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July 2011, Week 1

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Gaza Update - U.S. Boat to Gaza, Activists Conducting 'Fly
In' to Israel

1. July 6th Update from the U.S. Boat to Gaza
2. Activists conducting 'fly in' to Israel

==========

July 6th Update from the U.S. Boat to Gaza
July 6, 2011
http://ustogaza.org/latest/july-6th-update-from-the-u-s-boat-to-gaza/

The presence of the U.S. Boat to Gaza in Athens is
winding down. For more than 2 weeks the 37 passengers
(someone was added at the last moment), 4 crew members
and about 12 people in the support team there worked
hard to make sure our boat - The Audacity of Hope -
could sail as part of the international Freedom Flotilla
2 to Gaza. The Greek government's willingness to serve
as the enforcer of Israeli's naval blockade of Gaza made
it impossible for this journey to happen.

But the creative and determined spirit of this team of
committed activists could not be stopped or silenced.
They worked tirelessly to make the point in countless
ways: they attempted to set sail knowing it might lead
to a confrontation with the Greek authorities, they
stood by the boat's captain when he was arrested and
jailed for several days, several people held a hunger
strike for a few days, everyone marched and rallied with
other flotilla activists and with the people of Athens
in their own struggle for economic justice, and
incredible energy went into getting the word out to
people throughout this country and around the world as
the work with the media continued through it all.

Last night our group's activities in Athens ended and
here's a description from one of our people there: "We
all went to Syntagma Square which looks much like Tahrir
where there is an encampment and thousands of people
gather each night. On Sundays there may be upwards of
50,000 and on big nights hundreds of thousands. We
unfurled to drum beats 22 flags sewn together
representing the countries participating in the
Flotilla. Our black and white signs were in Greek,
Arabic and English. It was a beautiful sight. Then we
marched to the Spanish Embassy where our Spanish
partners were occupying its embassy demanding the
release of their boat. We arrived at about 9 pm with
drummers leading the way. They came out on balconies and
we sang to each other. It was quite the sight."

Now our folks are beginning the journey home - some will
arrive today, some tomorrow and others in the days
ahead. Everyone is tired, but their energy is strong!
They will share their stories and talk about their
experiences in communities everywhere. And they will use
this incredible time they shared in Athens as a spring
board for further activism and organizing.

As soon as we can, we will send more information about
the next steps and how you all can stay involved in the
work to end the Israeli naval blockade and lift the
siege of Gaza, as well as the efforts to end the Israeli
occupation of the Palestinian Territories. That, after
all is said and done, is what this effort has been
about, and that is the work that must continue.

Below is a quick overview of several items related to
our presence in Athens and our work with the flotilla.
In the coming days we will be including further updates
on our website so please check there. Also, remember,
there are great photos and videos from these last two
weeks on our site...check them out! http://ustogaza.org/

peace,

Leslie Cagan

=====

JULY 6, 2011 OVERVIEW

1) Captain Released Our boat's captain - John Klusmire -
had a hearing on Tuesday in a Greek court. Her was
released from jail, where he had been since Saturday
morning, and was told he had no restrictions or
limitations on his movements or activities. The charges
against him were not dropped but we are hopeful that
eventually they will be. Thanks everyone for all of the
calls and email messages you sent to Greek and U.S.
authorities in support of John!!

2) Hunger Strike Over The 9 passengers who were on a
hunger strike in support of our captain ended their
fast. On Sunday they had been detained by the Athens
police for several hours, and then on Monday 6 people
(some others and some of the same folks) were again
detained and then let go a few hours later. Everyone was
fine and since then no one has been held by the police.

3) Our Boat The Audacity of Hope remains in the hands of
Greek authorities and we do not yet know when they will
release it. Several of our people are staying in Athens
for the foreseeable future to make sure the boat is
safe. While we do not own the boat - we leased it from a
Greek company - we feel a responsibility to make sure it
is returned to its owner in good condition.

