Action Alert: Free Captain Jack and the US Boat to Gaza!

This from Joseph Dana yesterday:

The US boat to Gaza, The Audacity of Hope, is dead in the water. Its captain, an American citizen who goes only by the name Captain Jack, will be brought before a judge on felony charges on Tuesday in Athens. Passengers on the ship have been given the freedom to leave the military port where the boat is currently detained but crew members have been forced to stay on board. Many passengers are choosing to stay with the ship and its captain out of solidarity for their plight. Some passengers have begun a hunger strike to protest the Greek government and its handling of the US boat captain…

Saturday night, charges against the US captain were elevated to felony charges for which he could face jail time. This has generated guilt among the passengers of the US boat split between leaving the boat and standing in solidarity with their captain. Some passengers have already left Athens, including the Pulitzer Prize winning author Alice Walker. Other passengers have begun a hunger strike in protest of the Greek government.

Please join me in voicing your protest over the Greek government’s unjust treatment of Capt. Klusmire and the passengers of Flotilla II. Here is some contact info:

– Call the State Department at  (202) 647-4000. Ask for the Overseas US Citizen Services Duty Officer and you can speak to a live State Department official.

– E-mail the US Embassy in Athens at: or

– Call the US Embassy in Athens at 011-30-210-721-2951.

– Please also try to call, fax or email your members of Congress.

When you call, I recommend focusing on US to Gaza’s three key requests:

– That the State Department fulfill its duty to advocate on behalf of Captain Klusmire and insist that Greek authorities drop the charges against him.

– That the State Department demand the immediate release of the US boat, The Audacity of Hope, and allow it to sail to Gaza.

– That the State Department demand the Greek Government stop the harassment of all boats involved in a nonviolent action and to let the entire Freedom Flotilla go.

14 thoughts on “Action Alert: Free Captain Jack and the US Boat to Gaza!

  1. Marc Rosenberg

    Let’s get our facts straight about the flotilla:
    1. The flotilla organizers blatantly violate international law by trying to breach a legal maritime blockade. According to international law, Israel has the legal right to impose a land and naval blockade on Hamas-controlled Gaza. Hamas is openly dedicated to Israel’s destruction and routinely makes lethal, unprovoked attacks on Israel from churches and schools in Gaza.

    2. The flotilla organizers are trying to provoke a confrontation. If they were sincerely concerned about humanitarian aid for Gazans, they would deliver it through official Israeli entry points. Israel has repeatedly offered to deliver goods after officially inspecting them for weapons. The organizers have refused to comply.

    3. Gazans are not facing a humanitarian emergency that justifies breaching the blockade. Humanitarian and consumer goods enter Gaza on a daily basis. UN officials repeatedly confirm that there is an ample supply of food and consumer goods.

    4. Hamas, not Israel, has caused the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza. Hamas has chosen war against Israel instead of peaceful coexistence.

    5. If flotilla organizers really were peace and human rights activists, they would not go to Gaza but to Libya or Syria, where the brutal regimes murder and torture thousands of nonviolent, freedom-seeking demonstrators.
    6. International leaders oppose the flotilla:
    • UN: “The secretary-general called on all governments concerned to use their influence to discourage such flotillas, which carry the potential to escalate into violent conflict.”- Spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, May 27, 2011.

    • Canada: “Unauthorized efforts to deliver aid are provocative and, ultimately, unhelpful to the people of Gaza. Canada recognizes Israel’s legitimate security concerns and its right to protect itself and its residents from attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups, including by preventing the smuggling of weapons.” – Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, May 28, 2011.
    • EU: “I don’t consider a flotilla to be the right response.” – Catherine Ashton, EU High Commissioner for Foreign Policy

    1. Rabbi Brant Rosen Post author


      I’m sure you won’t be surprised if I take exception to your “facts.”

