US to Gaza.org & Associated Press & US Department of State – 2011-06-26 02:03:19
State Department Officials Have an Obligation to Speak Out Against Israeli Threats to Attack US Boat to Gaza
US to Gaza.org
ATHENS (June 24, 2011) — US peace activists preparing to set sail on the US Boat to Gaza, The Audacity of Hope, expressed profound disappointment over a statement issued by the US State Department on Wednesday, June 22, 2011. Instead of calling on the Israeli government to let a flotilla of unarmed civilians sail to Gaza, the United States government is pressuring its own citizens to refrain from legal acts.
On Wednesday, the State Department sent out a “travel advisory” urging Americans not to participate in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. According to the statement, US citizens are advised against traveling to Gaza by any means, including via sea, noting that previous attempts to enter Gaza by sea “have been stopped by Israeli naval vessels and resulted in the injury, death, arrest, and deportation of US citizens.”
“Apparently, the State Department subscribes to the view that Israelâ€™s anticipated violence against unarmed protesters is an immutable act of nature,” said Hagit Borer, a professor of Linguistics at the University of Southern California and a passenger on the US boat. “This is a remarkable attitude, coming from a government that provides the Israeli government with billions of dollars in military aid and routinely uses its veto to protect the Israeli government from censure of its occupation policies by the UN Security Council.”
Passengers on the boat noted that the US State Department has a legal obligation to act to protect US citizens when they are traveling abroad.
“So far, US government officials have failed to use their influence to discourage Israeli authorities from ordering a physical assault on us,” said Just Foreign Policy policy director Robert Naiman, another passenger on the US boat. “Of course, State Department officials have an obligation to speak out against threats to attack us. It is deeply disappointing that they have so far failed to do so.”
Athens: Felice Gelman, 30-694-266-0406;
New York: Donna Nevel, 917-570-4371
Letter to President Obama
On June 14, the passengers on The Audacity of Hope sent this letter to Pres. Obama. Copies went to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and 12 members of the Administration and Congressional leadership. Call the White House — 202-456-1111 — and tell them you agree with the letter and expect the US to take action to uphold the rights of peaceful citizens to safe passage on the seas.
Dear Mr. Obama:
We are writing to inform you that 50 unarmed Americans will soon be sailing in a US-flagged ship called The Audacity of Hope as part of an international flotilla to Gaza.
Our peaceful demonstration will challenge Israelâ€™s blockade of Gaza, which has effectively imprisoned 1.6 million civilians, almost half of whom are under the age of 16. The blockade has impoverished the people of Gaza, deprived them of needed materials and supplies to rebuild their lives after the Israeli attack of late 2008 — early 2009, impeded those who are ill or infirm from seeking outside medical aid, and prevented students from seeking education outside of Gaza. 45% of the working age population is unemployed.
In addition to 36 passengers, 4 crew, and 10 members of the press, our boat will carry thousands of letters of support and friendship from people throughout the US to the women, children and men of Gaza.
There will be no weapons of any sort on board. We will carry no goods of any kind for delivery in Gaza. Our mission is from American civil society to the civil society of Gaza. We do not serve the agenda of any political leadership, government or group. We are engaged solely in non-violent action in support of the Palestinian people and their human rights.
In our country’s great tradition of citizen activists taking nonviolent action to stand up to injustice, we sail in the hope that our voyage will show the people in Gaza that they are not alone, and that it will call attention to the morally and legally indefensible collective punishment of a population of civilians.
Mr. President, you have noted the unsustainability of the Gaza blockade. And your administration has spoken boldly in support of peaceful demonstrations throughout this “Arab Spring.”
As US citizens we expect our country and its leaders to help ensure the Flotilla’s safe passage to Gaza — as our country should support our humanitarian demand that the Gaza blockade be lifted. This should begin by notifying the Israeli government in clear and certain terms that it may not physically interfere with the upcoming Flotilla of which the US boat, The Audacity of Hope, is part.
We — authors, builders, firefighters, lawyers, social workers, retirees, Holocaust survivors, former government employees and more — expect no less from our President and your administration.
Our boat will sail from the eastern Mediterranean in the last week of June. We shall be grateful to you for acting promptly and decisively to uphold the rights of civilians to safe passage on the seas.
The passengers of The Audacity of Hope
Gale Courey Toensing
G. Kaleo Larson
â€¢ The Honorable Ban Ki-moon, U.N. Secretary General
â€¢ The Honorable Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State
â€¢ The Honorable Jeffrey Feltman, Assistant Secretary of State
â€¢ The Honorable Susan E. Rice, Permanent US Representative to the United Nations
â€¢ The Honorable James B. Cunningham, US Ambassador to Israel
â€¢ The Honorable John F. Kerry, Chairman US Senate Foreign Relations Committee
â€¢ The Honorable Richard G. Lugar, Ranking Member US Senate Foreign Relations Committee
â€¢ The Honorable Robert P. Casey, Chairman Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs
â€¢ The Honorable James E. Rish, Ranking Member Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs
â€¢ The Honorable Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Chairman US House Committee on Foreign Affairs
â€¢ The Honorable Howard L. Berman, Ranking Member US House Committee on Foreign Affairs
â€¢ The Honorable Steve Chabot, Chairman Subcommittee on Middle East and South Asia
â€¢ The Honorable Gary L. Ackerman, Ranking Member Subcommittee on Middle East and South Asia
Americans Warned against Sailing in Gaza Flotilla
WASHINGTON (June 22, 2011) — The State Department is warning Americans against participating in an international flotilla aimed at breaking Israel’s sea blockade of the Palestinian Gaza Strip.