4) Information on Some of the Other Boats - Please note
that the situation for each boat has been constantly
changing so it's possible that some of this information
could already be put of date. We will try to get an
update on the boats on our website as soon as possible.
http://ustogaza.org/

 a) On 7/5, the Greek Boat to Gaza group held a press
    conference at the Athens Press Club. Present were
    Dimitris Plionis, an organizer from the Greek group,
    Dr. Mattias Gardell of the partner group Swedish
    Boat to Gaza, Members of Parliament Tasos Kourakis
    and Theodoris Dritsas 2 MPs, and Green Party
    representative Iannis Tsironis. They denounced the
    government actions and policies forbidding ships of
    the Flotilla to leave Greek ports, effectively
    extending the Israeli siege of Gaza to Greek waters
    and outsourcing the siege of Gaza. Also attending in
    solidarity was MP Panagiotis Kouroublis, who had
    recently been expelled from the ruling PASOK Party
    for voting against the IMF austerity plan. He was
    given a standing ovation when he entered the hall.

 b) The owners and crew of the
    Greek/Swedish/Norwegian passenger boat Juliano went
    on board in the port of Perama near Piraeus, and
    attempted to take the boat to the port town of
    Fokia, approximately 10 km. away, where they were
    due to attend a welcome ceremony at the invitation
    of the Fokia mayor, honoring the passengers and
    crew. However, the port authorities prevented the
    boat from leaving, without citing any justification.
    In the meantime, two rented boats filled with
    journalists and supporters gathered at the port to
    cover the action and to demand release of the boat,
    and have been confronted by port police. At latest
    report, the standoff continues, and a crowd of
    people is gathering at the Perama Port Authority to
    demand the release of the boat.

 c) Passengers of the Spanish boat Guernica entered
    the Spanish embassy in Athens and staged a sit-in,
    demanding that the Spanish government intercede with
    Greece to release the boat. They hoisted the
    Palestinian flag and are refusing to leave until
    their boat is given permission to leave.

 d) Canadian citizen Sandra Ruch remains in custody
    in the port city of Aghios Nikolaos. She and one
    other Suha Kneen, Michael Coleman, Australian
    Canadian were charged with impeding coast guard
    authorities by placing themselves in kayaks in front
    of police boats attempting to stop the Canadian
    boat, Tahrir from leaving Greek waters. They have
    been charged with interfering with law enforcement.

 e) The other French passenger boat Karameh is again
    at sea in international waters, awaiting the other
    boats in the Flotilla. After leaving France, it
    proceeded to the eastern Mediterranean, where it
    sheltered in a safe port before returning to
    international waters.

======

EMBODY THE MESSAGE - U.S. Boat to Gaza

Purchase a shirt which will help support the US boat
financially and wear it often to spread the word far and
wide about the US to Gaza campaign.

Click here to buy yours today!
http://ustogaza.org/take-action/store/

==========

Activists conducting 'fly in' to Israel

    Despite threats from Israeli security, hundreds of
    Palestinian solidarity activists plan to fly into
    Tel Aviv's airport.

by Dahr Jamail

Al Jazeera July 06, Jul 2011 Last Modified - 13:49

http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/features/2011/07/201175145243628145.html

This Friday, July 8, hundreds of pro-Palestinian
activists are planning to fly to Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion
Airport in a display of solidarity with Palestinians
living in the occupied territories.

According to organisers, at least 500 people have
already scheduled flights to Israel, including
Palestinians that will fly from Europe, North and South
America, Asia, and Africa.

The "fly in", as organisers are referring to the action,
will bring protesters to Tel Aviv where they will all
arrive within a two-hour period. At least fifteen
organisations are involved in the event which is timed
to coincide with peaceful demonstrations and actions
within the occupied territories that have been set up by
Palestinians. The travellers plan to travel from the
airport to the West Bank, a move that would challenge
the long-standing Israeli government policy that has
forbidden such movement.

"The goal is very clear, we are all fed up with being
obliged to lie when we arrive in Allenby [bridge] or Ben
Gurion [Airport] when visiting our Palestinian friends,"
Mireille Rumeau, an organiser with the International
Solidarity Movement in Paris told Al Jazeera.

"We are fed up with lying about being tourists, or
coming for a pilgrimage. Now, they are all going to say:
'we are coming to visit our Palestinian friends that
have invited us.' If they get through, there are events
planned for Palestinian groups for us to take part in,
as we were invited by them six months ago, and we are
answering their call."

Rumeau said that approximately 350 of the participants
that already have their tickets are from France, and
others are flying from Italy, Belgium, and Germany. She
also hopes the action will bring attention to the lack
of Palestinians' ability to move freely, and that, as
the sea flotilla aimed to bring attention to the Israeli
naval blockade, this action will highlight how Israel
also bars air access to the occupied Palestinian
territories.

