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American Jews to join Gaza flotilla

June 21, 2011 10:30 P.M. (Updated: June 22, 2011 11:37 P.M.)
UNITED NATIONS (AFP) -- Several American Jews are to board a US boat planning to join a flotilla of about 10 ships seeking to breach Israel's naval blockade of Gaza later this month, an organizer said Monday.

"We are seeking justice for Gaza," Leslie Cagan told reporters, noting that the boat will have 36 passengers, four crew members and nine journalists when it sets sail for the Palestinian coastal enclave.

She said 28 percent of the passengers were American Jews.

"It's important that Jews are in this boat... The Jewish lobby in this country is so powerful," said New York labor attorney Richard Levy, himself Jewish.

"We cannot support an Israeli blockade which is morally and juridically unsupportable... No more people should be slaughtered in the name of the Jews."

The US boat, The Audacity of Hope, will sail from Athens to join around 10 ships carrying some 500 to 600 pro-Palestinian activists from 22 countries, Cagan said.

The boats are expected to leave various Mediterranean ports around June 20 as part of the so-called "Freedom Flotilla II" aimed at breaking the Israeli blockade.

Cagan said the American ship will carry some 3,000 messages from the American people to the people of Gaza in what she called "a cargo of friendship, a cargo of peace."

They will try and reach the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip a year after a previous attempt ended when Israeli troops stormed the lead ship, the Mavi Marmara, and shot dead nine Turkish activists.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged all governments concerned by the plans to try to discourage the new flotilla from being launched out of fear it could degenerate into violence.

Israel's navy chief had recently urged international powers to stop the flotilla from sailing, saying that it was "driven by hate."

The official also claimed that "a humanitarian crisis in Gaza is nonexistent."

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