A pro-Palestinian American group has reportedly initiated a humanitarian campaign to sail an aid vessel to the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip.
The “US Boat to Gaza” has begun attracting funds for the purchase of the vessel, Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post wrote on Monday.
The vessel, which could carry 40 to 60 crewmembers, is expected to depart in autumn with the ultimate aim of challenging the four-year-long Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli-imposed restrictions have deprived the 1.5-million Palestinian residents of the impoverished coastal sliver of food, fuel and other necessities.
“…together we will contribute to the great effort to end the blockade of Gaza and the illegal occupation of Palestine”, the organizers have said on their website.
The boat is reportedly to be named as “The Audacity of Hope,” synonymous with President Barack Obama’s popular book.
A friend of the president and the director of the Middle East Institute at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, Professor Rashid Khalidi, is reportedly advocating the effort.
“If the name is a problem for the administration, it can simply insist publicly that Israel lift the siege: end of problem, end of embarrassment,” Khalidi said.
“That of course would require it to respond to the systematic mendacity of those in Congress and elsewhere who support the siege, and indeed whatever else the Israeli government does.”
Preparations for the relief effort are underway amid continued international condemnation of the Israeli commandos’ May 31 attack on the Gaza-bound Freedom Flotilla aid mission. The assault in international waters killed nine Turkish activists.
The bid is also supported by Cindy and Craig Corrie, the parents of the famous US peace activist, Rachel Corrie, who was crushed to death by an Israeli army bulldozer in 2003 as she was trying to prevent it from razing a Palestinian home.
Israeli forces seized an aid vessel with the same name last month while it was on a mission to break the blockade.
“Given the national-religious hierarchy which determines what the (Israel Defense Forces) 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 stressed, referring to the Turkish flotilla on which the May bloodshed took place.