After U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized the Free Gaza Campaign flotilla on June 24, it appears she and Washington green-lighted Saturday’s Greek armed attack on the unarmed Audacity of Hope vessel in the flotilla carrying 50 American peace and human rights activists helping to carry 3,000 tons of humanitarian aid to the besieged Gaza Strip as reported by AlJazeera.
“AIPAC influenced Hillary Clinton who green-lighted Israel’s use of force against Americans,” Al Jazeera had reported Monday. (See: “Targeted journalist to board Gaza flotilla despite Israeli warning (Video)”)
Threat of force was aimed specifically at journalists such as Joseph Dana, committed to the aid trip.
The U.S. State Department issued a public statement to discourage American participation in the second Gaza flotilla because Israeli forces might attack them. The State Department has not issued a public statement demanding that Israel not attack Americans legally traveling in international waters, according to Institute for Policy in Focus, Foreign Police in Focus (FPIF), the institute’s “Think Tank Without Walls” connecting research and action of over 600 scholars, advocates, and activists advocating for the United States to be a more responsible global partner.
Washington Post reported on June 29, “The organizers of a flotilla seeking to challenge Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip have been delayed from departing the a mounting campaign by Israeli officials to discredit the activists.”
Brad Sherman (D-CA), ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Relations Committee’s subcommittee on terrorism, nonproliferation and trade, claimed flotilla organizers have “clear terrorist ties” and called on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to prosecute U.S. citizens involved with the flotilla and ban foreign participants from ever entering the United States.
Saturday, after the attack on theAmerican Audacity of Hope vessel, one of the International Flotilla Committee organizer/ spokespersons, Adam Shapro told Al Jazeera: “The captain has been charged with a felony. Initially it [the charge] was a misdemeanor, but it has been upgraded to a felony.”
Al Jazeera reported Saturday, that on June 24, an anonymous complaint was filed against the ship’s “seaworthiness.” After that, “The Israel Law Centre (Shurat HaDin), took responsibility for the complaint in the Israeli media.”
“The Greek government put out a statement on Friday confirming that the Greek coast guard had enforced a decision by civil defence authorities to prevent all flotilla vessels from leaving Greek ports.
“Greece’s Civil Protection Ministry said coast guard authorities had been ordered to take “all appropriate measures” to implement the ban.
“By orders of the Hellenic Coast Guard Head Quarters to all local Hellenic Coast Guard Authorities, all appropriate measures are taken for the implementation of the said decision,” the statement on the website of the Greek embassy in Washington said.
“We [the International Flotilla committee] however will continue to challenge this [the Greek ban] and we are challenging it this weekend politically.’
Shapiro said, “We have people working in the political scene here in Greece to put pressure. We are working on the legal options and we intend to sail still to Gaza.”
At the press conference Saturday, the Greek solidarity activists’ spokesperson said, “We are feeling very offended from the stance of the Greek government which in reality has decided to move the seat of government of Gaza to the Greek shores.”
“There’s a crime scene going on in Gaza and we will not be stopped,” reported an American rights defender at the press conference.
Flotilla III is an international effort against the siege of Gaza, aiming to break the naval blockade imposed by Israel, with a flotilla of ships carrying aid and people.
The US Audacity of Hope is one of nine vessels carrying several hundred activists attempting to deliver aid to Gaza.
Foreign Policy in Focus reporter, Stephen Zunes wrote on June 30 that “Clinton did not explain why a country had “the right to defend themselves” against ships which are clearly no threat.”
“Not only have organizers of the flotilla gone to great steps to ensure are there no weapons on board, the only cargo bound for Gaza on the U.S. ship are letters of solidarity to the Palesti nians in that besieged enclave who have suffered under devastating Israeli bombardments, a crippling blockade, and a right-wing Islamist government.
“Nor did Clinton explain why the State Department suddenly considers the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of the port of Gaza to be “Israeli waters,” when the entire international community recognizes Israeli territorial waters as being well to the northeast of the ships’ intended route.”
Jospeh Dana, an Israeli-American journalist who writes for The Nation Magazine, stated on June 29, “I plan to get on the boat and complete my task as objectively as I can. It’s of utmost importance to present both sides of this story.”
Other American human rights defender passengers of the now impounded U.S. boat,The Audacity of Hope, include: celebrated novelist Alice Walker, holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, the 71-year old former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, veteran foreign service officer and retired lieutenant colonel Ann Wright, Israeli-American linguistics professor Hagit Borer, and prominent peace and other human rights activists including Medea Benjamin, Robert Naiman, Steve Fake, and Kathy Kelly.
“Ten other boats are carrying hundreds of other civilians from dozens of other countries, along with nearly three thousand tons of aid according to FPIF. “Those on board include members of national parliaments and other prominent political figures, writers, artists, clergy from various faith traditions, journalists, and athletes.”
Human rights protests have erupted around the globe due to what was called at the press conference, a US backed Flotilla Sabotage. Soon after the captain’s arrest, a demonstration was held outside the Greek Embassy in London. (See; Breaking: Armed Greeks detain Gaza Flotilla Capt. Rights workers undeterred.)
In a flotilla black operation also known as the “flotilla raid” or the “flotilla incident,” Israeli commandoes “illegally assaulted a similar flotilla in international waters” on May 31, 2010, “killing nine people on board one of the vessels, including Furkan Dogan, a 19-year old U.S. citizen.” (FPIF)
Suspicions were that the U.S. was more than complicit in the attack because, unlike over 25 other nations, the U.S. has not called to end the Gaza siege, and the US had high-level US-Israel closed door meetings a couple of days before the attacks. “Scores of people, including a number of Americans, were brutally beaten, and more than a dozen others were shot but survived their wounds.” (FPIF)
On June 23, Hillary Clinton stated at a press conference in the Treaty Room, Washington DC, “Well, we do not believe that the flotilla is a necessary or useful effort to try to assist the people of Gaza.”
Latest attempts to get humanitarian aid to people of Gaza and the flotilla events can be followed at: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/freedom-flotilla-ii.