The 'hooligans' are coming

Mazin Qumsiyeh is the international media spokesperson
for the Welcome to Palestine Campaign in the West Bank.
He spoke with Al Jazeera about the upcoming "fly in" and
how it was connected to events his group is coordinating
in the occupied territories.

"The purpose is to bring internationals to join us and
show solidarity in actions we're doing anyway," Qumsiyeh
told Al Jazeera. "We ask internationals to come, the
only difference from previous actions of solidarity is
that these people have decided among themselves to come
all on the same day to the airport and they are not
going to tell the Israelis they are tourists, but they
are coming in solidarity with the Palestinian people."

On July 5, Israeli Public Security Minister Yitzhak
Aharonovitch called the activists "hooligans" and said
they would be barred entry.

"These hooligans who try to break our laws will not be
allowed into the country and will be returned
immediately to their home countries," he said.

In his first interview as Chief of Staff of the Israeli
army, Yohanan Denino said that his forces "will use all
the legal means in our hands, and we have many", to stop
the activists from proceeding with their plan to protest
at Ben Gurion airport or to travel to the West Bank.

Israeli media has reported that flights landing on July
8 from Europe will be taken to a separate terminal and
all of the passengers carefully screened.

Rumeau, whose group has been active in organising weekly
protests against the West Bank security fence at Bil'in,
as well as being involved with the Free Gaza Movement
behind the flotillas of 2010 and 2011, said she does not
know what Israeli security officials will do with the
hundreds of activists who arrive at the airport.

"We don't know what we will do, as we don't expect them
[Israeli security] to let people leave the tarmac," she
said. "They cannot allow 500 people to enter the small
airport at Tel Aviv. We suppose they might stop the
people from leaving the planes, and checking at that
time who is going to Palestine and who is not. The other
scenario is they put people in buses and take them to
detention."

Qumsiyeh also does not know what the activists might
expect from Israeli security forces.

"We can't predict what the Israeli authorities will do,
but what they've done to individuals who have been
honest about their goal of visiting Palestine is they
have been interrogated for many hours, and possibly
deported," he said.

Qumsiyeh hopes that Israeli authorities will "do the
right and legal thing and let these people through".

"British citizens arriving at Ben-Gurion should be
treated as Israelis are treated at Heathrow," he added.
"They should not be interrogated and deported, just like
if Israelis who are going to visit minorities in London
would not be interrogated and deported. It's the right
and legal course of action."

A small risk

Should those on board the flights be allowed access into
the occupied territories, they will join Palestinians in
peaceful solidarity actions and other events that
Qumsiyeh's group is helping organise.

The move comes as a flotilla of international activists
who planned to try to breach Israel's sea blockade of
Gaza has largely failed to get permission to set sail
from Greece, as a result of Israeli diplomatic pressure
on the country in the throes of economic chaos.

Organisers chose July 8 for the "fly in" as it is the
date in 2004 that the UN's International Court of
Justice issued an advisory opinion that Israel's West
Bank "security fence" stood contrary to international
law.

Laura Durkay, a US activist from New York, will be one
of only a few US citizens participating in the action.
She told Al Jazeera the reason she is taking part in the
"fly in" is because, having travelled to Gaza and the
West Bank, "I saw the conditions and saw what the
Israeli security apparatus looks like. I was
interrogated at the Allenby Bridge, and saw how that
apparatus and control of borders is part of the
occupation. We want to highlight that the West Bank is
also under siege, and one of the ways they enforce that
siege is by keeping people from going in and out of the
West Bank."

Durkay understands that Israeli security forces will
likely turn them away at the airport and not allow the
travellers to enter the West Bank.

"We understand there is a good chance the Israeli
government will prevent us from doing this, and that
would show the world how this so-called democracy treats
those of us who simply want to visit Palestinians and
express our solidarity with them," she said.

Durkay said she understands that there is a possibility
of the activists being treated badly by Israeli
security, but added: "As internationals, we know the
risk for us is much less the risk faced by Palestinians
on a daily basis. It's a small risk compared to what
Palestinians have to deal with all the time and don't
have a choice about."

___________________________________________

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