The group behind the Gaza flotilla that engaged in deadly clashes with Israeli commandos today counts among its top supporters the friends and associates of President Barack Obama, namely the founders of the Weather Underground terrorist organization, William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, as well as Jodie Evans, the leader of the radical activist organization Code Pink.
Earlier today, Israeli navy commandos raided the six-ship flotilla, encountering heavy resistance and live fire from the activists. Several activists were killed and dozens of others were reportedly injured, as were several of the Israeli commandos.
The flotilla was organized by the Free Gaza Movement, a coalition of leftist human rights activists and pro-Palestinian groups engaged in attempts to break a blockade imposed by Israel on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
Ayers, Dohrn and Evans' Code Pink have led several recent Free Gaza Movement initiatives, including attempted marches into the Gaza Strip. Dorhn was in the Middle East just last month on behalf of the movement.
Ayers and Dohrn were close associates for years with President Obama, while Evans was a fundraiser and financial bundler for Obama's presidential campaign.
In January, WND reported Ayers, Dohrn and Evans were involved in provoking chaos on the streets of Egypt in an attempt to enter Gaza with the Free Gaza Movement to join in solidarity with the territory's population and leadership.
The three helped to stir riots after the Egyptian government refused to allow a large number of protesters to enter neighboring Gaza. Eventually, the protesters accepted an Egyptian offer of allowing about 100 marchers into Gaza. Once in the territory, those marchers were reportedly met on the Gaza side by Hamas' former Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.
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At the time of the march, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., wrote a letter in support of a "humanitarian delegation from Massachusetts" to Gaza. Members of Ayers', Dohrn and Evans' group documented on their blogs how Kerry's letter was used at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo while attempting to pressure Egypt to let their group into Gaza.
Images of the letter were also posted on the Electronic Intifada website run by Ali Abunimah, who was with Evans' group in Egypt and who, WND previously reported, spoke at pro-Palestinian events in the 1990s alongside Obama. In one such event, a 1999 fundraiser for Palestinian "refugees," Abunimah recalled introducing Obama on stage.
Kerry's office previously met with Code Pink members, WND has learned. Sarah Roche-Mahdi of Code Pink also is a member of the United for Peace and Justice Palestine Task Force, which met with Kerry's staffers.
Kerry last year became the most senior U.S. politician to visit the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, although at the time he did not meet with Hamas leaders.
Dohrn later wrote on a blog that she was briefly detained at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo following the January protests there by her group: "Bill and I went to the American Embassy at 10 a.m. and asked to see the ambassador. We were ushered into a holding pen a block away from the embassy building where we joined 35 people already there, surrounded by Egyptian soldiers," she wrote.
Israeli Naval Forces intercepted the flotilla today attempting to break the maritime closure of the Gaza Strip.
An Israel Defense Forces spokesperson told WND commandos boarded the ships after numerous warnings from Israel requesting the ships redirect toward the Israeli port of Ashdod, where they would be able to unload their aid supplies, which could then be transferred to the Gaza Strip after undergoing security inspections.
During the boarding of one of the ships, the Marmara, activists onboard attacked IDF naval personnel with live fire and light weaponry including knives and clubs, the IDF spokesperson said.
"The demonstrators had clearly prepared their weapons in advance for this specific purpose," said the spokesperson. "As a result of this life-threatening and violent activity, naval forces first employed riot dispersal means, followed by live fire.
"IDF naval personnel encountered severe violence, including use of weaponry prepared in advance in order to attack them," said the spokesperson.
The IDF released a YouTube video clearly showing activists attacking Israeli commandos, including attacks with live fire.
Close Obama associates
Evans formed Code Pink, a far-left activist organization, in 2002 to protest America's war in Iraq. The group previously met with Hamas and with leaders of the Taliban. Evans was a fundraiser and financial bundler for Obama's presidential campaign.
Abunimah traveled in some of the same political circles as Obama in the 1990s. Abunimah previously described meeting with Obama at a fundraiser at the home of Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi, reportedly a former PLO activist. Khalidi was also a close associate of Obama.
"[Obama] came with his wife. That's where I had a chance to really talk to him," Abunimah recalled. "It was an intimate setting. He convinced me he was very aware of the issues [and] critical of U.S. bias toward Israel and lack of sensitivity to Arabs. ... He was very supportive of U.S. pressure on Israel."
According to quotes obtained by Gulf News, Abunimah recalled a 2004 meeting in a Chicago neighborhood while Obama was running for his Senate seat. Abunimah quoted Obama telling him "warmly" he was sorry that "I haven't said more about Palestine right now, but we are in a tough primary race."
"I'm hoping when things calm down, I can be more up front," Abunimah reportedly quoted the senator as saying.
Abunimah said Obama urged him to "keep up the good work" at the Chicago Tribune, where Abunimah contributed guest columns that were highly critical of Israel.
Ayers, meanwhile, became a name in last year's presidential campaign when it was disclosed the radical worked closely with Obama for years.
Ayers helped launch Obama's political career with a fundraiser in his home. Obama served on the board of a Chicago nonprofit alongside Ayers. The terrorist later hired Obama to serve as chairman of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a job Obama later cited as experience that helped qualify him to run for public office.
While at the CAC, Obama and Ayers both granted funds to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN.
WND columnist Jack Cashill has produced a series of persuasive arguments that it was Ayers who ghostwrote Obama's award-winning autobiography, "Dreams from My Father."
Ayers and Dohrn were two of the main founders of the Weather Underground, which bombed the New York City Police headquarters in 1970, the Capitol in 1971 and the Pentagon in 1972. The group was responsible for some 30 bombings aimed at destroying the defense and security infrastructures of the U.S.
Characterizing the Weather Underground as "an American Red Army," Ayers summed up the organization's ideology: "Kill all the rich people. Break up their cars and apartments. Bring the revolution home. Kill your parents."
"Everything was absolutely ideal on the day I bombed the Pentagon," Ayers recalled in his 2001 memoir, "Fugitive Days." "The sky was blue. The birds were singing. And the bastards were finally going to get what was coming to them."
Ayers brandished his unrepentant radicalism for years later, as evidenced by his now notorious 2001 interview with the New York Times, published one day after the 9/11 attacks, in which he stated, "I don't regret setting bombs. I feel we didn't do enough."
Ayers posed for a photograph accompanying the New York Times piece that showed him stepping on an American flag. He said of the U.S.: "What a country. It makes me want to puke."