Please Call Greek Embassy: Let U.S. Gaza Boat Sail. Call on Congress to Insure Americans' Safety
We kind of take electricity for granted, until you have appendicitis or are having a baby and your doctor is working in the dark, because there is no electricity. Sure, there are generators, but what if there is no fuel for the generators? Not to mention basic medical supplies like disinfectant, clean bandages, and surgical instruments.
The electricity in Gaza is sporadic because the kinds of materials needed to fix bombed-out power plants are forbidden from entering the territory. Fuel is greatly limited. All this does not amount to merely an exercise in simple living, which would mean doing fine, just with less. Infant mortality in the Gaza is four times higher than it is in Israel less than a mile away from some Palestinian towns, 65% of babies 9-12 months are anemic, and over 60% of Gazans (always higher for children, of course) are what development workers call "food insecure." This is just another way of saying you never know when or where your next meal of coming from, and skipping a day of eating is pretty normal.
Because of the security buffer zone imposed around Gaza as part of the blockade, as of June 2009, 46% of agricultural land is either inaccessible or out of production. That's a fancy way of saying, if you set foot on this land, you risk becoming target practice for the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces.)
Now as the activists of the Flotilla to Gaza try yet again to bring mostly food and medical supplies to the Gazans, the U.S. boat, which is carrying only letters, is at the moment being prevented from leaving its port in Athens by the Greek government, possibly as a result of being muscled by the US and Israeli governments. A breaking press release from US Boat to Gaza states:
Athens – Passengers on the U.S. Boat to Gaza, The Audacity of Hope, are asking Greek government officials to clarify whether the boat they are leasing is being blocked from leaving Greece because of an anonymous request of a private citizen concerning the seaworthiness of the ship or whether a political decision has been made by the Greek government in response to U.S. and Israeli government pressure. They specifically want to know if the U.S. is using its leverage at the International Monetary Fund over the implementation of an ongoing bailout of European banks with massive Greek debts to compel the Greek government to block the U.S. Boat to Gaza from leaving Greece.
Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, said:
“Greece is not going to be able to meet the targets that it is pledging to the IMF and the European authorities. In this situation the IMF and therefore the U.S. government will have enormous leverage because the Fund and EU authorities will decide what will be acceptable benchmarks for Greece to receive future tranches of IMF/EU funding.”
In other words, I can be a mean mommy or I can be a nice mommy. It's up to you.
The list of blockaded goods is difficult to determine, as it changes all the time and the Israeli government, the world's largest recipient of US military aid, sees no need to be forthcoming. At various times, Israel has blocked wheelchairs, dry food items, and crayons, stationary, soccer balls, and musical instruments (yes, wheelchairs, I can't make this up.) International aid group Mercy Corps said it was blocked from sending 90 tons of macaroni and other foodstuffs. Tin cans have been banned in the past because the tin might be melted down and used to build weaponry or structures by Hamas, making it hard for Gazan farmers to preserve their vegetables.
According to the Failing Gaza report by Amnesty International and other organizations, cement, glass, steel, bitumen, wood, paint, doors, plastic pipes, metal pipes, metal reinforcement rods, aggregate, generators, high voltage cables and wooden telegraph poles are "high priority reconstruction materials currently with no or highly limited entry into Gaza through official crossings."
A UN report by Kevin M. Cahill called the restrictions "Draconian", and said that reconstruction is halted because Israel does not permit the importation of steel, cement or glass, among other building materials, and has restricted importation of lentils, pasta, tomato paste and juice, as well as batteries for hearing aids for deaf children. Cahill said that he:
"visited a food station where hundreds of displaced persons waited to collect their meager staples of rice, sugar, lentils and cooking oil. While this program may save people from starvation, it is a diet that does not prevent the highest level of anemia in the region, with alarming rates of childhood stunting due to inadequate nutrition."
Israel states that some people claiming to require medical attention in Israel were in fact planning terrorist attacks, therefore forcing the government to impose travel restrictions.
Despite repeated submissions to inspections and declarations of their fundamental Gandhian commitment to non-violence, the flotilla activists have been declared by the Obama administration, in the person of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as a provocation. Clinton just said:
"We think that it's not helpful for there to be flotillas that try to provoke action by entering into Israeli waters and creating a situation in which the Israelis have the right to defend themselves."
Excuse me, I think I just puked a little in my mouth.
Further, the State Department specifically discouraged U.S. citizens from taking part in the flotilla, saying the Gaza coast is "dangerous and volatile."
Well, duh, who is making it "dangerous and volatile?" The recipients of $3 billion a year in US military aid.
Flotilla activists responded to the State Department expressing "profound disappointment":
...Instead of calling on the Israeli government to let a flotilla of unarmed civilians sail to Gaza, the United States government is pressuring its own citizens to refrain from legal acts.
“Apparently, the State Department subscribes to the view that Israel’s anticipated violence against unarmed protesters is an immutable act of nature,” said Hagit Borer, a professor of Linguistics at the University of Southern California and a passenger on the U.S. boat. “This is a remarkable attitude, coming from a government that provides the Israeli government with billions of dollars in military aid and routinely uses its veto to protect the Israeli government from censure of its occupation policies by the UN Security Council.”
Israel will acting contrary to international law if it boards or interferes with the ships. International law Professor Juan Soroeta says there is no legal basis for Israel to intercept ships and prevent them from delivering humanitarian supplies:
"Israel only has jurisdiction over its territorial waters of 12 nautical miles, and neither the waters off Gaza nor international waters are under its authority."
Kossack Robert Naiman, who is also on the U.S. boat, said: “So far, U.S. government officials have failed to use their influence to discourage Israeli authorities from ordering a physical assault on us.”
Israeli human rights organization Gisha, obtained an Israeli government document which says:
"A country has the right to decide that it chooses...to operate using 'economic warfare.'"
This did not go over the head of Sari Bashi, the director of Gisha, who saw this lets the cat out of the bag. "Economic warfare" means collective punishment of 1.5 million people, having nothing to do with Israel "defending" itself. Sorry, Hillary.
The Flotilla activists are asking Americans to call on their own congressmen to co-sign the letter spearheaded by Rep. Dennis Kucinich and joined by others to ask the Obama administration to call on the Israeli government to "ensure the safety of US citizens onboard." They are also asking for calls to the Greek Embassy and Consulate to demand the Audacity of Hope be allowed to sail.
An injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere - Samuel Johnson
Embassy of Greece
2217 Massachusetts Ave. N.W.
Washington, DC 20008
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
202-647-4000 (other numbers welcomed, will post)
Them thar's some mighty dangerous looking activists, Martha (U.S. Boat to Gaza members)