Thousands petition US gov’t to probe flotilla passengers

Turkish IHH activist, Viva Palestina organizer set to speak in New York at event organized by Palestinian Right to Return Coalition.

hizbullah slingshot 311 (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson)
hizbullah slingshot 311
(photo credit: IDF Spokesperson)
NEW YORK – More than 23,000 people have a signed a petition urging the US State Department to investigate passengers on the Mavi Marmara who are expected to visit New York on a speaking tour this week.
Organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, the petition asks the US government to look critically at those applying for visas to enter the country, particularly those affiliated with IHH. The petition cites a 2006 report by the Danish Institute for International Studies, which documents a link between IHH and al-Qaida and “global jihad networks” in the 1990s.
“We have a responsibility to make certain that all those who come to New York are in no way associated with terrorism, its ideology or its tactics,” JCRC president Janice Shorenstein said Monday, at a news conference in Times Square with several members of Congress.
The event in question, scheduled for June 17, will feature former Turkish MP and IHH activist Ahmet Faruk Unsal and Mavi Marmara passengers Iara Lee, a filmmaker, and Kevin Ovenden, who is also a Viva Palestina organizer. It is being organized by Al-Awda-New York, the Palestinian Right to Return Coalition, which staged several protests in the wake of Israel’s interception of several ships bound for Gaza.
On Monday, Israel announced it would appoint a committee to investigate the Gaza flotilla raid, which garnered a sharp international outcry after nine people were killed. The committee is to be headed by retired Supreme Court judge Ya’acov Terkel. IDF soldiers will not testify before the commission, but the army will provide summaries of its operational investigations.
Still, New York lawmakers – including Reps. Eliot Engel, Carolyn Maloney, Jerold Nadler, Charles Ranger, Anthony Weiner and the speaker of the New York City Council, Christine Quinn – decried an event in the US featuring Marmara activists.
“We have an obligation to protect our borders,” said Maloney. “The State Department should recognize, some passengers pose a danger to Israel and to the United States.”
Several members of Congress cited 10,000 rockets launched at Israel under Hamas rule, resulting in a state of war in Israel.
“A blockade blocking the import of arms,” said Nadler, “is a totally and legitimate tactic of war.”
He added that “the people on this ship made no bones about what they were doing.”
Five out of six ships were intercepted peacefully, but aboard one ship,40 to 50 individuals waged a violent resistance and created aconfrontation. “Those people should not be allowed in our country,”Nadler said.
Longtime New York politician Rangel recalled the threat of Sovietmissiles from Cuba during the Kennedy administration. No one had anyproblem with the administration’s embargo on Cuba at the time, he said.Similarly, Israel has “every right in the world” to stop the threat ofterrorism from reaching its shores.
“I’m here because there appear to be some serious questions aboutIsrael’s right to survive,” Rangel said. “This is not a Jewish problem.This is a problem for the world and for the USA.”
The politicians spoke over the voice of a lone heckler, who was drownedout by pro-Israel activists, some carrying signs reading, “Marmaracarried no aid.”
Weiner acknowledged those who questioned why Israel’s interception had turned out so violently.
“I don’t know very much about stopping a large ship as it barrelstoward your shores,” he quipped. “But there aren’t so many easy ways todo it.”