Monday, January 23, 2012


Demanding to be allowed to sail. Athens, Jun 27, 2011
In the late spring of 2011, I was one of 37 passengers and 4 crewmembers on the Audacity of Hope, the U.S. boat to Gaza.

I had spent the prior month in Gaza and actually left Gaza to join the flotilla sailing from Greece. I was hoping to use my modest skills as an EMT in the event that Israeli naval forces began shooting people on board as they did in May 2010, when they killed nine people on board the Mavi Mamara. Many of these victims, including 19-year-old US citizen Furkan Doğan, were shot point-blank in the head. Doğan was shot five times from less than 45 cm (1.5 ft), in the face, in the back of the head, twice in the leg and once in the back. He was filming the attack when he was murdered. He was unarmed.

When it was announced that there would be a boat from the U.S. participating in the next flotilla, I applied immediately.

Preparing to sail. Athens, Jun 30, 2011
On June 29th as we were preparing to sail from Athens to Gaza, I read with amazement – and some amusement – that the Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, had asked that the Justice Department to "take immediate steps" against those found to be violating U.S. law, including providing "material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization." Having never heard of Rick Perry, I assumed that he was just pandering to AIPAC. Little did I know he was pandering ahead of entering the Republican race for President.

On October 6th, I was in Afghanistan meeting with the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers (AYPV) with members of Voices for Creative Nonviolence (VCNV) when Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL9) introduced HR 3131 in Congress. In summary, this bill “Expresses the sense of Congress that the United States should take diplomatic steps to express gratitude to Greece for upholding the rule of law in preventing hostile forces1 from violating a legal naval blockade2 of Gaza by Israel and thereby advancing the security of its ally Israel. Directs the Secretary of State to report to Congress on whether any support organization that participated in the planning or execution of the recent Gaza flotilla attempt should be designated as a foreign terrorist organization.”

The bill is a frightening reminder of how some people in power are entirely too eager to throw around a “terrorist” designation for non-violent activists. Only in uninformed, closed minds can carrying letters of support from Americans to those trapped in Gaza constitute support of terrorism, yet this is what the bill suggests.
Our largely ignorant Congressional representatives are quite willing to assume that any information from Israeli sources is infallible to the exclusion of other factual findings, such as evidence that Israeli soldiers summarily executed participants on the Mavi Marmara. Israel maims and kills Americans such as Emily Henochowicz, Brian Avery, and Rachel Corrie with impunity. There is no house resolution pending that condemns the maiming or killing of American citizens by Israeli forces.

In a recent issue of Foreign Policy magazine, Mark Perry reported that Israeli Mossad agents posed as CIA agents to recruit from Jundallah, an Iranian dissident group that is currently on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations. On January 11, the fourth Iranian nuclear scientist in two years was blown up by a magnetic bomb attached to his car door. Lieutenant-General Benny Gantz, Israel's military chief of staff, was quoted as saying on January 10th. "For Iran, 2012 is a critical year in combining the continuation of its nuclearization, internal changes in the Iranian leadership, continuing and growing pressure from the international community and things which take place in an unnatural manner." None of the 14 co-sponsors3 of HR 3131 have called for a resolution to condemn Israeli state-sponsored terrorism. 

Filming our detention by the Greek Coast Guard. Jul 1, 2011
HR 3131 is a prime example of the danger facing American citizens. Citizens participating in nonviolent acts of dissent are targeted while other violent actions of the US and Israel are simply ignored.  This is less about objective political reality than pursuing political enemies.

With President Obama’s signing of the National Defense Authorization Act, American citizens have lost a fundamental right of citizenship, the right to habeas corpus. The NDAA codifies indefinite detention of American citizens on the “battleground” of America. It is extremely troubling that President Obama would sign this into law, declare he has no intention of using the powers, yet authorize such powers for all those who follow him, including the likes of Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and other future apologists for the Israeli occupation – an occupation which the RNC recently denied even exists.

In October of 2006, after the “Enemy Combatants Bill” passed our Congress and was signed into law I wrote,

“I, for one, am facing my so called “leaders” in Congress, and this corrupt, morally bankrupt administration that would strip the Constitution, suspend habeas corpus, and destroy the very foundation this country was built on while in the same breath promising the world that democratic reform will reduce tyranny. I, for one, will not be silent in these dark days of our dying democracy.”4

Today, an action I assumed was an aberration by fearmongers and torturers in the Bush administration has become further codified into American law. I stand by my statement as our rights and freedom continue to erode.

1 There is no evidence of any sort that the Flotilla was comprised of “hostile forces”. The U.S. boat was comprised of 37 nonviolent peace activists.

2 This is based on the Palmer report released on July 7th, 2011. The committee responsible clearly states in the document “We must stress we are not asked to determine the legality or otherwise of the events. What we express are our views on what took place.” The findings of the Palmer report on the legality of the blockade were disputed by a panel of five UN human rights experts, who said that the blockade amounted to a "flagrant contravention of international human rights and humanitarian law"

3 Co-sponsors: Shelley Berkley (D-NV1), John Carter (R-TX31, Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL21, Eliot Engel (D-NY17),Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ11), Michael Grimm (R-NY13), Peter King (R-NY3), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY14), Peter Roskam (D-NJ9),
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL18), Steven Rothman (D-NJ9)
, John Sarbanes (D-MD3), Albio Sires (D-NJ13), Bill Young (R-FL10).