As ThinkProgress’s Ali Gharib previously noted, the State Department recently put out a statement warning that American citizens who join a flotilla of aid ships to Gaza that is leaving soon — the lead U.S. boat is calling itself the Audacity of Hope — may face arrest, injury, or even death resulting form Israeli military activities. This warning is particularly important given last year’s events, where a U.S. citizen was killed while aboard an aid flotilla.
Now, six Members of Congress have written a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking her to ensure the safety of Americans onboard aid flotillas to Gaza. The Members note that while Israel has every right to defend itself, that the measures it takes must “conform to international humanitarian and human rights law” and that the U.S. must also work to protect its own citizens:
We write to express our concern for the safety of American passengers on the U.S. ship The Audacity of Hope, which will set sail for Gaza in the next few days. We request that you do everything in your power to work with the Israeli government to ensure the safety of the U.S. citizens on board. [...]
We wholeheartedly support Israel’s right, and indeed its duty, to protect its citizens from security threats. The measures it uses to do so, as in the case with any other nation, must conform to international humanitarian and human rights law. We are encouraged that The Audacity of Hope organizers have stated that their cargo “is open to international inspection” and that they “are fully committed to nonviolence and the the tenets of international law”.
The letter comes at a time when other governments are taking much sterner lines on protecting the activists aboard the flotilla. “Israel must exercise all possible restraint and avoid any use of military force if attempting to uphold their naval blockade,” said Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Eamon Gilmore. “In particular, I would expect that any interception of ships is conducted in a peaceful manner and does not endanger the safety of our citizens or other participants.”
For more on the flotilla, see this interview with Israeli-American independent journalist Joseph Dana on Al Jazeera English’s The Stream. I appeared on the show and along with the co-hosts interviewed Dana about his upcoming trip on the aid flotilla.