      1. Your characterization of Israel’s blockade as legal according to international law is arguable. Israel’s relationship to Gaza is widely viewed as a belligerent occupation, despite its 2005 disengagement. Belligerent occupation is different from a state of war and does not confer the right to form a blockade. It’s also worth noting that the Mavi Marmara incident and the events in Greece last week did not take place in Israeli waters.

      (Regarding the role of Hamas, see my response to your claim #4.)

      2. The flotilla is an act of civil disobedience against what activists consider to be an illegal and unjust blockade. As organizers have made clear over and over, it is a symbolic act of protest, not a humanitarian mission. The fact that Israel is so threatened by a boat filled with mostly middle aged and elderly activists delivering letters of solidarity indicates that Israel understands this point all too well.

      3. I agree with you that this is not a humanitarian crisis. The most crippling effect of the blockade on Gazans is not Israel’s obstruction of humanitarian aid, but the blockade’s effect on Gaza’s economy and freedom of movement. Due to the impossibility of legally importing most goods, or exporting nearly anything, nearly half of Gaza is unemployed and 300,000 people survive on a dollar a day. (Please read this recent report from Gisha of more on this point.)

      My friend, journalist Ashley Bates put it very well when she reported from Gaza last year: this isn’t a humanitarian crisis as much as it is a “crisis of human dignity.”

      4. Whether you or Israel likes Hamas or not (and I’m not their biggest fan either), it is a significant political Palestinian movement that Israel will simply have to negotiate with sooner or later. It will not be able to crush it militarily – and collective punishment of Gazans will clearly not make it go away either.

      If you want to play the game of “well, they started it,” I’m more than willing. 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. If you’re really interested in playing “they started it,” 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.

      5. Yes there are other human rights abusers around the world. Many of the activists on the flotilla have been actively protesting them for years.

      I would only add that this particular example of human rights abuse is being caused by the US’s #1 recipient of aid. I would also add that as American Jews, we are implicated in Israel’s actions twice over. Frankly, many of us are unwilling to remain complicit and silent over this intolerable situation any longer.

      6. I’m not surprised that many political figures are opposed to the flotilla. As an act of civil disobedience, the flotilla represents a response to the utter failure of the political process to bring a resolution to this crisis. That’s how civil disobedience works: it represents ordinary citizens bringing pressure to bear upon political leaders in cases where our leaders are unable or unwilling to exert that pressure themselves.

      1. Richard Kahn

        A few things,

        Mya Guarnieri’s article isn’t exactly convincing. It reads the word “blockade” metaphorically. In truth, Israel’s blockade of Gaza began when Hamas took power. That’s the truth. Restricting exit and entry from Gaza is occupation, not a blockade.
        Also, according to that definition which equates semi-closed borders with a blockade, basically every country (excluding the EU) is imposing blockades on each other. Additionally, the article rests on the benefit that Palestinians got from the occupation but doesn’t acknowledge it. Complaining that Palestinians lost their Israeli jobs after the disengagement is sort of lame.

        A quote from the article about ceasefires: “We defined ‘conflict pauses’ as periods of one or more days when no one is killed on either side, and we asked which side kills first after conflict pauses of different durations.” This is obviously faulty and sort of ruins the whole piece, as it’s a known fact that most rockets fired from Gaza land in unpopulated areas, seeing as the rockets have very low aiming ability. (If this is false, correct me, but I’m pretty sure it’s true.) A better metric would define a “conflict pause” as a period of one or more days when no shots are fired on either side.

        Israel is not the number one recipient of US aid. Iraq overtook it in 2003.

      2. Rabbi Brant Rosen Post author


        The point of Mya’s article was that there had been steadily increasing restrictions on freedom of movement and imports/exports since 1993 – well before Hamas took power. Your definition of “occupation” as “restricting exit and entry” is inaccurate. An occupation is defined as control of a territory by a military force. Many militarily occupied territories can and do have cross-able borders. At any rate, Israel has technically disengaged from Gaza, so maybe “siege” or “closure” are a better words to use. At present, Gaza does not have “semi-closed” borders a la other nations – it is almost literally an open-air prison in which residents cannot leave. Nor can they even enter Israeli imposed “buffer zones” inside Gaza without risk of being shot with live ammunition.

