A fund raising campaign has been launched in the United States to garner financial support to purchase a ship in an attempt to breach the Israeli naval blockade at the Gaza Strip as early as autumn. The ship will be named after President Barack Obama's popular book "The Audacity of Hope".
Columbia University history professor Rashid Khalidi, a renowned critic of Israel and also a good friend of Obama, has joined the campaign. An email being circulated by pro-Palestinian activists in the U.S. claimed the campaign is likely to raise at least USD 370,000 be the end of next month.
The main objective of the campaign is to garner enough financial support to possess a ship that can easily accommodate 40-60 people. The email further said that the vessel would be joined by other ships from Europe, Canada, India, South Africa and the Middle East in an effort to breach the blockade.
Right-wing Internet-based blog was quick to interpret the involvement of Khalidi, who is being projected as Obama's friend trying to support Hamas. Khalidi, however, said that he wasn't aware of the campaign being named after his friend. Khalidi added that there was no need to get embarrassed by the name "The Audacity of Hope. Khalidi, who was born in the U.S. and the son of a Palestinian refugee, told Haaretz that he wouldn't travel to Gaza but extend moral support to voyage. In a reference to the Israel Defense Forces, he added: "Given the national-religious hierarchy which determines what the IDF can do to whom, the fact that the ship is American will make it harder to deal with it as the Mavi Marmara was dealt with."
Khalidi said he does not know what the ship will ultimately be named, but said the White House should not be embarrassed by the name "The Audacity of Hope" and should instead call for Israel's naval blockade of the Hamas-controlled territory to be lifted.
Khalidi, who was born in the U.S. and the son of a Palestinian refugee, told Haaretz that although he will participate in the fundraising event for the ship, he will not be sailing in it himself. In a reference to the Israel Defense Forces, he added: "Given the national-religious hierarchy which determines what the IDF can do to whom, the fact that the ship is American will make it harder to deal with it as the Mavi Marmara was dealt with."
When asked by Haaretz if he was aware of the proposed name of the ship and whether the choice of name was suitable, Khalidi said: "I am not one of the organizers of this effort, and had no knowledge that this name had been chosen. If the name is a problem for the [Obama] administration, it can simply insist publicly that Israel lift the siege. That of course would require it to respond to the systematic mendacity of those in Congress and elsewhere who support the siege. It is shameful that the U.S. and Egyptian governments are complicit in this indefensible siege."