Originally published at the Daily Censored for Project Censored
On June 21, 2011 some 40 to 50 American peace activists will gather in Athens Greece to join up with the 2nd International Freedom Flotilla headed to Gaza to deliver humanitarian aid and essential building materials. The Americans have named their ship “The Audacity of Hope” after President Obama’s book with the same title. According to organizers, at least 1,000 people on no less than 10 boats will take part in this year’s flotilla. Other western nations sending boats to support the Freedom Flotilla include Canada, Ireland, Spain, and the Swiss.
Many people will remember, last year Israeli sailors and commandos illegally attacked the ships in international waters, summarily executed 9 peace activists and wounded dozens more. Most people are likely to remember the highly edited and misleading videos and press releases put out by the Israeli’s.
The first grainy video clips of the Freedom Flotilla massacre came from the Israeli military. They showed what appeared to be a group of men from the Mavi Marmara assaulting Israeli commandos with what appeared to be pipes and clubs. After releasing the videos, the Israeli’s released a highly distorted propaganda campaign. They falsely claimed that after they had boarded the ship they were violently attacked with knifes and pipes and the Israeli soldiers were forced to defend themselves. Israelis even went so far as to dub in anti-Semitic and holocaust related comments in the videos in order to manipulate the emotions of unsuspecting viewers.
Just after the 2010 Freedom Flotilla massacre, I wrote a couple articles about why Israel can’t be trusted. I followed NGO’s like Human Rights Watch as they investigated the IDF propaganda videos, press releases and other related outright lies high ranking Israeli officials spread to the corporate controlled mainstream media.
In October, 2010, the Human Rights Council (HRC) released a report and the forensic evidence of the dead activists were published around the same time. The horrific details of the massacre were finally revealed. However, the corporate controlled media had already run Israeli’s false portrayal of events and decided to just let the government’s distortions stand uncorrected. I wrote a follow up article titled, Israel Found Guilty of Massacre after the forensic evidence was released the HRC report became available. In the report, the HRC officially concluded:
“Insofar as the Israeli interception of the flotilla was unlawful—and the Mission considers that it was unlawful—the use of force by the Israeli forces in seizing control of the Mavi Marmara and other vessels was also prima facie unlawful since there was no legal basis for the Israeli forces to conduct an assault and interception in international waters. Moreover, in undertaking these operations and regardless of the legality of the operation, the Israeli forces were obliged to do so in accordance with the law, including Israel’s international human rights obligations…”
Now here are parts of the forensic evidence on massacred peace activists:
“…All of the entry wounds were on the back of his body, except for the face wound which entered to the right of his nose. According to forensic analysis, tattooing around the wound in his face indicates that the shot was delivered at point blank range. Furthermore, the trajectory of the wound, from bottom to top, together with a vital abrasion to the left shoulder that could be consistent with the bullet exit point, is compatible with the shot being received while he was lying on the ground on his back.”
And here are some of the details from another victim:
“Forensic evidence shows that he was shot in the side of the head with a soft baton round at such close proximity and that an entire bean bag and its wadding penetrated the skull and lodged in the brain. He had a further bruise on the right flank consistent with another beanbag wound. The wounds are consistent with the deceased initially being shot from soldiers on board the helicopter above and receiving a further wound to the head while lying on the ground, already wounded.”
According to the reports, (as I reported in October) once Israeli soldiers gained control of the top deck they turned their weapons down on the folks on the second deck and made a turkey shoot of the people scrambling below as they ducked for cover. Several activists grabbed chairs, poles and perhaps a kitchen knife (although that has not been confirmed) and began defending themselves from the Israeli soldiers murderous rampage. Wounded activists on the top deck of the ship had no chance of survival. Once the commandos, repelled down and boarded the vessel, at point blank range, the Israeli soldiers summarily executed the wounded peace activists.
This year, the 1,000 brave peace activists should expect nothing less from the Israeli government. Israel has repeatedly shown little to no regard for the lives of civilians, non-violent peace activists, or anyone else that gets in their way of “strangling” (Netanyahu’s word) the entire population of Gaza. Israeli’s goal to reduce all 1.5 million men, women, and children of Gaza to the least possible level of existence without outright killing them. Under international law, Israeli’s blockade is clearly a despicable act of collective punishment and a crime against humanity.
The list of American crew members in this year’s Freedom Flotilla is impressive. A cofounding member of Code Pink, Media Benjamin will be on the ship. Another noted, beautiful and powerful woman planning on board The Audacity of Hope” is Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner Alice Walker (unfortunately, no known relationship to me). Walker visited Gaza in 2008 and said upon returning to the U.S., “Going to Gaza was our opportunity to remind the people of Gaza and ourselves that we belong to the same world: the world where grief is not only acknowledged, but shared; where we see injustice and call it by its name; where we see suffering and know the one who stands and sees is also harmed, but not nearly so much as the one who stands and sees and says and does nothing.”
Another passenger on the American ship will be Richard Levy. Levy is the former president of the North East District of the B’nai Brith Youth Organization. A graduate of Cornell U. and the NYU School of Law, he has practiced labor and civil rights law for more than 40 years. Levy points out, “Because Israel occupies Gaza, and accordingly has obligations under the Geneva Conventions, it cannot legally blockade Gaza.” Therefore, he continued, “attempts by the Israeli government to prevent ships from going to Gaza are equally illegal.”
After President Obama gave his recent speech on the middle east, passengers and crew members of the ship “The Audacity of Hope” signed onto a letter drafted by passenger Ray McGovern. According to his biography, “McGovern served as an Army infantry/intelligence officer in the early 1960s and then as a CIA analyst for the next 27 years. In the early 1980s, he prepared and presented The President’s Daily Brief one-on-one to Vice President Bush and other senior officials. He now works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington.”
In the letter, McGovern calls on Obama to back up his words with actions regarding the universal application of international law and human rights. McGovern reminds the president:
“Gaza is a sequestered, crowded open-air prison, in which Israel keeps “inmates” at a subsistence level of existence. This amounts to the kind of collective punishment banned by international law and is enforced by an equally illegal Israeli naval blockade.
Many Americans have long been puzzled that you choose to exempt Gazans from your stated concern about universal rights; and, frankly, we have tired of waiting for a cogent explanation. So we ask you to look upon our voyage to Gaza as our attempt to implement your rhetoric about what ordinary citizens can do – not only to “speak,” but also to act to meet the broader aspirations of the ordinary people of Gaza.”
The entire list of passengers and crew of the ship The Audacity of Hope reflects a broad swath of Americans from a wide range of backgrounds. For example, amongst the passenger list there is 22 year social justice activist Max Suchan along with 86 year old Hedy Epstein, a holocaust survivor that worked as a research analyst at the Nuremberg trials. There will be construction workers, healthcare providers, lawyers, artists, scholars, diplomats, former military members, and peace activists on board the ship. For the complete list of confirmed passengers and crew, check out this link.
It has been reported that Israel has already been working behind the scenes in Washington and worldwide to discredit the Freedom Flotilla 2 campaign. Considering Israel’s past record on the Gaza blockade and the massacre on the first flotilla, we should all be expecting a well orchestrated disinformation campaign to come out, of what I predict to be an impending assault.
As for what activists can do, the passengers and crew members of The Audacity of Hope are encouraging people to learn more about the illegal Israeli blockade and write letters of support to the people of Gaza. Along with the passengers and crew, I’m encouraging the Israeli’s to simply let the Freedom Flotilla peacefully land in Gaza and unload their cargo. To follow the upcoming voyage and learn more about the campaign, visit the ship’s website at ustogaza.org.