PALESTINE- ISRAEL.—A group of US citizens is defiantly rejecting the Obama Administration’s attempt to impede their aid mission to the Gaza strip. Up to 50 Americans are set to sail from a Greek port on a U.S. flagged- ship called “The Audacity of Hope”.
The boat is part of an international flotilla carrying aid for Gaza’s 1.5 million Palestinian residents.
The flotilla members are taking part despite Israeli threats to intercept their ships. Nine people were killed in an Israeli attack on the first flotilla just over a year ago.
“The Audacity of Hope” passengers have called for the U.S. government’s help in ensuring their safe passage, but instead the Obama Administration has told them in fact not to set sail, and even warned them they could face punishment.
Secretary Clinton suggested Israel would have the right to use force to prevent the ship’s passage.
Clinton stated, “We do not believe the Flotilla is a necessary or a useful effort to try to assist the people of Gaza… we think its not helpful for there to be flotillas that try to provoke actions by entering into Israeli waters and creating a situation in which the Israelis have the right to defend themselves.”
Ray McGovern, former senior CIA analyst and passenger on the U.S. aid ship commented, “The Israelis do have a right to interdict arms traffic. We’re bearing letters… how can these letters be considered a threat to the security of Israel?”
The state department followed Clinton’s comment with a statement calling the flotilla irresponsible and provocative and warned that U.S. delegates could face fines and incarceration.
The state department refused to comment whether the US considers the Israeli blockade of Gaza legal.
Flotilla passengers are now facing a new unforeseen challenge, the Greek government has refused to grant permission for “The Audacity of Hope” and two other ships to leave port, citing anonymous complaints later revealed to be from an Israeli group.
On Sunday, the Israeli government issued a statement warning foreign journalists not to cover the aid mission; the warning stated that participants would be barred from the country for 10 years and have their equipment confiscated.
The attempt to punish journalists covering the flotilla had been condemned by many rights groups and the Israeli-based Foreign Press Association stated, “The warning sends a chilly message to the international media and raises serious questions about Israel’s commitment to freedom of the press.”
Israel has since backtracked on its warning to foreign journalists covering the international aid flotilla, it has ordered the navy to stop a breach of the blockade.