Freedom Flotilla II Ready to Set Sail

A year after the tragedy aboard the Mavi Marmara, Freedom Flotilla II to Gaza is getting ready to set sail. This time around it will include a US-flagged boat, “The Audacity of Hope,” that will carry dozens of American activists. Click above to watch an interview with two such Americans: attorney Richard Levy and my friend Kathy Kelly, from Voices for Creative Nonviolence.

Here’s Kathy:

It isn’t just a matter of humanitarian cargo being brought into Gaza. It’s a matter of people having been subjected to a state of siege, isolated, 45 percent unemployment, inability to reconstruct after the terrible assaults in Operation Cast Lead, people being trapped, young people not being able to get out to avail themselves of education. There are so many reasons why this siege is wrongful. And so, I think it’s misleading to think that we’re people that are trying to be charitable. We’re people who are trying to say that it’s wrong to impose collective punishment on a civilian population because you want to affect their governance.

(Click here for a full transcript of the interview.)

Joseph Dana will be aboard “The Audacity of Hope” and will report on his experiences for The Nation, blog on +972, and, as usual, send out his ubiquitous tweets via @ibnezra. Medea Benjamin will also be on the boat and will be posting reports on the Code Pink Blog. Other American passengers include Gabriel Schivone, a young Jewish Voice for Peace member, and novelist Alice Walker. (Click here for her essay, “Why I’m Sailing to Gaza.”)

Readers of my blog know how I feel about Israel’s immoral, illegal blockade of Gaza. I also remain firm in my agreement with the UN Human Rights Council report findings that the Israeli military attack on Mavi Marmara passengers amounted to “extra-legal, arbitrary and summary execution.”  (Among those killed was an American, Furkan Dogan, who was shot while videotaping the attack. The US has thus far refused to hold Israel accountable for killing an American citizen in international waters.)

The IDF is already holding military exercises in anticipation of Flotilla II. We can only hope and pray for a peaceful conclusion to this peaceful act of civil disobedience.

For their part, the American passengers of “The Audacity of Hope” have sent the following letter to President Obama:

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.

30 thoughts on “Freedom Flotilla II Ready to Set Sail

  1. Reb Rachel Barenblat

    Thanks for the link to Alice Walker’s essay. After reading it, I followed a link to the longer version, on her own blog: — and find now, as I reach the end of the essay, that I am so heartbroken that I don’t know how or whether I can respond…especially knowing the kind of push-back I’m liable to get from family and readers if I write about this on my blog. How do you find the koach to continue engaging with these issues?

  2. Steve

    Israel should enforce their territorial waters. Any vessel approaching Gaza against Israeli law should be seized. Violence is determined by those on board the vessels as it was on the Mavi Marmara when they illegally attempted to enter the territorial waters of Israel.

    Even Turkey wants nothing to do with this!

    BTW, Hamas refused to allow the Red Cross to determine if Gilad Shalit is dead or alive.

    1. Rabbi Brant Rosen Post author


      The Israeli military boarded the Mavi Marmara in international waters. The boat was not attempting to enter the territorial waters of Israel – it was heading to Gaza, from which Israel had withdrawn.

      The flotilla was/is attempting to break Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza as an act of civil disobedience. It is important to be clear and accurate about the context in which these events occurred.

  3. Mary

    I believe Yonatan Shapira is also on this ship. Say a special prayer for him, that he doesn’t encounter the same brutalty (or worse) that he did when he was on the Jewish Boat to Gaza…..

  4. Jordan Goodman

    Shalom All,

    To second and reinforce Steve’s comment and to show the utter moral bankruptcy of the “so called” human rights advocates including “B’tzelem” check out this link:

    Shavu’a Tov to all of us,


  5. boris furman

    “We can only hope and pray for a peaceful conclusion to this peaceful act of civil disobedience.”
    Peaceful act? How is it peaceful if they are anticipating and provoking a military response?
    “Civil disobedience”? The people committing this act are not part of the civilian population of Gaza. They’re mostly foreign interlopers.
    The “peaceful conclusion” would be their not mixing in at all.
    Americans should be protesting our invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, That would be the most effective use of our political power.

    1. Rabbi Brant Rosen Post author


      Peaceful civil disobedience doesn’t ipso facto provoke a military response. The nature of Israel’s response is up to Israel. If the flotilla participants are anticipating and preparing for a violent military response, it is only because Israel has responded violently in the past.