In a new travel advisory for Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, the department says the Gaza coast is “dangerous and volatile.”
The advisory notes that the Israeli navy has stopped previous attempts to enter Gaza by sea, and that’s resulted in deaths, injuries and arrests.
The US says those participating may face arrest, prosecution and deportation. Israeli authorities say they will seek to ban anyone attempting to break the blockade from traveling to Israel for 10 years.
A group of 36 US citizens has announced plans to sail aboard a US-flagged vessel in a flotilla to this month to challenge the blockade.
Travel Warning: Israel, the West Bank and Gaza
US Department of State /â€¨Bureau of Consular Affairs
(June 22, 2011) — The Department of State warns US citizens of the risks of traveling to Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip, and about threats to themselves and to US interests in those locations. The Department of State urges US citizens to remain mindful of security factors when planning travel to Israel and the West Bank and to avoid all travel to the Gaza Strip.
This replaces the Travel Warning issued August 10, 2010, to update information on the general security environment and to warn against participation in any attempt to reach Gaza by sea.
The Gaza Strip and Southern Israel
The Department of State strongly urges that US citizens refrain from all travel to the Gaza Strip. This recommendation applies to all US citizens. US citizens should be aware that as a consequence of a longstanding prohibition on travel by US citizen employees of the US Government into the Gaza Strip, the ability of consular staff to offer timely assistance to US citizens there is extremely limited, including the provision of routine consular services.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) strictly controls the crossing points between Israel and the Gaza Strip. The security environment within Gaza, including its border with Egypt and its seacoast, is dangerous and volatile. US citizens are advised against traveling to Gaza by any means, including via sea.
Previous attempts to enter Gaza by sea have been stopped by Israeli naval vessels and resulted in the injury, death, arrest, and deportation of US citizens. US citizens participating in any effort to reach Gaza by sea should understand that they may face arrest, prosecution, and deportation by the Government of Israel.
The Government of Israel has announced its intention to seek ten-year travel bans to Israel for anyone participating in an attempt to enter Gaza by sea. On May 31, 2010, nine people were killed, including one US citizen, in such an attempt. The US Embassy in Tel Aviv and the US Consulate General in Jerusalem are not able to provide consular assistance in Gaza or on the high seas or coastal waters.
From December 27, 2008, through January 17, 2009, Israel conducted a military operation in Gaza. Israel and Hamas, a State Department-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization that violently seized power in Gaza in June 2007 [Note: Hamas and Fatah initially “seized power” via a democratic election in 2006. The 2007 bloodshed was the result of a subsequent internal power struggle that pitted Hamas against Fatah. — EAW], declared separate truces to end the fighting. Small clashes continue to occur along the boundary of the Gaza Strip. Rockets and mortars are still fired into Israel from Gaza, and Israel continues to conduct military operations inside Gaza, including airstrikes.
Israel has also declared an exclusion zone inside Gaza along its boundary with Israel and has taken lethal measures against individuals who enter it. The Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza is open, but it does not operate full time, and US citizens are not always able to leave Gaza at a time of their choosing.
In the past, some rockets have traveled more than 40 km (24 miles) from Gaza and landed as far north as Yavne and Gadera and as far east as Beersheva. As a result of possible military operations by the Government of Israel in Gaza and the ever-present risk of rocket and mortar attacks into Israel from Gaza, US government personnel travelling in the vicinity of the Gaza Strip boundary, to include the city of Sderot, require approval from the Embassy’s Regional Security Office.
US citizens in the area should be aware of the risks and should take note of announcements by the Government of Israelâ€™s office of Homefront Command.
The West Bank
The Department of State urges US citizens to exercise caution when traveling to the West Bank. Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces are now deployed in all major cities and other limited areas within the West Bank. As a result, violence in recent years has decreased markedly throughout the West Bank. Nonetheless, demonstrations and violent incidents can occur without warning.
Vehicles have also been the target of rocks, Molotov cocktails and gunfire on West Bank roads. The IDF continues to carry out security operations in the West Bank. Israeli security operations, including incursions in Palestinian population centers, can occur at any time and lead to disturbances and violence.
US citizens can be caught in the middle of potentially dangerous situations. Some US citizens involved in demonstrations in the West Bank have sustained serious injuries in confrontations with Israeli security forces. The State Department recommends that US citizens, for their own safety, avoid demonstrations.
