New York Times: Americans Joining Flotilla to Protest Gaza Blockade
Hedy Epstein and other Americans sailing to Gaza later this month interviewed in New York Times
By Laurie Goodstein, June 1, 2011 (New York Times)
When an international flotilla sails for Gaza this month to challenge Israel’s naval blockade of the Palestinian territory, among the boats will be an American ship with 34 passengers, including the writer Alice Walker and an 86-year-old whose parents died in the Holocaust.
A year ago, nine people in a flotilla of six boats were killed when Israeli commandos boarded a Turkish boat in international waters off the coast of Gaza. The Israelis said their commandos were attacked and struck back in self-defense, but the Turks blamed the Israelis for using live ammunition. The raid soured relations between Israel and Turkey and intensified pressure on Israel to end the naval blockade.
Organizers said the new flotilla, scheduled to leave in late June from a port they would not identify, had at least 1,000 passengers on about 10 boats. One boat will carry Spaniards, another Canadians, another Swiss and another Irish.
The Americans have named their boat “The Audacity of Hope,” lifting the title of a book by President Obama to make a point, said Leslie Cagan, a political organizer who is the coordinator of the American boat.
“We’re sending a message to our own government that we think it could play a much more positive role in not only ending the siege of Gaza, but also ending the whole occupation” of Palestinian land, she said. “The phrase does capture what we believe, which is that it is possible to make change in a positive way, and that’s a very hopeful stance.”