A group of American organizations and individuals calling itself U.S. Boat to Gaza is currently raising money online to pay for a U.S. ship to partake in a new flotilla that will protest Israel's blockade of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip. The next flotilla is scheduled to set sail in September or October and, if enough money is raised, the group will name the ship after President Barack Obama's second book, The Audacity of Hope.
There are several notable issues with this group, however. First, statements in the site's opening paragraph are both misleading and untrue. As it says: "In the aftermath of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla massacre...the Israeli government has mounted a huge public relations campaign spreading the lie that by letting a few more items into Gaza the blockade has been lifted. This is not the reality. Gaza is still under siege, vital building materials and other supplies are banned, exports of goods from Gaza are denied and neither ships nor people can travel without permission from Israel, permission which Israel will not give."
To begin, as this raw footage illustrates, Israel's raid on Gaza was not a massacre, but an act of self defense. In addition, while it is true that the movement of goods, ships, and people remain under Israel's control, this is the case for good reason: Gaza is run by a terrorist organization that has committed itself to destroying the Jewish State. Therefore, just as the U.S. and UN recently sanctioned Iran to prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon, Israel controls Gaza's exports, ships, and people to prevent Hamas from obtaining deadly arms and carrying out terrorist attacks.
Furthermore, the Israeli government never claimed it would lift the blockade, only lessen it. As an Israeli official said: "Our principle is clear. To prevent weaponry and material from reaching Gaza that could help Hamas, but at the same time to allow the transfer of civilian goods to Gaza's civilian population." Israel now allows a large list of previously bannedconstruction materials into Gaza.
And building materials are making their way in. The first ever shopping center opened last Saturday in the Strip, called Gaza Mall. The two-story site offers a supermarket, international clothing stores, a food court, beauty products, a children's playground, a restaurant, and indoor air conditioning – all at affordable prices for local residents.
Finally, it is notable that Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University,signed the appeal for funds to outfit the ship. Khalidi, a former spokesperson for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), recently made headlines during the 2008 presidential race when ties between the professor and President Obama were discovered. Citing U.S. laws against aiding terrorist groups such as Hamas, as well as neutrality laws against fitting vessels with the intent of committing hostile acts against a country the U.S. is at peace with, Andy McCarthy of the National Review already called for a Justice Department probe of Khalidi.
While it is unlikely that the Justice Department will launch an investigation, the Obama administration should denounce this new movement that is publicly planning to break Israel's legal blockade. In doing so, the White House would demonstrate its understanding Israel's national security situation as it pushes for a continuation of the stalled Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. The president's audacity to hope, then, will be for fostering an environment for peace talks.