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Complaint against US boat threatens Gaza voyage
Published Saturday 25/06/2011 (updated) 27/06/2011 20:38
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Palestinian fishermen at the port in Gaza City [MaanImages, File]

ATHENS, Greece (Ma'an) -- Organizers of the second Freedom Flotilla say that an administrative complaint has been filed against the US Boat to Gaza, claiming that the vessel is not seaworthy.

This could delay or altogether prevent the "Audacity of Hope" from leaving Athens.

The harbor master received notification of the complaint Thursday afternoon, two days after a group of suspicious persons showed up at the ship and began asking questions of the crew members, at one point offering money for the members to leave the ship unattended.

The complainant is unknown and a Greek lawyer representing the flotilla is working to obtain more details.

Israel has been open about its intentions to stop the flotilla using any means possible -- including diplomatic avenues, lawsuits, and a media smear campaign.

Also Thursday, Greek port authorities made the unusual move of advising ship captains to steer clear of the coordinates that correspond with Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza.

The advisory included the warning, “Continuous electronic surveillance of the region of East Mediterranean will also take place in order to record, wherever possible, the movements of ships that will possibly participate in such an action.”

Both moves came in the wake of a US Department of State travel warning, issued Wednesday, which appeared designed to dissuade American activists from challenging Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip.

“U.S. citizens are advised against traveling to Gaza by any means, including via sea,” the travel warning reads. “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.”

Speaking to reporters Thursday, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton remarked that the American leaders do not consider the flotilla “a necessary or useful effort to try to assist the people of Gaza.”

She added that the flotilla creates “a situation in which the Israelis have the right to defend themselves.”

The one-two punch of the US government’s attempts to distance itself from its citizens, and the administrative complaint filed against the US Boat to Gaza, spurred American participants to pay a visit to their embassy in Athens on Thursday afternoon.

As the group made their way through the city to the metro, Medea Benjamin -- the Jewish-American co-founder of the anti-war group Code Pink -- discussed the change of events with Ma'an.

“The statements that have come out of the State Department and Hillary Clinton’s statement have been atrocious because it assumes that Israel has the right to attack unarmed civilians who are on a humanitarian mission and that US has no control over Israel.”

Benjamin, a petite blonde with large brown eyes said the US had "no influence over this country that is our 'best' ally and that [America gives] $3 billion a year to? In addition to that that Israel says it has a right to protect itself from us? From us? I mean we’re taking letters, for God’s sake. And look at us -- we are no threat to Israel’s security.”

More than half of the activists on the Audacity of Hope are women. Nearly 30 percent of the group is Jewish. Many of the participants are middle-aged or elderly. And the only cargo on the US Boat to Gaza is letters of support written to the Palestinian people.

“We are traveling on a mission that is seen in the eyes of most of the world as something that is worthy of the legacy of Martin Luther King,” Benjamin commented. “We are the freedom riders of this era.”

She called on the US government to put the safe passage of American citizens over the perceived interests of Israel, adding that it is Israeli policies that endanger Israel’s security.

Once inside the US embassy, the 36 American citizens sat in plastic chairs in a large waiting area of the visa section. It was off-hours and the clerks’ windows were empty.

One by one, participants gave their name, hometown, and asked the two US officials standing before them for their unequivocal support.

When an activist remarked that she didn’t expect the US government to help, an embassy official laughed and responded, “That’s a good expectation.”

Alice Walker, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and poet, commented, “I grew up in the South under segregation, under the state terrorism of apartheid. When I was in the West Bank and Gaza recently, it was like stepping back into that.”

Walker added that she didn’t want Palestinian children “to grow up feeling inferior.”

“Humanity cannot bear this,” she said, adding that Israel’s policies are harmful to the Jewish people and that she viewed the attempt to break the blockade as a move that benefits both the Israelis and Palestinians.

Speaking to US officials, Hedy Epstein, an 86-year-old Holocaust survivor, remarked, “I want to talk to you on a compassionate level. I’m Jewish, I was born in Germany, I left when I was 14 years old. My parents perished in the Holocaust.”

The Gaza Strip under Israeli blockade, Epstein continued, “is the largest open air prison in the world.” She mentioned the students who are unable to reach their universities and the residents who can’t get adequate medical care.

“Israel says it’s out of Gaza but it controls the air, land, and sea,” Epstein said. “And what are we bringing? Letters. So let us go.”
1 ) Outsider / EU
25/06/2011 20:55
Israeli diplomacy at work: bully, block or bomb.