      When I read your comments about “foreign interlopers” and “not mixing in,” I couldn’t help but think about similar accusations made in response to acts of civil disobedience during the civil rights movement in the US. When northerners such as Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman went down to Mississippi from New York City, when the Freedom Riders from the West and East Coast boarded Southbound buses, or for that matter, when MLK went to Birmingham, they heard the very same kinds of comments. (I recommend reading King’s “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” for an eloquent response to local clergy who called him a “foreign interloper” and begged him not to “mix in.”)

      By the way, I know at least one flotilla participant, Kathy Kelly, has made repeated trips to Iraq and Afghanistan to protest our military involvement there. I strongly suspect she is not the only one.

      1. Steve


        “Peaceful civil disobedience doesn’t ipso facto provoke a military response. The nature of Israel’s response is up to Israel. If the flotilla participants are anticipating and preparing for a violent military response, it is only because Israel has responded violently in the past.”
        Come on Rabbi – you know better.  The violence on the Mavi Marmara occured because there were very violent acts against the IDF when they boarded.  The passengers simply didn’t sit down or not resist arrest as the peaceful and heroic civil rights protesters did.

        Using Michael Schwerner’s and Andrew Goodman’s names for this argument is taking their names in vain.  The flotilla has foreigners trying to aid the terrorist organization Hamas.  Michael and Andrew heroically helped their fellow Americans.

        A more accurate comparison would be Northerners coming to the South to help the Ku Klux Klan.  A comparison can be made with Hamas and the Ku Klux Klan with respect to antsemitism.  

      2. Rabbi Brant Rosen Post author


        By every account, the IDF boarded the Mavi Marmara violently, in the dead of night, in international waters, using Blackhawk helicopters and concussion bombs. Yes, there were some passengers who resisted this attack physically – as many civil rights protesters did in the 1950s and 60s. Then as now, unless we are literally in their place, we are not in a position to judge their actions.

        I stand by my comparison. Schwerner and Goodman, as you say, went to help fellow Americans – and the flotilla activists are acting on behalf of people they believe to be their brothers and sisters in Gaza. In both cases, these were/are acts of solidarity with the oppressed.

        BTW: The flotilla is not an act of assistance to the Hamas regime – it is an act of solidarity with the people of Gaza who are suffering from an unjust policy of collective punishment by Israel. (“Northerners helping the Ku Klux Klan?” Come on, Steve, I think you know better…)

  6. Dave

    Well I went on that website above and here are all the ages of the people there who mentioned an age or from who’s description an age can be exactly determined:

    1/ Does anyone know of a successful major social movement who’s activists were mostly seniors (55+)?

    2/ There’s been a meme out there that there’s a new generation of, take your pick, Americans/Jews/Jewish Americans who are more pro-Palestinian. Doesn’t this group’s own website refute that?

    3/ Given the extreme high age of some of the passengers, (80+) why are there no medical professionals aboard?

    4/ This summer there will be thousands of American Jews going on Birthright Israel trips to Israel. None of them will be older than 26. Reading this group’s website, none of the Jews on this boat will be younger than 26 (Shivone’s age is 27 according another website above). Why the contrast?

    (And to refute an objection to the above, the college/university year is over-cramming over, exams over, etc)

  7. jack bender

    rabbi….your comparison to the civil rights efforts of the 60.s…is wrong….the israelis have a right to blocade..hammas is at war ….they are a cruel and tireless enemy that will stop to nothing….there is a limit to such foolishness….it serves no good purpose…israel is already hated by the left…all this brings any thoughts of a decent peace deal by the arabs, to even more extreme positions…they think they are winning the propaganda war…which is worth little……the israelis wont commit suicicde

  8. Richard Witty

    I think that peace is not constructed by confrontation.

    80% of Gandhi’s work for example was in community building. We only speak of the dramatic civil disobedience, and somewhat opportunistically.

    In the case of Israel/Palestine, I find that the ideological is the enemy of peace, and that includes the opportunism of likud/Israel beitanhu and of Hamas. They share that they are partisan internal movements within their own societies, that use struggle, even foment struggle, as a means to achieve internal partisan advantage.

    The current status of Hamas relative to Palestine as a self-governing entity, is that in objection to the nomination of Fayyad as interim Palestinian prime minister, they are on a moratorium of Palestinian unity.

    That makes the necessary sequence for a peaceful negotiation with Israel nearly impossible before September.
    1. Unity with an interim government authorized to negotiate
    2. Declaration of statehood combined with urging of negotiation
    3. Completing negotiation, clarifying borders and international legal protocols.

    In the current setting, the flotilla serves as advocacy for Hamas and not nearly as much as advocacy for the Gazan Palestinians, especially with the border crossings functioning, if not fully, definitely materially.