        I’m sure Gazans would have preferred to have had jobs in their own communities and not in Israel. Calling this kind of work a “benefit of the Occupation” is fairly disingenuous. And I’m sure that most Gazans would consider losing their jobs in Israel after disengagement but not have available jobs in Gaza due to the blockade to be “adding insult to injury.”

        Re the ceasefire article: you didn’t read it carefully. The definition of “conflict pauses” as “periods of one or more days when no one is killed” from a study of violence during the 2nd intifada, which was qualitatively different than the Gazan border conflict.

        Finally, I intended to write that Israel is the #1 recipient of US military aid. Point taken.

      3. Richard Kahn

        I don’t disagree that there is a blockade right now. I don’t think anybody disagrees that there is a blockade right now. We’re not talking about right now. When Israel required Gazan Palestinians to get individual permits to enter Israel, that was not a blockade. Many countries require you to get a visa to enter. It’s called a border.

        Why is it disingenuous to call jobs a “benefit of the occupation”? Was it a benefit? Yes. Was it a result of the occupation? Yes. Did Palestinians really expect to keep their jobs in Israel after the disengagement?

        I just re-read the ceasefire article. I don’t understand your issue. Is the article about the Gazan border conflict? Then the “conflict pause” definition is off. Is it about the 2nd intifada? Then it is irrelevant to our discussion here. It also doesn’t seem to be about the 2nd intifada, as the data goes until 2008. Please explain.

      4. Rabbi Brant Rosen Post author

        The first half of the ceasefire article addresses the conflict in Gaza, and makes the point that after the ceasefire in June 2008, the rate of rocket and mortar fire from Gaza dropped to almost zero, and stayed there for four straight months. This lull was broken on November 4 by Israel, not Hamas.

        Kanwisher goes on to ask if this case was part of a pattern – and analyzes attacks by both sides during the Second Intifada. For this analysis, she goes back to 2000 and defines a “conflict pause” as “one or more days when no one is killed on either side.”

      5. Rabbi Brant Rosen Post author

        That “fact” comes from a selective, anecdotal quote by the Hamas economic minister. I’m much more inclined to trust these numbers (from a recent BBC article):

        Gaza’s unemployment rate was among the world’s highest, at 45.2% in late 2010, the UN has found, as Israel’s blockade of the territory enters its fifth year.

        Real wages meanwhile fell by more than a third, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) said.

        Its report says that private businesses have been hardest hit by the continuing ban on virtually all exports.

      6. Marc Rosenberg


        My responses to various points you made earlier today:

        (All that follows is quoted from, June 2, 2010 by Jonathan Saul.) The legality of the blockade is cited in the 1909 Declaration of London, updated in 1994, in a legally recognized document called “The San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts At Sea.” Philip Roche, a partner in the shipping disputes team with the law firm Norton Rose, states “On the basis that Hamas is the ruling entity of Gaza and Israel is in the midst of an armed struggle against that ruling entity, the blockade is legal.”

        Further, according to international law, just because a vessel is in international waters (as was the Turkish Mavi Marmara last year) it can be legally intercepted so long as the ship is bound for a belligerent territory.

        What gives me cause for optimism in our ongoing dialog, Brant, is that you say that the international legality of Israel’s blockade is ARGUABLE (my emphasis). That means to me that you acknowledge that there ARE two sides to this issue. So, as a Jew and a rabbi, why not take the side of Israel? Or at least be neutral?

