An initiative is under way to add an American ship to the effort to break the IDF blockade of Gaza.
The vessel, to be named The Audacity of Hope after US President Barack Obama's best-selling book, is being organized by an American group called "US Boat to Gaza." It is expected to sail in the fall.
The links to Obama do not end there. Prof. Rashid Khalidi, director of the Middle East Institute at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs, and a friend from Obama's time in Chicago, is among the supporters of an appeal launched by the group last week.
"We must raise at least $370,000 in the next month," a statement on US Boat to Gaza's Web site read.
"These funds will be used to purchase a boat large enough for 40-60 people, secure a crew, and cover the licensing and registering of the boat...
together we will contribute to the great effort to end the blockade of Gaza and the illegal occupation of Palestine."
The Lebanese-Saudi Arabian- Palestinian-American Khalidi, an outspoken critic of Israel, garnered attention in 2008 when his friendship with Obama became a point of controversy during the US presidential campaign. Sen.
John McCain, Obama's opponent, portrayed Khalidi as a Hamas sympathizer.
Khalidi's involvement in this new project is already a popular topic among rightwing bloggers and media personalities in America.
"Hamas is the Muslim Brotherhood's Palestinian arm.
Rashid Khalidi has now signed an appeal for funds to outfit another ship like the peace flotilla that would try to break Israeli's blockage of Gaza, the territory controlled by Hamas," American pundit Glenn Beck said on his syndicated radio show last week.
"Rashid Khalidi, a good friend of the president. The name of the ship: The Audacity of Hope."
Others supporters of US Boat to Gaza include author Alice Walker, activist Angela Davis, and Cindy and Craig Corrie, the parents of International Solidarity Movement activist Rachel Corrie, who was killed by an IDF bulldozer in Rafah in 2003.
While Khalidi will help raise money for the initiative, he said he does not plan to sail on the ship.
Khalidi wrote in an e-mail over the weekend that while he had not known that Obama's book would be the inspiration for the ship's name when he signed on as a sponsor, he does not view it as a potential embarrassment for Obama.
"But if the name is a problem for the administration, it can simply insist publicly that Israel lift the siege: end of problem, end of embarrassment," Khalidi wrote in the e-mail. "That of course would require it to respond to the systematic mendacity of those in Congress and elsewhere who support the siege, and indeed whatever else the Israeli government does."