NEW YORK – Passengers on a US-flagged vessel, The Audacity of Hope, spoke at a press conference on Monday to discuss their plans and reasons for joining the “International Freedom Flotilla II – Stay Human,” a flotilla intended to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza.
It is estimated that people from more than 20 countries will participate in the eight to 10-ship flotilla, which will set sail in the last week of June, in part from Greece. One quarter of the participants on the US vessel, which will have 36 passengers, are to be American Jews.RELATED:Israel readies for Gaza flotilla despite IHH
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According to a letter that The Audacity of Hope group sent to President Barack Obama, in addition to the 36 passengers, 4 crew members, and 10 members of the press, the ship “will carry thousands of letters of support and friendship from people throughout the US to the women, children and men of Gaza. There will be no weapons of any sort on board.
“We will carry no goods of any kind for delivery in Gaza,” the group’s letter read. “Our mission is from American civil society to the civil society of Gaza. We do not serve the agenda of any political leadership, government or group. We are engaged solely in nonviolent action in support of the Palestinian people and their human rights.”
Passenger Ann Wright said: “Citizen activists are coming to the Mediterranean from all over the world to confront the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza and US government protection of Israeli criminal acts.
“As a former US diplomat and retired military colonel, I strongly believe it is the responsibility of citizens to act when our governments fail to protect the human rights and dignity of any people – in this case, the Palestinians,” she said.
Leslie Cagan, the ship’s coordinator leading Monday’s press conference, said the government acted with extreme violence against Freedom Flotilla I in 2010, and has threatened the use of attack dogs and snipers against this flotilla.
“Following the example of years of nonviolent Palestinian protests, everyone participating in this project is deeply committed to nonviolence. We hope and plan to arrive in Gaza City safely by the beginning of July. Any other outcome is the responsibility of the US and Israeli governments’ decisions to maintain the illegal and unjustifiable imprisonment of 1.5 million people in the Gaza Strip,” Cagan said.
Cagan added that the flotilla organizers have urged Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon to put into place a UN inspection of the ships but have received no official response.
In late May, the secretary general expressed his opposition to flotilla operations intended to challenge the Israeli blockade, saying that assistance and goods bound for Gaza should go through legitimate crossings.
Ban has called on governments to use their influence to discourage flotillas, saying that they carry the potential to exacerbate rather than ameliorate the conflict.
The US government, participants in the US-flagged ship said, have warned the American citizens not to participate in the flotilla.
Passenger Kathy Kelly said, “We are trying to act in alignment with our conscience.”