        This dirties and insults the legends of the great leaders of civil disobedience of our time, Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi. They dissented against conditions that were illegal and rebelled against oppressors who criminally deprived human beings of their basic rights. There is nothing illegal or criminal about Israel’s blockade. It has been upheld and supported by nations all over the world. If Hamas accepts the 3 conditions established by the Quartet of mediators (U.S, European Union, Russia and the U.N.) of renouncing violence, recognizing Israel’s right to exist and adhering to past agreements between the PLO and Israel, things could change dramatically.

        You quote your friend Bates who says “this isn’t a humanitarian crisis as much as it is a “crisis of human dignity.” It’s easy for you to sit in Evanston and minimize the impact of 10,000 rockets fired at you, from behind the cover of schools and religious institutions. If Evanston suffered such an attack, I wonder how you would feel. (Brant, I can’t believe that you really feel that Hamas hasn’t broken as many cease-fires as Israel has). If you care about human dignity, why not funnel some of your energy and rhetoric to convince Hamas to renounce violence. Wouldn’t this be a more profitable use of your time?

        You say we need to go back and investigate why Gaza filled up with over a million refugees in the first place. Did you know that there were an equal amount of Jews displaced from Arab countries in 1948 as were Arabs displaced from Israel? The Jews resettled. The Palestinians have been used as political pawns and intentionally kept living in difficult living conditions. Hamas doesn’t want to hear the Quartet positions because if they agreed to them, peace would come to the land, once and for all, and Hamas wouldn’t have their political football – the Palestinians – to kick around anymore.


      7. Rabbi Brant Rosen Post author


        1. On the legality of the blockade, I confess I am not familiar with the 1909 Declaration of London or The San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts At Sea. I am, however, familiar with the Geneva Convention, which outlaws collective punishment and has been invoked by a myriad of international institutions regarding Israel’s blockade of Gaza:

        a.) U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said “Israel’s blockade of Gaza is illegal and should be lifted” “International humanitarian law prohibits starvation of civilians as a method of warfare and…it is also prohibited to impose collective punishment on civilians”

        b.) UN Panel of Human Rights Experts published report compiled by by a former UN war crimes prosecutor Desmond de Silva, a judge from Trinidad, Karl Hudson-Phillips, and a Malaysian women’s rights advocate, Mary Shanthi Dairiam stated “the Israeli blockade of the Palestinian enclave is illegal because of the scale of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.”

        c.) From Amnesty International: “As a form of collective punishment, Israel’s continuing blockade of Gaza is a flagrant violation of international law.”

        d.) From Gisha: “The closure of Gaza is neither a siege, nor a blockade, nor an economic sanction – it is an illegal act of collective punishment and stands in violation of both international and Israeli law.”

        e.) From the International Committee of the Red Cross “the blockade violates the Geneva Convention, which bans “collective punishment” of a civilian population.” The ICRC called on Israel to lift the blockage.

        f.) From Human Rights Watch: “The blockade, which amounts to the unlawful collective punishment of Gaza’s civilian population, has severely damaged the economy, leaving 70 to 80 percent of Gazans in poverty and dependent on humanitarian aid.”

        g.) From The Center for Constitutional Rights: “Israel’s position is that a lawful maritime blockade is in effect off the coast of Gaza. International law recognizes blockades in the context of armed conflicts, but it does not recognize a blockade by a country against a territory which it is occupying”;s-killing-freedom-flotilla-participants

        h.) From OXFAM: “Though Israel has the duty to protect its citizens, it cannot impose a blockade on every civilian in Gaza. This constitutes collective punishment, which is illegal under international law. The EU should make any future upgrade in economic and political relations dependent on the end of the blockade.”

        i) From UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories Mr. Richard Falk :“In the Gaza Strip, the illegal blockade continued to violate the human rights of Palestinians in Gaza, despite the much proclaimed “easing” of the blockade by Israel in 2010.”

        j.) From Ambassador Craig Murray an internationally recognized authority on maritime jurisdiction and naval boarding issues. He is former Alternate Head of the UK Delegation to the United Nations Preparatory Commission on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. (He was deputy head of the teams which negotiated the UK’s maritime boundaries with France, Germany, Denmark (Faeroe Islands) and Ireland.) “San Remo only applies to blockade in times of armed conflict. Israel is not currently engaged in an armed conflict, and presumably does not wish to be. San Remo does not confer any right to impose a permanent blockade outwith times of armed conflict, and in fact specifically excludes as illegal a general blockade on an entire population.”

