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|[Linguistics, USC] Hagit Borer will be among boat passengers trying to break through Israel's blockade of Gaza|
State Department Officials Have an Obligation to Speak Out Against Israeli Threats to Attack U.S. Boat to Gaza
By U.S. to Gaza
June 24, 2011 |
Athens, June 24, 2011 - U.S. peace activists preparing to set sail on the U.S. Boat to Gaza,The Audacity of Hope, expressed profound disappointment over a statement issued by the U.S. State Department on Wednesday, June 22, 2011. 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.
On Wednesday, the State Department sent out a “travel advisory” urging Americans not to participate in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. According to the statement, U.S. citizens are advised against traveling to Gaza by any means, including via sea, noting that previous attempts to enter Gaza by sea “have been stopped by Israeli naval vessels and resulted in the injury, death, arrest, and deportation of U.S. citizens.”
“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.”
Passengers on the boat noted that the U.S. State Department has a legal obligation to act to protect U.S. citizens when they are traveling abroad. “So far, U.S. government officials have failed to use their influence to discourage Israeli authorities from ordering a physical assault on us,” said Just Foreign Policy policy director Robert Naiman, another passenger on the U.S. boat. “Of course, State Department officials have an obligation to speak out against threats to attack us. It is deeply disappointing that they have so far failed to do so.”
Below is a copy of a letter the passengers of The Audacity of Hope sent of June 14, 2011 to President Obama, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and other high-ranking government officials. There has yet to be a response to the letter.
14 June 2011
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. Obama:
We are writing to inform you that 50 unarmed Americans will soon be sailing in a U.S. flagged ship called The Audacity of Hope as part of an international flotilla to Gaza.
Our peaceful demonstration will challenge Israel’s blockade of Gaza, which has effectively imprisoned 1.6 million civilians, almost half of whom are under the age of 16. The blockade has impoverished the people of Gaza, deprived them of needed materials and supplies to rebuild their lives after the Israeli attack of late 2008 - early 2009, impeded those who are ill or infirm from seeking outside medical aid, and prevented students from seeking education outside of Gaza. 45% of the working age population is unemployed.
In addition to 36 passengers, 4 crew, and 10 members of the press, our boat will carry thousands of letters of support and friendship from people throughout the U.S. to the women, children and men of Gaza. There will be no weapons of any sort on board. We will carry no goods of any kind for delivery in Gaza. Our mission is from American civil society to the civil society of Gaza. We do not serve the agenda of any political leadership, government or group. We are engaged solely in non-violent action in support of the Palestinian people and their human rights.
In our country’s great tradition of citizen activists taking nonviolent action to stand up to injustice, we sail in the hope that our voyage will show the people in Gaza that they are not alone, and that it will call attention to the morally and legally indefensible collective punishment of a population of civilians.
Mr. President, you have noted the unsustainability of the Gaza blockade. And your administration has spoken boldly in support of peaceful demonstrations throughout this “Arab Spring.”
As U.S. citizens we expect our country and its leaders to help ensure the Flotilla’s safe passage to Gaza - as our country should support our humanitarian demand that the Gaza blockade be lifted. This should begin by notifying the Israeli government in clear and certain terms that it may not physically interfere with the upcoming Flotilla of which the U.S. boat — The Audacity of Hope — is part. We-authors, builders, firefighters, lawyers, social workers, retirees, Holocaust survivors, former government employees and more-expect no less from our President and your administration.
Our boat will sail from the eastern Mediterranean in the last week of June. We shall be grateful to you for acting promptly and decisively to uphold the rights of civilians to safe passage on the seas.
The passengers of The Audacity of Hope
Nic Abramson, Johnny Barber, Medea Benjamin, Greta Berlin, Hagit Borer, Regina Carey, Gale Courey Toensing, Erin DeRamus, Linda Durham, Debra Ellis, Hedy Epstein, Steve Fake, Ridgely Fuller, Megan Horan,Kathy Kelly, Kit Kittredge, Libor Koznar, Melissa Lane, G. Kaleo Larson, Richard Levy, Richard Lopez, Ken Mayers, Ray McGovern, Gail Miller, Carol Murry, Robert Naiman, Henry Norr, Ann Petter, Gabe Schivone, Kathy Sheetz, Max Suchan, Brad Taylor, Len Tsou, Alice Walker, Paki Wieland, Ann Wright
The Honorable Ban Ki-moon, U.N. Secretary General
The Honorable Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State
The Honorable Jeffrey Feltman, Assistant Secretary of State
The Honorable Susan E. Rice, Permanent U.S. Representative to the United Nations
The Honorable James B. Cunningham, U.S. Ambassador to Israel
The Honorable John F. Kerry, Chairman U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee
The Honorable Richard G. Lugar, Ranking Member U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee
The Honorable Robert P. Casey, Chairman Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs
The Honorable James E. Rish, Ranking Member Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs
The Honorable Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Chairman U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs
The Honorable Howard L. Berman, Ranking Member U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs
The Honorable Steve Chabot, Chairman Subcommittee on Middle East and South Asia
The Honorable Gary L. Ackerman, Ranking Member Subcommittee on Middle East and South Asia
For more information about the U.S. Boat to Gaza, visit ustogaza.org.
