by Marianne Torres Media Team, Freedom Flotilla II on 6/24/2011

On Anniversary of Mavi Marmara Killings, U.S. Boat to Gaza Announces Sailing Plans – Passenger list includes six from the Pacific Northwest.


With the situation changing daily, participants in the international Freedom Flotilla II-Stay Human are determined to set sail for Gaza by the end of June in the continuing struggle to break the deadly Israeli naval blockade of Gaza, where 1.5 million civilians live in what is called by many “the largest open-air prison in the world”.

Not deterred by Israel’s attack last year on the Free Gaza Flotilla that resulted in the deaths of nine civilians on board the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara and the wounding of many more, 50 Americans will be aboard the American-flagged ship, the US Boat to Gaza named “Audacity of Hope” when the international Flotilla sets sail from unspecified ports in the Mediterranean in late June.

Israel is pulling out all stops to halt this Flotilla before it sails, from scare tactics like describing their plans to drop attack dogs and handlers onto the boats and use snipers to kill resisters to pressuring governments to stop the boats from sailing from their various ports. Israel is now holding naval exercises in the area as part of the intimidation tactics.

Rather than make it clear to a foreign government that an unprovoked attack on an unarmed American boat would be considered an act of war by most nations, and apparently missing the irony completely, the U.S. government has now weighed in with threats of legal action against the passengers and by misstating the Flotilla’s plans after taking them to task for “entering into Israeli waters”. We have no doubt she knows quite well there has never been a plan to enter Israeli waters.

The makeup of this year’s Flotilla is changing constantly as world events contrive to require new decisions and pressure from Israel mounts. The biggest ship, the Turkish Mavi Marmara carrying 800 people, may yet pull out, pressured by the flood of Syrian refugees into Turkey’s northern border. The charitable organization that owns and runs the ship is being pulled to address the humanitarian emergency within Turkey, though intense pressure on the Turkish government to stop the ship has not made their decision any easier.

Freedom Flotilla II is comprised at press time of approximately 1000 people in 10 boats from Ireland, Spain, Switzerland, the U.S., Canada and more, in a continuing international effort to bring an end to the blockade, under which the people, almost half of whom are children, are suffering food shortages, 45-60% unemployment, and live on less than $2.00 a day. 70 percent of the population obtains not-always-potable water for only eight hours every two days.

PJALS members will recognize some of the most oft-used attempts to stop the Flotilla: “now is not the time”; “you should go through ‘established channels’ first”; “this is not the way to do it”. In fact the Canadian government is also using exactly that reasoning in their attempt to stop the Canadian ship from joining the Flotilla. In France, pressure was successfully applied to the insurance company that was to insure the French boat, which has pulled out as a result.

The failure of “established channels” is the very reason for the campaign to break the siege. Israel’s determination to allow just enough food in to keep the population from starving to death (Dov Weisglass, an adviser to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, called this “putting Palestinians on a diet”) and to prevent rebuilding after repeated air and land attacks on the civilian population requires an international response to end that siege. Because that response has not been forthcoming, international activists have been working since 2008 to accomplish that outside “established channels”. Opening the Rafah Crossing to Egypt in no way addresses the desperate need in Gaza, as explained by Gisha at the Free Gaza website: ( crossing remains limited, the situation is unstable, almost no humanitarian aid or construction materials are allowed in, and Rafah doesn’t lead to the West Bank.

The Flotilla will carry letters from people all over the world to the people of Gaza, minimal amounts of aid, and their passengers include teachers, journalists, students, healers, doctors, attorneys, peace activists, members of various parliaments.

Among the passengers on the US Boat are six people from the Pacific Northwest: David Schermerhorn from Deer Harbor WA – crew and veteran of several flotilla sailings; Richard Lopez – jazz musician, Tumwater; Megan Horan – activist, Seattle; Erin DeRamus – acupuncturist, Portland; and Johnny Barber – EMT, Gallatin Gateway MT. Over 35% of the US passengers are over 60, the eldest being Hedy Epstein, 84 and David Schermerhorn, 81.