        11} UNSC Resolution 1860 “Calls for the unimpeded provision and distribution throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance, including of food, fuel and medical treatment” http://daccess-dds

        Of course I believe this is an arguable debate. But as “a Jew and a rabbi” I’m not inclined to “take sides” based exclusively on a sense of tribal loyalty. To paraphrase playwright Tony Kushner, I am more inclined to follow the precepts of Jewish ethical inquiry, which is to me one of the great glories of Jewish culture and Jewish tradition. I believe that being a Jew means finding the courage within yourself confront reality, to speak articulately about it and, yes, to engage in debate and discussion. There is a great Jewish prophetic tradition of speaking one’s conscience, even when (or especially when) it means taking one’s own tribe to task.

        2. I believe you are fundamentally wrong in your understanding of civil disobedience. King and Ghandi most certainly did lead movements that dissented against injustices that were “legal.” That is what it means to be civilly disobedient. Segregation was “legal” in Southern states. Oppressive laws in India were “legal” according to the British Empire. Apartheid was also “legal” under the regime in South Africa.

        3. I’m not sure you read the article by Kanwisher to which I linked, but if you did you would learn that it was Israel – not Hamas – that broke the ceasefire in 2008. At any rate, my point is that Palestinians in Gaza have been resisting a brutal occupation since well before Hamas came to power. As such, I think the most profitable use of my time is to call for Israel to participate in a truly just solution – and not simply come back repeatedly with greater and more crushing military firepower.

        4. Yes, Jews were displaced from Arab countries, and Israel resettled them (many in confiscated Palestinians homes) in a newly born Jewish state. Given that Israel desperately needed a Jewish majority to create a Jewish state, it was certainly in Israel’s interest to do so. Yes, Arab states have not absorbed Palestinian refugees, also out of what they deem to be their national interest. In neither case have the Palestinians received anything resembling justice.

        Re the Quartet positions: there have been a myriad “preconditions” for negotiations presented from all sides. It is disingenuous for you to cherry pick which you believe to be sacrosanct. At the end of the day, if there is to be any real progress in this process, is up to the two sides themselves to sit down and negotiate in good faith – not to treat one external ad-hoc body’s conditions as a sacred line in the sand.
        (It is also worth noting that Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’ Prime Minister in Gaza is on record as accepting the concept of a two state solution based on pre-1967 borders. While I am certain that you will respond to this with cynicism, the truth is that Hamas has a strong pragmatic wing that has expressed repeated willingness to negotiate with Israel.)

      8. Richard Kahn

        According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, unemployment fell to 30.8 in the first quarter of 2011. ( The sources that you’re rejecting are also not partisan (and the sources you are bringing are almost uniformly partisan, besides your outdated UN stat). The economy in Gaza is growing fairly well right now. You were wrong.

        Regarding the ceasefire piece: So basically, it establishes that Israel broke the ceasefire in 2008, and then the rest is based on faulty assumptions. Great. Israel broke the ceasefire in 2008. That has no bearing on who normally breaks ceasefires or “conflict pauses.”

      9. Rabbi Brant Rosen Post author

        OK Richard, I’m going to take the last word in this spitting match and then we’re going to move on.

        Just about every report I’ve read agrees that the blockade has devastated Gaza’s economy and that the unemployment rate there is among the highest in the world. Ethan Bronner’s NY Times piece is highly selective in its presentation of the facts – a chronic problem with his reportage, I find. He quotes one Hamas minister who says unemployment is dropping, and to back this up he links to a study (the one you cited) that says unemployment fell to 30.8 in the first quarter of 2011.