Getting on board with peace in Israel
An Israeli American explains why she will be among many boat passengers trying to break through Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Later this month an American ship, the Audacity of Hope, will leave Greece on a journey to the Gaza Strip to attempt to break Israel's blockade. It will join an expected nine other ships flying numerous flags and carrying hundreds of passengers from around the world. I will be one of those passengers.
I am an Israeli Jewish American. I was born in Israel, and I grew up in a very different Jerusalem from the one today. The Jerusalem of my childhood was a smallish city of white-stone neighborhoods nestled in the elbows of hills. Near the center, next to the central post office, the road swerved sharply to the left because straight ahead stood a big wall, and on the other side of it was "them."
And then, on June 9, 1967, the wall came down. Elsewhere, Israeli troops were still fighting what came to be known as the Six-Day War, but on June 9, as a small crowd stood and watched, demolition crews brought down the barrier wall, and after it, all other buildings that had stood between my Jerusalem and the walls of the Old City, their Jerusalem. A few weeks later a wide road would lead from my Jerusalem to theirs, bearing the victors' name: Paratroopers Way.
A soldier helped me sneak into the Old City. Snipers were still at large and the city was closed to Israeli civilians. By the Western Wall, a myth to me until then, the Israeli army was already evicting Palestinian residents in the dead of night and demolishing all houses within 1,000 feet. Eventually, the area would turn into the huge open paved space it is today, a place where only last month, on Jerusalem Day, masses of Israeli youths chanted "Muhammad is dead" and "May your villages burn."
It is a different Jerusalem now. It is not their Jerusalem, for it has been taken from them. Every day the Palestinians of Jerusalem are further strangled by more incursions, by more "housing developments" to cut them off from other Palestinians. In Sheik Jarrah, a neighborhood built by Jordan in the 1950s to house refugees, Palestinian families recently have been evicted from their homes at gunpoint based on court-sanctioned documents purporting to show Jewish land ownership in the area dating back some 100 years. But no Palestinian proof of ownership within West Jerusalem has ever prevailed in Israeli courts. Talbieh, Katamon, Baca, until 1948 affluent Palestinian neighborhoods, are today almost exclusively Jewish, with no legal recourse for the Palestinians who recently raised families and lived their lives there.
In his speech on Jerusalem Day, Yitzhak Pindrus, the deputy mayor of Jerusalem, assured a cheering crowd of the ongoing commitment to expanding the Jewish neighborhood of Shimon Hatzadik, as Sheik Jarrah has been renamed.
This is not my Jerusalem. The tens of thousands of jeering youths that swarmed through its streets on Jerusalem Dayhave taken the city from me as well. That they speak my native tongue is almost impossible for me to believe, for there is nothing about them or about the society that gave birth to them that I recognize.
Did we know in 1967, in 1948, that it would come to this? Some did. Some knew even then that a society built on conquest and dispossession would have to dehumanize the conquered in order to continue to dispossess and oppress them. A 1948 letter to the New York Times signed by Albert Einstein and Hannah Arendt, among others, foretells much of the future. Martin Buber did not spare David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel, his perspective on the expulsion of the Palestinians in 1948-49.
But too many others, including members of the U.S. Congress who recently cheered Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, are determined to not hold the Israeli government responsible or the Israeli-Jewish society culpable.
Let us note that some Israeli Jews do stand up and protest. There are soldiers who refuse to serve, journalists who highlight injustice, and human rights organizations, activist groups, information centers. In a sense, all of us seeking justice have been on a virtual boat to Gaza all these decades. We have been trying to break through the Israeli blockade, in its many incarnations. We wish to say to the Palestinians that, yes, there are people in Israel who know that any viable future for the Middle East must be based on a just peace — not the forced imposition spelled out by Netanyahu to Congress — or else we are all doomed. We want it known that the soldier is not the only face of Israeli Jews. There are those who say to the government of Israel, "You do not represent us." We say to the people of the United States in general and to American Jews in particular that yes, you do have an alternative. You can support peace. A true peace.
Hagit Borer moved from Israel to the United States to study in 1977. She became an American citizen in 1992 and is currently a professor of linguistics at USC.