    So, I criticize the flotilla currently as a distraction from peace rather than an advocacy, especially as it stimulates resentments (certainly a distraction from peace).

    1. Rabbi Brant Rosen Post author


      Distraction from peace? What peace? What peaceful negotiations? There is currently absolutely nothing constructive going on to be distracted from.

      On the other hand, there is no shortage of resentments. Given the utter failure of the peace process and the clear lack of good faith that is coming from the US and Israel (witness the Palestine Papers and Bibi’s recent speech in Congress), not to mention absolutely no holding Israel to account for it’s unjust collective punishment of Gazans, I’m hard pressed to see how the flotilla could possibly be considered a “distraction from peace.”

      In the meantime, whether or not a genuine, equitable political peace process emerges – which, yes, will have to involve direct dialogues with Hamas – I believe we are duty bound, as Americans and as Jews to protest human rights abuses that Israel performs with utter impunity – and to the deafening silence of the international community.

  9. Rabbi Brant Rosen Post author

    To All Who Don’t Agree With My Comparison of the Flotilla to the Civil Rights Movement:

    Please read the letter below, sent to MLK by a group of Alabama clergy in 1963. I believe the resonances are powerful – particularly their concern over “outsiders” coming in to “incite violence.”

    (To Richard Witty: pay particular attention to their faith in “negotiations.”)

    We the undersigned clergymen are among those who, in January, issued “an appeal for law and order and common sense,” in dealing with racial problems in Alabama. We expressed understanding that honest convictions in racial matters could properly be pursued in the courts, but urged that decisions of those courts should in the meantime be peacefully obeyed.

    Since that time there had been some evidence of increased forbearance and a willingness to face facts. Responsible citizens have undertaken to work on various problems which cause racial friction and unrest. In Birmingham, recent public events have given indication that we all have opportunity for a new constructive and realistic approach to racial problems.

    However, we are now confronted by a series of demonstrations by some of our Negro citizens, directed and led in part by outsiders. We recognize the natural impatience of people who feel that their hopes are slow in being realized. But we are convinced that these demonstrations are unwise and untimely.

    We agree rather with certain local Negro leadership which has called for honest and open negotiation of racial issues in our area. And we believe this kind of facing of issues can best be accomplished by citizens of our own metropolitan area, white and Negro, meeting with their knowledge and experience of the local situation. All of us need to face that responsibility and find proper channels for its accomplishment.

    Just as we formerly pointed out that “hatred and violence have no sanction in our religious and political traditions,” we also point out that such actions as incite to hatred and violence, however technically peaceful those actions may be, have not contributed to the resolution of our local problems. We do not believe that these days of new hope are days when extreme measures are justified in Birmingham.

    We commend the community as a whole, and the local news media and law enforcement officials in particular, on the calm manner in which these demonstrations have been handled. We urge the public to continue to show restraint should the demonstrations continue, and the law enforcement officials to remain calm and continue to protect our city from violence.

    We further strongly urge our own Negro community to withdraw support from these demonstrations, and to unite locally in working peacefully for a better Birmingham. When rights are consistently denied, a cause should be pressed in the courts and in negotiations among local leaders, and not in the streets. We appeal to both our white and Negro citizenry to observe the principles of law and order and common sense.

  10. Dan Solomon

    I have a question for all those who oppose the flotilla. What’s wrong with the Israelis letting them reach Gaza? Since they aren’t supplying any weapons what’s the problem? They will just drop off their supplies and leave.

  11. jack bender

    dan….once the blockade is broken…i would not take long before iran sends heavy weapons and rockets directly into gaza…..not to mention terrorist trainers…..of course there may come a time they could do this through egypt….but that is not yet

    1. Dan Solomon

      Hi Jack:

      I guess I just don’t follow your logic. We all believe that the flotilla does not include weapons, right? Therefore you can let it through without causing harm. If the Iranians, or whoever, tries to send in ships that contain weapons then there is no reason why the Israelis should not stop those. There is no reason why they can’t continue to stop ships that may include weapons while allowing ships that don’t include weapons through.

  12. Richard Witty

    “Distraction from peace? What peace? What peaceful negotiations? There is currently absolutely nothing constructive going on to be distracted from.”

    Distraction from the successful efforts of Fatah to build institutions, to attempt to build relationships, to use diplomacy to realize a Palestinian state.

    I’m disappointed that you think that the only actions that are measures of movement are western and Israeli.

    For two years and more, Fayyad and Abbas have been undertaking non-violent civil disobedience that is thought-out, effective, reliable, unavoidable. But it is not the ego/adrenaline rush of direct action.

    Netanyahu is slimy and desires distractions from Palestinian institution-building.

