cities and other limited areas within the West Bank. As a result, violence in recent years has decreased markedly throughout the West Bank. Nonetheless, demonstrations and violent incidents can occur without warning. Vehicles have also been the target of rocks, Molotov cocktails and gunfire on West Bank roads. The IDF continues to carry out security operations in the West Bank. Israeli security operations, including incursions in Palestinian population centers, can occur at any time and lead to disturbances and violence. U.S. citizens can be caught in the middle of potentially dangerous situations. Some U.S. citizens involved in demonstrations in the West Bank have sustained serious injuries in confrontations with Israeli security forces. The State Department recommends that U.S. citizens, for their own safety, avoid demonstrations.
During periods of unrest, the Israeli Government sometimes closes off access to the West Bank and those areas may be placed under curfew. All persons in areas under curfew should remain indoors to avoid risking arrest or injury. U.S. citizens have been killed, seriously injured, or detained and deported as a result of encounters with Israeli operations in the West Bank. Travel restrictions may be imposed by Israel with little or no warning. Strict measures have frequently been imposed following terrorist actions, and the movement of PalestinianAmericans, both those with residency status in the West Bank or Gaza as well as foreign passport holders, has been severely impeded. Security conditions in the West Bank can hinder the ability of consular staff to offer timely assistance to U.S. citizens.
The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to remain vigilant while traveling throughout Jerusalem, including in commercial and downtown areas of West Jerusalem. Spontaneous or planned protests within the Old City are possible, especially after Friday prayers. Some of these protests have led to violent clashes. Travelers should exercise caution at religious sites on holy days, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Isolated street protests and demonstrations can also occur in areas of East Jerusalem, including around Salah Ed-Din Street, Damascus Gate, Silwan and the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. U.S. Government employees are authorized to visit the Old City from 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., but not between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. on Fridays. The area of the ramparts on the city wall between Herod’s Gate and Lion’s Gate is off-limits to U.S. Government personnel at all times. The Sherover or Haas Promenade (scenic overlook) located in Armon Hanatziv is open to U.S. Government personnel during daylight hours only. Official personnel and their family members are prohibited from using public buses and bus terminals or stations.
Travel Restrictions for U.S. Government Personnel
Personal travel in the West Bank for U.S. Government personnel and their families is allowed for limited mission-approved purposes in the areas described below. They may travel to Bethlehem on weekends and holidays during daylight hours only and to Jericho on weekends and holidays; and transit through the West Bank using Routes 1 and 90 to reach the Allenby/King Hussein Bridge, or the Dead Sea coast near Ein Gedi and Masada. They also may travel north on Route 90 from the Allenby/King Hussein Bridge to the Sea of Galilee. Use of these routes is approved for transit purposes during daylight hours, with stops permitted only at roadside facilities on Highways 1 and 90. Personal travel also is permitted to Qumran National Park off Route 90 by the Dead Sea, and all areas south of Highway 1 and east of route 90 (Dead Sea area). Each transit requires prior notification to the Consulate General’s security office.
U.S. Government personnel and family members are permitted both official and personal travel on Route 443 between Modi’in and Jerusalem without prior notification between the hours of 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. only. All other personal travel in the West Bank, unless specifically authorized for mission-approved purposes, is prohibited.
General Safety and Security
Israeli authorities remain concerned about the continuing threat of terrorist attacks. U.S. citizens are cautioned that a greater danger may exist around restaurants, businesses, and other places associated with U.S. interests and/or located near U.S. official buildings, such as the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv and the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem. U.S. citizens are also urged to exercise a high degree of caution and to use common sense when patronizing restaurants, nightclubs, cafes, malls, places of worship, and theaters, especially during peak hours. Large crowds and public gatherings have been targeted by terrorists in the past and should be avoided to the extent practicable. U.S. Government personnel have been directed to avoid protests and demonstrations and urged to maintain a high level of vigilance and situational awareness at all times. U.S. citizens should take into consideration that public buses, and their respective terminals are “off-limits” to U.S. Governmentpersonnel.
Two U.S. citizens were murdered in separate incidents while walking in the woods in the Beit Shemesh area near Jerusalem in the last 18 months. Israeli authorities characterized the murders as terrorist attacks.
A bomb blast near the Central Bus Terminal in Jerusalem on March 23, 2011 injured several U.S. citizens.
In the Golan Heights and West Bank, there are live landmines in many areas and visitors should walk only on established roads or trails.
U.S. citizens planning to travel to Israel or the West Bank should read carefully the detailed information concerning entry and exit difficulties in the Country Specific Information sheet. U.S. citizens in Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip are strongly encouraged to enroll with the Consular Sections of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv or the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem through the State Department’sSmart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). Occasional warden messages issued by the Embassy and the Consulate General are e-mailed to registered U.S. citizens and are posted on State Department websites to highlight time-sensitive security concerns.
U.S. citizens who require emergency services may telephone the Consulate General in Jerusalem at (972) (2) 630-4000, after hours (for emergencies): (972) (2) 622-7250, or the Embassy in Tel Aviv at (972) (3) 519-7575, after hours (for emergencies): (972) (3) 519-7551.
Current information on travel and security in Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip may be obtained from the Department of State by calling 1-888-407-4747 within the United States and Canada, or, from overseas, 1-202-501-4444. For additional and more in-depth information about specific aspects of travel to these areas, U.S. citizens should consult: the Country Specific Information for Israel, the West Bank and Gaza; and the Worldwide Caution. These along with other Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts andCountry Specific Informationare available on the Department’s Internet website. Up-to-date information on security conditions can also be accessed at http://usembassy-israel.org.ilor http://jerusalem.usconsulate.gov. Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on facebook as well.
Documentary Film Producer