During periods of unrest, the Israeli Government sometimes closes off access to the West Bank and those areas may be placed under curfew. All persons in areas under curfew should remain indoors to avoid risking arrest or injury.
US citizens have been killed, seriously injured, or detained and deported as a result of encounters with Israeli operations in the West Bank. Travel restrictions may be imposed by Israel with little or no warning. Strict measures have frequently been imposed following terrorist actions, and the movement of Palestinian-Americans, both those with residency status in the West Bank or Gaza as well as foreign passport holders, has been severely impeded. Security conditions in the West Bank can hinder the ability of consular staff to offer timely assistance to US citizens.
The Department of State urges US citizens to remain vigilant while traveling throughout Jerusalem, including in commercial and downtown areas of West Jerusalem. Spontaneous or planned protests within the Old City are possible, especially after Friday prayers. Some of these protests have led to violent clashes.
Travelers should exercise caution at religious sites on holy days, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Isolated street protests and demonstrations can also occur in areas of East Jerusalem, including around Salah Ed-Din Street, Damascus Gate, Silwan and the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.
US Government employees are authorized to visit the Old City from 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., but not between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. on Fridays.
The area of the ramparts on the city wall between Herodâ€™s Gate and Lion’s Gate is off-limits to US Government personnel at all times. The Sherover or Haas Promenade (scenic overlook) located in Armon Hanatziv is open to US Government personnel during daylight hours only. Official personnel and their family members are prohibited from using public buses and bus terminals or stations.
Travel Restrictions for US Government Personnel
Personal travel in the West Bank for US Government personnel and their families is allowed for limited mission-approved purposes in the areas described below. They may travel to Bethlehem on weekends and holidays during daylight hours only and to Jericho on weekends and holidays; and transit through the West Bank using Routes 1 and 90 to reach the Allenby/King Hussein Bridge, or the Dead Sea coast near Ein Gedi and Masada. They also may travel north on Route 90 from the Allenby/King Hussein Bridge to the Sea of Galilee.
Use of these routes is approved for transit purposes during daylight hours, with stops permitted only at roadside facilities on Highways 1 and 90. Personal travel also is permitted to Qumran National Park off Route 90 by the Dead Sea, and all areas south of Highway 1 and east of route 90 (Dead Sea area). Each transit requires prior notification to the Consulate General’s security office.
US Government personnel and family members are permitted both official and personal travel on Route 443 between Modi’in and Jerusalem without prior notification between the hours of 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. only. All other personal travel in the West Bank, unless specifically authorized for mission-approved purposes, is prohibited.
General Safety and Securityâ€¨
Israeli authorities remain concerned about the continuing threat of terrorist attacks. US citizens are cautioned that a greater danger may exist around restaurants, businesses, and other places associated with US interests and/or located near US official buildings, such as the US Embassy in Tel Aviv and the US Consulate General in Jerusalem.
US citizens are also urged to exercise a high degree of caution and to use common sense when patronizing restaurants, nightclubs, cafes, malls, places of worship, and theaters, especially during peak hours. Large crowds and public gatherings have been targeted by terrorists in the past and should be avoided to the extent practicable.
US Government personnel have been directed to avoid protests and demonstrations and urged to maintain a high level of vigilance and situational awareness at all times. US citizens should take into consideration that public buses, and their respective terminals are “off-limits” to US Government personnel.
Two US citizens were murdered in separate incidents while walking in the woods in the Beit Shemesh area near Jerusalem in the last 18 months. Israeli authorities characterized the murders as terrorist attacks.
A bomb blast near the Central Bus Terminal in Jerusalem on March 23, 2011 injured several US citizens.
In the Golan Heights and West Bank, there are live landmines in many areas and visitors should walk only on established roads or trails.
US citizens planning to travel to Israel or the West Bank should read carefully the detailed information concerning entry and exit difficulties in the Country Specific Information sheet. US citizens in Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip are strongly encouraged to enroll with the Consular Sections of the US Embassy in Tel Aviv or the US Consulate General in Jerusalem through the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).
Occasional warden messages issued by the Embassy and the Consulate General are e-mailed to registered US citizens and are posted on State Department websites to highlight time-sensitive security concerns.
US citizens who require emergency services may telephone the Consulate General in Jerusalem at (972) (2) 630-4000, after hours (for emergencies): (972) (2) 622-7250, or the Embassy in Tel Aviv at (972) (3) 519-7575, after hours (for emergencies): (972) (3) 519-7551.
Current information on travel and security in Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip may be obtained from the Department of State by calling 1-888-407-4747 within the United States and Canada, or, from overseas, 1-202-501-4444.
For additional and more in-depth information about specific aspects of travel to these areas, US citizens should consult: the Country Specific Information for Israel, the West Bank and Gaza; and the Worldwide Caution. These along with other Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts and Country Specific Information are available on the Department’s Internet website.
Up-to-date information on security conditions can also be accessed at http://usembassy-israel.org.il or http://jerusalem.usconsulate.gov. Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on facebook as well.
This site is managed by the Bureau of Consular Affairs, US Department of State. External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.