    But Obama as mediator and others, have successfully eliminated 95% of the substantive objections to a peace that existed 20 years ago.

    That leaves ONLY militancy as an out for him, his only excuse. And, rather than support the sequence, the real courageous non-violent civil disobedience, the flotilla distracts from that sequence and encourages Hamas to stay out of the process.

    My feeling is that the flotilla deters the realization of Palestinian sovereignty. I can’t really see how a principled activist can propose such a disruptive and dangerous effort.

    1. Rabbi Brant Rosen Post author


      In truth, Israel’s blockade of Gaza began well before Hamas took power. And Israel, not Hamas has been repeatedly responsible for breaking ceasefires in Gaza. At the end of the day, this isn’t about Kassams, and it never has been.

      To truly understand this conflict, we’ll need to go back to 1948 and investigate why Gaza filled up with over a million refugees in the first place. Gazans have been resisting occupation – and Israel has been responding with brutal military force for decades now. It still isn’t working.

  13. Ari Kahn

    we could go back 50 or 100 or 500 or 3000 years. Again I have a question how do you respond to rockets, and a stated desire of a government to get bigger and stronger weapons because they want your destruction.
    Is is moral to defend your citizens?
    I know things seems so simple living where you do, but the morality of this issue is not “black and white”.
    Why the attack against Israel and not Egypt which really has the moral responsibility.
    Furthermore the comparison with the Civil Rights movement is flawed on a number of accounts. For example would you support Israel if it unilaterally annexed the entire West Bank and Gaza and gave all the citizens equal rights? I didn’t think so.
    A comparison with Native Americans would be more apt.

  14. Rabbi Brant Rosen Post author


    I’d say that Israel is the party that sees things in “black and white.” Israel clearly believes it can solve this complex political issue by blockading and bombing Gaza into submission. This simplistic approach has not solved the problem and has brought neither safety nor security to Israel or Palestinians.

  15. Ari Kahn

    For Israel – bombing Gaza was a last resort after 7 years of bombardment of its citizens.
    I do not think that Israel believes this is a “solution”, it is a tactic.
    There may not be an immediate solution which is part of the problem.

    You have avoided all of my question – is it moral to attack someone who is is shooting at your citizens?
    If Israel gives rights would you support the annexation of the West Bank?
    If you remove the Blockade – how do you prevent arms from entering Gaza which they unabashedly say they will use.

    1. Rabbi Brant Rosen Post author


      Your characterization of Operation Cast Lead as “a last resort after 7 years of bombardment of (Israeli) citizens” is not correct. Israel’s claims to the contrary, analyses of the recent conflict in Gaza demonstrate that it was Israel, not Hamas that repeatedly broke-cease fires in the months leading up to Cast Lead.

      It is not clear to me what you believe a “tactic” is as opposed to a solution. If by this you mean a method to stop missiles from being fired into Israel, then clearly Cast Lead was a failed tactic. As far as an “immediate solution,” how about this: Israel negotiates with Hamas for an immediate cease fire and the release of Gilad Shalit. If necessary, international monitors could be brought into ensure compliance.

      What exactly would be the downside of such a solution?

      As to your questions:

      – I believe every nation has the moral right and responsibility to defend itself and its citizens against attack.

      – If by “rights” you mean the kind of second class citizenship Israel currently gives its non-Jewish citizens, then no, I would not support Israel’s annexation of the West Bank. At any rate, it would be additionally problematic to have a “Jewish State” populated by a non-Jewish majority.

      – If you remove the blockade, there will certainly be no guarantee that Israel can prevent arms from entering Gaza. That was the gamble Israel made when it decided to disengage. You can’t have it both ways. I would add, however, that neither is there is no stopping Israel from attaining weapons that it regularly uses against Palestinians.

  16. Ari Kahn

    The release of hundreds of murderers with “blood of their hands” who want the death of your men women and children is a possible downside.
    Again a moral question; do you save the life of one individual, at the risk of the lives of hundreds or perhaps thousands. There is a downside, aside from the moral issues. most security analysts in Israel are against this type of exchange on practical pragmatic grounds.
    I am sorry if you citation of an article that blames Israel is underwhelming, what is categorizes as breaking of the ceasefire, may include real acts of violence, or inadvertent, or even justified actions. And what one sides calls justified the other does not.
    Which is really the crux of the issue, you have chosen to adopt the Palestinian narrative in many of your comments. this is a subjective stance (much as mine is a subjective stance) History will either judge you as being a great fighter for freedom or as a man who abandoned his people at a time of war by aiding the enemy in an act of treason.
    Of course it will depend who writes the history books.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s