Monday, June 20, 2011

Press Conference with Passengers of U.S. Boat to Gaza

U.S. Boat to Gaza is a member group of the US Campaign, as well as a US Campaign-endorsed initiative.





New York, NY
June 20, 2011

Fifteen of the 36 passengers on the U.S. flagged boat, The Audacity of Hope, are joining with supporters today at 11 AM at the Church Center for the United Nations (44th Street and First Avenue) to discuss their plans and reasons for joining the international Freedom Flotilla II - Stay Human. They are departing for Athens today to join the rest of the passengers on the U.S. boat, and people from over 20 countries who will take part in the Freedom Flotilla sailing the last week of June to break the blockade of Gaza.

The passengers who will be on the U.S. boat, from 14 states and the District of Columbia, represent virtually every geographic region of the United States. Fifty eight percent women and 42% men, they are of all ages, and a variety of occupations. The group is approximately one-quarter people of color, and one-quarter American Jews.

The effort has been endorsed by more than 85 organizations across the United States and supported by thousands of small individual donations. The international Catholic peace group, Pax Christi, said, "The passengers are people of peace and compassion, as well as people of selfless courage. Their commitment to justice for those who are unjustly oppressed is an example for us all." The group added that "...we believe firmly that the blockade of Gaza is a crime against humanity."

The Israeli- and U.S.-backed siege and blockade is the longest in modern warfare, lasting 1,830 days. The European Parliament, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and many human rights organizations have all called the siege and blockade a violation of the human rights of the 1.5 million Palestinians who live in the Gaza strip. Contrary to statements by the Israeli government, the siege continues and the restrictions of imports, exports, and human movement remain severe, according to the most recent report of the United Nations.

Passenger Ann Wright (Ret. Col. U.S. Army reserve), an organizer of the U.S. boat and participant in Freedom Flotilla I, noted, "Citizen activists are coming to the Mediterranean from all over the world to confront the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza and U.S. government protection of Israeli criminal acts. As a former U.S. 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."

Passenger Ray McGovern, minister and retired CIA analyst, credited the inspiration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., "Injustice, like a boil, can never be healed until it is exposed."

Passenger Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CodePink, who traveled to Gaza in 2009, said, "I was appalled by the level of destruction, death and suffering brought about by the Israeli invasion. I feel a responsibility to do something when my government will not."

Leslie Cagan, U.S. boat organizer, who will chair the press conference, pointed out that the Israeli government acted with extreme violence against Freedom Flotilla I in 2010, killing nine passengers and injuring more than 50, and has threatened the use of attack dogs and snipers against this Freedom Flotilla II.

Cagan said, "Following the example of years of non-violent Palestinian protests, everyone participating in this project is deeply committed to non-violence. We hope and plan to arrive in Gaza City safely by the beginning of July. Any other outcome is the responsibility of the U.S. and Israeli governments' decisions to maintain the illegal and unjustifiable imprisonment of 1.5 million people in the Gaza strip."

Cagan added that the flotilla organizers have urged United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to put into place a UN inspection of the ships but have received no official response as yet.

For regular updates follow the US Boat to Gaza on Twitter: http://twitter.com/usboattogaza and visit the US Boat to Gaza website.
For additional information, including fact sheets, videos and the passengers' letter to President Obama, please go to:

Letter to President Obama from Audacity of Hope passengers

Bios for passengers and crew members