2 ) Colin Wright / USA
25/06/2011 22:16
“We are the freedom riders of this era.” The difference is that the KKK didn't have a hammerlock on Congress.

3 ) a petite blonde with large br / own eyes
25/06/2011 22:50

4 ) ABE / USA
25/06/2011 23:27
These are all honest and great heart felt reasons for going. But the government of the Gaza strip wants the total destruction of the Jewish state of ISRAEL. How do you wrap your head and heart around that?

5 ) southparkbear / usa
26/06/2011 00:13
i wish i could see that floatilla, hopefully engine 'problem' will turn it into comedy central

6 ) Julie / USA
26/06/2011 00:44
unbelievable!! “a situation in which the Israelis have the right to defend themselves.” ????? ...against WHAT, clinton...innocent humanitarians??? she has just legitimized and legalized the ILLEGAL siege on gaza...which she can not do! empowering the criminal nazi israeli murderers, butchers, thieves, pirates by warning innocent people is the lowest blow she could deliver. not even one ounce of protection for our own INNOCENT citizens from israeli terrorism....USI gets uglier by the minute

7 ) silver / phil.
26/06/2011 03:06
israel has the right of self defense to unharmed and mostly women activist fighting israel injustice toward the palestinians? WHAT A FOOLY ! . the thruth is that israel does not like peace but want to annex west bank, gaza strip and jerusalem. EU has the moral authority to stop jewish goal in annexing the territories by openly endorsing the flotilla and recognizing PALESTINE on its 1967 border.

8 ) Impidel / USA
26/06/2011 03:33
Letters? Do these fools take us all for fools? You can mail letters or send an email. The purpose is not to carry anything now at all; the purpose is to establish an, interference- free, arms conduit to Hamas. Thes idiots don't even have the courage to admit to their convictions. Letters! Throw them all in a POW camp and the left wing adventure tours will end.

9 ) Jack Dempsey / NYC
26/06/2011 03:59
During wartime, and don't kid yourself that it isn't, nations are fully entitled to and have sunk enemy shipping

Since the people that are sponsoring these vessels know that their intentions are hostile, all on board must accept responsiblity for what happens

We have here posters that are in favor of the voyage, how many have booked seats for the passage to show their solidarity?

#7 Silver, are going since you seem to be so indignant?

10 ) James / Canada
26/06/2011 07:07

11 ) James McLoughlin / USA
26/06/2011 07:15
Once again the US just shows the world what a pathetic lap dog it has become to the Israeli lobby. Yes, we are now at the point where the State Dept. will gladly throw American citizens under the bus for Netanyahu. I have never seen a policy that is more contrary to American values than this one sided love affair with our "ally." It's disgusting and disgraceful. ...and we wonder why people don't like us.

12 ) Kyle Morton / Canada
26/06/2011 07:23
Flotilla 2 has no chance of succeeding,with Israel prepared to use naval & air military force if peaceful measures fail to convince the participents.

13 ) Debra / USA
26/06/2011 08:40
unbelievable!! “a situation in which the Israelis have the right to defend themselves.” ????? ...against WHAT, clinton...innocent humanitarians??? she has just legitimized and legalized the ILLEGAL siege on gaza...which she can not do! empowering the criminal nazi israeli murderers, butchers, thieves, pirates by warning innocent people is the lowest blow she could deliver. not even one ounce of protection for our own INNOCENT citizens from israeli terrorism....USA gets uglier by the minute AGRE

14 ) Mark ben Josef / USA
26/06/2011 09:10
A large segment of the 'Audacity' group are American Jews who disagree with the Israeli government and with the US policy. If arrested and tried, they would likely have a jury in the US find them "Not Guilty," even if tried in New York. The trip does not meet the offense. Their real crime is disagreeing with Netanyahu and that may turn out to be a capital offense. But as American Jews, they are just targets to the IDF, more so than non-Jewish Americans.

15 ) Colin Wright / USA
26/06/2011 09:23
To Abe #4 'These are all honest and great heart felt reasons for going. But the government of the Gaza strip wants the total destruction of the Jewish state of ISRAEL. How do you wrap your head and heart around that?' As a moral human being with a sense of justice and a persistent respect for the truth, pretty easily. Why do you ask?

16 ) ESH / USA
26/06/2011 10:33
US & ISR, 900 pound gorillas, swatting at flies, gnats -- pesky little irritants who have the courage to care about the Gazans forced to live in an open air prison camp by, of all people, Jews! I don't believe the world should hold Jews to higher moral standards, but Jews themselves should do so! Come on, people, wake up and see/think for yourselves!