        The problem with this is that when you look at unemployment stats, you can’t generalize on where the level is at any one point in time (ie the end of the first quarter of 2011.) You need to look at trends over the course of a year, and factor in the overall economic picture, as the UN report does.

        If you read the study you cited carefully, it points out that one unique aspect of Gaza’s economy is that it is seasonal – and that agricultural jobs tend to increase in the first quarter:

        Sa’di Al-Masri from the Labour Force department at the PCBS told the Bulletin that the drop in unemployment in Gaza was mostly due to increased employment in the agricultural sector.

        For a study that gives a much broader picture, I recommend “Gaza: Eased or Un-Eased?” which was released by the World Food Programme. (I’ll leave it to you to determine if this is a “partisan source” or not):

        Between the first quarter of 2010 and the first quarter of 2011, the unemployment rate (ILO definition) decreased by 3 percent, from 33.9 to 30.8 as shown in Figure 1, but still remains one of the highest in the world. During the same period, an additional 27,200 people found employment in the Gaza Strip, while another 99,900 are actively seeking a job but are unable to find one. To take into account the impact of seasonality, especially in relation to the agriculture sector, unemployment rates need to be compared between the same quarters of each year… As a worrying trend, the percentage of youth unemployment remains very high at more than 47 percent.

        None of this contradicts the findings of the UNRWA report, which found that by the end of 2010, unemployment rose to a height of 45%.

        Regarding the cease-fire article: None of your nit-picking takes away from Kanwisher’s essential thesis, which I find to be enormously important:

        a. Despite the Israeli government’s trope that Cast Lead was a response to incessant Hamas’ missile fire into Southern Israel, Hamas respected the cease-fire. It was Israel who broke it, initiating a new cycle of Kassam launchings and Israeli military reprisals that ended in a devastating military operation. This is extremely critical data, given that Israel cites Hamas’ missile launching as its essential defense of Cast Lead and its blockade of Gaza.

        b. As Kanwisher points out:

        Hamas can indeed control the rockets, when it is in their interest. The data shows that cease-fires can work, reducing the violence to nearly zero for months at a time.

        Thanks for helping to clarify these issues.

  2. Michael Levin

    Ahhhh . . . San Remo . . . .Re. San Remo Treaty — see “The Mysterious San Remo Treaty, Hasbarists’ Delight,” Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam, 6/17/11. Excerpt:
    “Lately, with the Gaza flotilla shortly to embark on its attempt to break the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza, and with memories fresh in the world’s mind of the nine dead bodies shot at point blank range by Israeli naval commandos, hasbarists are turning to an obscure international treaty to defend the indefensible: the collective punishment of 1.5 million Gazans by Israel’s armed forces. . . . [The appropriate and trenchant rebuttal of the San Remo argument was] written by a former British ambassador, Craig Murray. And before you question his credentials, let’s present them:
    …Former Head of the Maritime Section of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He negotiated the UK’s current maritime boundaries with Ireland, Denmark (Faeroes), Belgium and France, and boundaries of the Channel Islands, Turks and Caicos and British Virgin Islands. He was alternate Head of the UK Delegation to the UN Preparatory Commission on the Law of the Sea. He was Head of the FCO Section of the Embargo Surveillance Centre, enforcing sanctions on Iraq, and directly responsible for clearance of Royal Navy boarding operations in the Persian Gulf. I quote Ambassador Murray in full (italics are mine): Why San Remo Does Not Apply . . . . ”
    [For the entire post regarding the explanation by Ambassador Murray see // Ambassador Murray’s article “Why San Remo Does Not Apply” is found at ]

    1. Richard Kahn

      “If it is the formal Israeli position that it is in a state of armed conflict with Gaza, then Gaza has every right to attack Israel with rockets.”

      Really? Countries at war have every right to intentionally target civilians?


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