Human rights activists who are preparing to sail a U.S. ship in a 22-nation flotilla to Gaza at the end of May sharply criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to stop the boats from sailing.
Israel media reported on Friday that Netanyahu argued to the UN Secretary- General that the flotilla is a conglomerate of “extreme Islamists that are interested only in provocation” whose aim is to destroy Israel.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” said Jane Hirschmann and Richard Levy in a joint statement, both of New York, who are building support for the U.S. boat, named The Audacity of Hope. “We are appalled by this flagrant misrepresentation. The organizers and passengers of the U.S. boat–a committed, non-violent, human rights mission sailing as part of the International Flotilla–are people from all walks of life, among them lawyers, social workers, artists, firefighters, midwives, writers, doctors, filmmakers, retired U.S. army personnel, veterans, women’s rights organizers, teachers and nurses.”
The Netanyahu approach to the UN came 11 months after Israeli naval forces boarded the Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara, destined for Gaza on May 31 last year in an attempt to prevent it and several other ships from breaching the blockade U.S. citizen. During that assault, 9 people were killed by the Israeli forces.
The 2nd International Freedom Flotilla, comprised of people from 22 countries and many boats, including the U.S. flagged ship The Audacity of Hope, “is not the problem. Israel’s conduct in Palestine is the problem,” said Hirschmann and Levy in their joint statement. “Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, siege of Gaza, expansion of settlements, destruction of homes, usurpation of water and air rights, walls of confinement , brutal military presence, and daily sniper attacks on innocent civilians constitute the paramount violence and terrorism in the Mideast, conduct that we all abhor.”
The U.S. boat organizers said that The Audacity of Hope and the entire flotilla “will sail in peace and with a single nonviolent message, i.e., that the people of Gaza are entitled to the same life, liberty and pursuit of happiness that are the rights of every human being.”