This was sent to the State Department Monday June 29, 2015
By Lawrence Tawil
Honorable Secretary Kerry,
I was a participant in the founding voyages of the Free Gaza Movement (FGM) in August of 2008. Our two vessels, refurbished old Greek fishing trawlers, successfully arrived at our target destination of Gaza City, despite repeated threats by the Israeli Navy and its government to thwart our humanitarian operation. They were convinced at the last minute to relent and avoid all confrontation with us BECAUSE OF DIPLOMATIC PRESSURE APPLIED BY THE WORLD COMMUNITY.
Freedom Flotilla III has been sailing since Saturday morning (Gaza time) to challenge the blockade of 1.8 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. FFIII consists of four boats, the converted fishing trawler "Marianne of Gothenburg" and the supporting sailing vessels “Rachel”, “Vittorio” and “Juliano II”, carrying 47 people from 17 countries. Their primary goal is to break the illegal and inhumane blockade of Gaza and to call on opening the port of Gaza, the port of Palestine to the world.
Regardless of the official position of the United States towards the Hamas government of the Gaza Strip, it must be remembered that they are the elected leaders of those Palestinians who live there. For two decades before there even was a Hamas, Israel subjected its residents to the harsh regime of typical military occupation -- obtrusive checkpoints, intermittent and unpredictable curfews, strangulating restrictions on passage and trade through all its ports of entry, be they land, air or sea. The evacuation of Gaza's illegal Jewish settlements in 2005 has had a net effect of even worse conditions, and this is not even taking into account IDF belligerent actions against the Arab population which usually amounted to collective punishment.
True to form, Israel maintained these repressive measures against the FGM and its associated partners starting immediately after Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009, never again allowing one single maritime craft to enter the port of Gaza City. All ships and boats of this human rights endeavour have consistently been open to inspection by any and all certified international parties, including the Israelis, before departure to their intended destination in the Gaza Strip. Therefore the Israeli navy never had any excuse to commit consistent acts of piracy, theft, kidnapping and in one case out-and-out murder in international waters ahead of the proper and intended termination of each voyage.
As an active member and former participant of FGM, a Palestinian-American whose father became a displaced person in 1948 when he was denied re-entry to his homeland by the nascent Israeli nation, and as an American citizen in good standing who simply supports universal human rights and justice for all, I DEMAND that you, as my Secretary of State take all legitimate measures with Prime Minister Netanyahu and your ministerial counterpart to demand of them that all kidnapped passengers of the S.S. Marianne, flagship of the current Freedom Flotilla III, be immediately released, ensured of safe and humanitarian handling, and that all the other vessels in the Flotilla remain unmolested provided they stay out of Israeli territorial waters, and to allow them to fulfill their mission to encourage the beleaguered population of impoverished and degraded Palestinian Arabs, to minimally resupply them, and to re-establish the freedom and self-sufficiency of maritime commerce for this battered, worn-torn enclave.
Lawrence Tawil, Scotts Valley, California, USA