The US Boat will also carry several high profile passengers on the US Boat to Gaza:

– Ann Wright, retired US Army Colonel and former US diplomat who resigned in 2003 in opposition to the Iraq war, and an organizer of the US Boat to Gaza.

– Ray McGovern, Army infantry/intelligence officer in the early 60s, known to many anti-war activists for his social justice work over the past 20 years;

– Alice Walker, internationally celebrated author (e.g. The Color Purple), poet and activist;

– Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, a campaign to end U.S. military and economic warfare, and who was a PJALS-sponsored speaker in 2006; and

– Greta Berlin, known to Spokane folks as a major organizer of and participant in the first Free Gaza Flotilla in 2008, which PJALS activists embraced and contributed generously.

The May 31 Press Release said the Audacity of Hope will carry thousands of letters of friendship and solidarity with the people of Gaza from people around the world. Inspections of the boat and its passengers prior to departure will confirm the non-violent nature of the mission.

In the release, Richard Levy, attorney and passenger on The Audacity of Hope and a former official in the Jewish organization B’nai Brith, explained that “Because Israel occupies Gaza, and accordingly has obligations under the Geneva Conventions, it cannot legally blockade Gaza. Therefore, attempts by the Israeli government to prevent ships from going to Gaza are equally illegal.”

In a May 9 2011 press statement out of Brussels from the International Committee of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, the committee said “The UN Human Rights Committee Fact Finding Mission into the 2010 flotilla attack found Israel’s blockade on Gaza to be unlawful. The International Committee of the Red Cross has said that Israel must end its illegal closure of Gaza. Yet Israel continues to disregard international law and ignore the will of the international community. Without any strong diplomatic action being taken to enforce international law and defend the human rights of the Palestinian people, the flotilla must sail and other international initiatives to end Israel’s impunity are called for.”

Additionally, Palestinian organizers inside and outside Palestine are planning another “Return March” to the borders, this time to coincide with the arrival of Freedom Flotilla II in Gaza. This march, called the “Flotilla March” will commemorate the Nakba Day and Naksa Day casualties from marches to the border during June this year. Nakba Day is named for the massive displacement of Palestinians from their homes in 1948 and Naksa Day refers to the second displacement in 1967.


See list below

For up-to-date information about the Flotilla go to:

US to Gaza


Witness Gaza –

Free Gaza Movement – (you can also donate to the US Boat at this site)

Freedom Flotilla II – Stay Human –


Follow the US Boat to Gaza on Twitter:

Palestine solidarity groups and peace and justice groups, please spread this message across their membership through listservs, phone calls, and other forms of social media. It is of the utmost importance that this event has a large attendance; international pressure–especially from the United States–is a critical factor in preventing Israel from acting with impunity towards humanitarian activists. We all need to be prepared to act on short notice.


Stay Human Freedom Flotilla 2011: how you can help:

Before the flotilla leaves:

1. Phone to demand US government ensure safety of Americans on board, on the US Boat, the Audacity of Hope, and the other boats.

President Obama: 202 456 1111

State Department: 202 647 4000


SF Israeli Consulate 415 844 7500 fax; 415 844 7555

Akiva Tor, Consul General (415) 844-7501



Spokesman Review 509-459-5400 • 800-789-0029

KHQ TV 509-448-4656

KREM TV 509-448-2000

KXLY TV 509-324-4000


The emergency number is: 415-806-7857.

An emergency is classified as a life-threatening situation that requires immediate attention.

The toll free number to the Congressional Switchboard: 1 866 338-1015

Just dial and ask for your Senator or Representative by name, OR use numbers given below:


U.S. Passengers on 

“Audacity of Hope”

State Senator/phone Representative/phone
Schivone Gabriel AZ John McCain (202) 224-2235 

John Kyl (202) 224-4521

Raul Grijalva, (520) 622-6788 

DC (202) 225-2435

Berlin, Greta CA Diane Feinstein: (202) 224 3841 

Barbara Boxer: (202)-224-3553

Henry Waxman. (310) 652-3095 

D.C. (202) 225-3976

Borer, Hagit CA Diane Feinstein: (202) 224 3841 

Barbara Boxer: (202)-224-3553

Henry Waxman (310) 652-3095 

D.C. (202) 225-3976

Carey, Regina CA Diane Feinstein: (202) 224 3841 

Barbara Boxer: (202)-224-3553

Lynn Woolsey: 507 9554 (202) 225-5161
Ellis, Debra CA Diane Feinstein: (202) 224 3841 

