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Stop Israel Spying on International Citizen Activists and their organizations
By Felice Gelman
According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the Israeli government is "launching a public campaign" on March 22, 2011 aimed at stopping the planned next International Gaza Freedom Flotilla. The flotilla is set to sail this spring. This news comes on the heels of information that the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) announced it has formed a special unit to "monitor" foreign nationals opposed to its policies, including the flotilla organizers.
In the United States, citizen activists with The U.S. Boat to Gaza campaign will sail in the flotilla on a boat called The Audacity of Hope. The U.S. boat will be one of approximately 15 boats that will sail in a flotilla to Gaza with people from over 22 countries.
This non-violent, international flotilla will sailing near the one year anniversary of the May, 2010 flotilla that was brutally attacked by the IDF who killed nine people and injured over 50 others.
As one of the organizers of The Audacity of Hope, I am outraged that the Israeli government is monitoring people in this country, as well as other nations, who are doing nothing illegal or threatening to that government.
"If the Israeli government is worried about so-called "delegitimization" they should put an end to their immoral siege against the people of Gaza. Instead of monitoring people in other countries, the Israeli government should be ending their illegal, counterproductive, and often violent policies towards Palestinians and internationals protesting peacefully," said Gail Miller, one of the organizers. "Israeli authorities seem intent on silencing dissent from within and without. If Israel believes that infiltrating, spying on, and perhaps once again attacking, groups of un-armedhuman rights advocates in international waters or elsewhere is going to serve Israel's interest or lessen criticism of its unsustainable policies they are wrong."
Jane Hirschmann, another of The Audacity of Hope organizers, stated, "The U.S. Boat to Gaza and the international flotilla is committed to non-violently bringing attention to Israel's policy of siege, blockade, and occupation. We are not attacking or harming Israel, nor will we enter Israeli territory. Our plan is
to sail peacefully to Gaza as part of a humanitarian mission consistent with U.S. and global values rooted in international law and human rights. If that is a crime in the eyes of Israeli officials then perhaps the U.S. government should re-assess the amount of diplomatic, military and financial support that U.S.
taxpayers provide Israel with annually."
As organizers of the U.S. Boat to Gaza, we believe these new actions by Israel should be responded to quickly by the U.S. government and the international community. Our government cannot sit quietly by as the armed forces of another nation announce their plans to monitor U.S. citizens. Instead, we demand that the U.S. government insist that Israeli government monitoring immediately end, and that non-violent activities are not met with brutal or deadly force by the Israeli forces.
The Audacity of Hope plans on sailing in the late spring carrying U.S. citizens to the Gaza Strip as part of the International Gaza Freedom Flotilla. The goal of this journey is to create and strengthen ties with civil society andhuman rights groups in the coastal strip, which is home to 1.5 million Palestinians, most of whom are refugees. In addition, the flotilla hopes to shed light on the collective punishment the Israeli blockade and siege has imposed on the people of Gaza.
About the Author: Felice Gelman is a member of the Wespac Middle East Committee. She led a delegation to visit Gaza in May 2009, and helped organize The Gaza Freedom March in December 2009 which brought 1500 people to Cairo in an effort to open the borders to Gaza. Recently she was in Cairo during the Egyptian revolution and her eyewitness accounts can be seen at http://gazaviews.blogspot.com/