17 ) Janus / UK
26/06/2011 11:24
To Mark ben Josef/USA: The real crime is american citizens engaging in treasonous acts such as "giving aide and comfort to the enemy" of the USA. The gaza strip is under the control of hamas. Hamas is a declared/designated terrorist group by the US government. Therefore, bringing ANYTHING to the gaza strip which is governed by terrorists, (i.e. letters and/or alleged humanitarian supplies, whether dated or outdated), is called aiding and abetting designated, declared enemies of the USA.

18 ) southparkbear / usa
26/06/2011 12:43
well if they have chosen sailboats we might let them in

19 ) Jack Dempsey / NYC
26/06/2011 13:29
I'll ask again, how many of you that are in favor of the voyage, have booked your seats to show your solidarity?

My bet would be none of you, you're just talkers, not doer's

20 ) JG / USA
26/06/2011 15:13
Activist leader Stephan Corriveau warned flotilla participants that they would have no opportunity to bathe during the three-day journey (more likely six days) to Gaza but would have drinking water. There is no point in bringing a change of clothes, the Montreal-based Corriveau noted, because there would be nowhere to change, encouraging the activists to take as little as possible.
Just make sure you bring along with you gas masks.

21 ) Jack Dempsey / NYC
26/06/2011 16:05
#15 To all that favor making the voyage, have your reserved your own seats yet?

22 ) Hans / Netherlands
26/06/2011 17:28
Whether one likes it or not, Israel has the right (indeed, the duty) to impose a naval blockade on Gaza. According to International Law, once a nation has imposed such a blockade it is REQUIRED to enforce it or otherwise give up the blockade in its entirety. In other words, it doesn't matter what these ships carry nor does it matter why they are carrying it. If Israel wants (needs) to continue to legally impose the blockade they HAVE to stop these ships.

23 ) Rashid / UK
26/06/2011 19:57
As you said Israel has the right to defend its borders. The truth is that Judea, Samaria and J'lem are already annexed. Gaza strip is now under Egypt's responsibility. When the 2 parties in question will sit down to negociate then we could see pease at the horizon.

24 ) Mark ben Josef / USA
27/06/2011 00:48
To Janus @17 - Wrong. Toys for tots and letters to civilians who are not members of Hamas is not aid and comfort to Hamas. You might be able to sell that drivel to West Bank settlers. But not to anybody rational. That kind of charge could not even hold up when it was made against an American who helped run US military supplies to the Ayatollahs in Iran. He was convicted of making illegal arms sales,, but not aid and comfort - famous case - Elliott Abrams.

25 ) Robert Haymond / Israel/Canada
27/06/2011 08:35
Of course, these "peace activists" could do something genuinely useful here in the Mideast, say, by protesting against the cruel government of Syria and their murderous tactics. Wait a moment, these protests are reserved for Jews and Jews only. Okay, now I understand what it's about. Besides, entering Syria might pose real risks. The Syrian military is not equpped with paintball guns.

26 ) Julie / USA
27/06/2011 13:57
#22 Hanzi - guess what? According to International Law, the israeli naval blockade is....ILLEGAL! better consult some details regarding maritime law and "war" and "blockade" legitimacy. i.e. do genuine, authentic research for once.

27 ) Julie / USA
27/06/2011 13:58
#15 Colin that's got to be the funniest and best post i've ever seen out of you! LOLL!!!!!

28 ) Eli F. / Israel
27/06/2011 16:44
A Flotilla of "Useful Idiot's"...The border crossing with Egypt is open, if they REALLY wanted to bring in supplies, no problem. This is just another media stunt by a bunch of fools, to try to de-legitimize Israel. No mention of Gilad Shalit that been held captive WITHOUT ANY Red Cross visitations, for 5 yrs. Nor the continuos rocket shelling of Israeli Southern towns. Nor..Ready for the punchline....Did ANY of these Cretins EVER read the Hamas Charter: Calling for the murder of Jews, WORLDWIDE!

29 ) Robert Haymond / Israel/Canada
27/06/2011 19:59
My thoughts precisely, Jack. Lots of talk from these poseurs who inundate the internet but no action. Bombast and ignorance all I read in most of their comments. They show up, stay about six months and recede. I, myself, have learned a lot over the years, however. the Arab press as identified by Maan lacks any semblance of balance and objectivity. The pro-Palestinian posters are, in general, an uneducated lot whose critiques of Israel are mere cover-ups for their loathing of Jews.
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