Barbara Boxer: (202)-224-3553

Sam Farr (831) 429-1976 

D.C. 202-225-2861

Larson, Kaleo CA Diane Feinstein: (202) 224 3841 

Barbara Boxer: (202)-224-3553

Barbara Lee (510) 763-0370 

DC (202) 225-2661

Norr, Henry CA Diane Feinstein: (202) 224 3841 

Barbara Boxer: (202)-224-3553

Barbara Lee (510) 763-0370 

DC (202) 225-2661

Thompson, Mary-Hughes CA Diane Feinstein: (202) 224 3841 

Barbara Boxer: (202)-224-3553

Henry Waxman (310) 652-3095 

D.C. (202) 225-3976

Walker, Alice CA Diane Feinstein: (202) 224 3841 

Barbara Boxer: (202)-224-3553

Barbara Lee (510) 763-0370 

DC (202) 225-2661

Sheetz, Kathy CA/MA CA – Diane Feinstein: (202) 224 3841 

CA – Barbara Boxer: (202)-224-3553

MA – Scott Brown Phone: (202) 224-4543

MA – John Kerry (202) 224-2742

CA – George Miller (510) 262-6500 

MA William Keating (202) 225-3111

Wright, Ann HI Daniel Akaka (202) 224-6361 

Daniel Inouye (202) 224-3934

Colleen Hanabusa (202) 225-2726
Kelly, Kathy IL Dick Durbin (312) 353-4952 

D.C. (202) 224-2152

Mark Kirk 312-886-3506

D.C. 202-224-2854

Jan Schakowsky (773) 506-7100 D.C. (202) 226-6890
Naima, Robert IL Dick Durbin (312) 353-4952 

D.C. (202) 224-2152

Mark Kirk 312-886-3506

D.C. 202-224-2854

Tim Johnson: 202-225-2371
Suchan, Max IL Dick Durbin (312) 353-4952 

D.C. (202) 224-2152

Mark Kirk 312-886-3506

D.C. 202-224-2854

Luis Gutierrez 773-342-0774 

DC (202) 225-8203

Barber, Johnny MT Max Baucus (202) 224-2651 

Jon Tester (202) 224-2644

Denny Rehberg (202)-224-3121
Durham, Linda NM Jeff Bingaman (202) 224-5521 

Tom Udall (202) 224-6621

Ben Ray Lujan (505) 984-8950 

D.C. (202) 225-6190

Mayer, Ken NM Jeff Bingaman (202) 224-5521 

Tom Udall (202) 224-6621

Ben Ray Lujan (505) 984-8950 

D.C. (202) 225-6190

DeRamus, Erin OR Ron Wyden (202) 224-5244 

Jeff Merkley (202) 224-3753

Earl Blumenauer (202) 225-4811
Horan, Meg WA Maria Cantwell (202) 224-3441 

Patty Murray (202) 224-2621

Jim McDermott (202) 225-3106
Kitteridge, Kit WA Maria Cantwell (202) 224-3441 

Patty Murray (202) 224-2621

Norm Dicks 202-225-5916
Lopez, Richard WA Maria Cantwell (202) 224-3441 

Patty Murray (202) 224-2621

Jaime Herrera Beutler (202) 225-3536
Schermerhorn, David WA Maria Cantwell (202) 224-3441 

Patty Murray (202) 224-2621

Rick Larsen (202) 225-2605



Should an attack occur:

1. Make phone calls to those above to express your outrage.

2. Contact local media to express your outrage.


Join a protest being organized near you:

SPOKANE WILL MEET at 3rd and Maple within 24 hours of an attack DURING THE WEEKDAY. 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. If the attack happens during the three-day weekend, we will meet up on Tuesday, July 5. WATCH THE PJALS WEBSITE AND FACEBOOK PAGE FOR DETAILS.


Bring signs!!