A coalition of US organizations is raising funds to send an aid boat to break Israel's four-year siege of Gaza.
In a statement on its website, the group said its boat would set sail in September or October as part of a flotilla of ships from Europe, Canada, India, South Africa, and parts of the Middle East.
Israel's raid on a Turkish Gaza-bound aid ship on 31 May sparked international condemnation after soldiers killed nine passengers on board. Israel's government refused Turkish demands for an apology, and ignored calls for an international investigation into the incident, opting instead for an internal probe.
Two survivors of the raid on the Freedom Flotilla, author Iara Lee and retired colonel Ann Wright, have expressed their support for the US aid mission, named The Audacity of Hope.
US professor Rashid Khalidi, who is supporting the initiative, commented that "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."
Speaking to the Israeli daily Haaretz, Khalidi suggested that if the name of the boat, after the 2006 bestseller penned by then-presidential candidate Barack Obama, was a problem for the US administration, "it can simply insist publicly that Israel lift the siege."
Commentators have seized on Khalidi's association with the project, although he explained to Haaretz that while he supports the endeavor he is not an organizer. During Obama's election campaign, the president drew criticism for his association with the Columbia professor, as US media reported Obama had attended a dinner in Khalidi's honor several years earlier.
The campaign website lists a wide range of notable supporters, including Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights Michael Ratner, and the parents of Rachel Corrie, a US citizen who was killed in 2003 when an Israeli military bulldozer ran her down in Gaza as she protested the demolition of a Palestinian house.