American Gaza Flotilla Participant Calls Rick Perry’s DOJ Letter ‘The Worst Kind Of Pandering’

Republican presidential hopeful and Texas governor Rick Perry sent a letter Tuesday to the Justice Department urging the investigation and prosecution of U.S. citizens and organizations who are participating in the second flotilla to break the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.

In the letter, Perry repeats unfounded allegations by Israeli government officials — debunked yesterday by the Israeli press — that the Gaza flotilla has violent intentions against Israel:

According to numerous recent media reports, American citizens and organizations, together with a coalition of violent anti-Israel organizations from other countries, have organized efforts to breach Israel’s maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip as early as this week. …

The acts of funding, support, organizing and engaging in these efforts appears to constitute participation in a naval expedition against against a people with whom the United States is at peace…; the furnishing of a vessel with the intent that it be employed to commit hostilities against a people with whom the United States is at peace…; and the provision of material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization.

There is no evidence that any participants in the flotilla plan “to commit hostilities” against anyone. In fact, an IDF spokesperson and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pushed this canard before it was debunked by the Israeli and American press. Cabinet ministers insisted  the evidence given to the press was “the exact opposite of what we were given,” even calling the talking point “public relations hysteria” and “spin.” One of the boats of Americans bound for Gaza responded to the baseless accusation by opening up everything — crew, passengers, the boat and the cargo — for inspection by the media. And Mondoweiss posted a video of flotilla participants receiving training in non-violence.

The notion — echoing the call of two staunch Israel supporters in Congress — that flotilla participants can be prosecuted for material terror is flimsy at best and made in bad faith at worst. Richard Levy, a civil rights lawyer from New York who plans to sail for Gaza, told ThinkProgress by phone from Greece that participants from the U.S. boat have not coordinated at all with Hamas. Asked by ThinkProgress about contacts with groups listed by the U.S. as terrorists, he said:

The answer is no. The only contact we’ve had is with an arts group in Gaza and a civil society group there. We’ve been very careful to avoid contact that would create those kinds of problems.

Levy called Perry an “outrageous liar” and said his letter was clearly politically motivated to curry favor with Washington’s powerful right wing pro-Israel lobby as he builds his presidential candidacy. Levy said it was “the worst kind of pandering.”

At least one Republican from Perry’s home state agreed that the letter was political: “Is it political? Probably,” said State Senator Florence Shapiro, adding that she nonetheless thought Perry was sincere in his “commitment and his deep passion for the Israeli people, and for the country itself.”