The humanitarian aid ship, Mavi Marmara, set off toward Gaza from Cyprus on Sunday, May 30, to deliver much-needed aid supplies. The following day, the Israeli military violently seized the ship in international waters. The Israeli government said the ship was embarking on “an act of provocation” against the Israeli military, stating the flotilla would be breaking international law by landing in Gaza.
The aid ship, carrying more than 600 international passengers and thousands of pounds of humanitarian aid cargo, never had a chance to deliver crucial supplies to the people of Gaza.
After helicopter commandos descended on the ship, shooting at close range, killing nine people and injuring dozens more, they detained all passengers and put them under arrest, confiscating all cameras and footage taken of the assault by passengers, as well as money, personal property and passports. No photos or video footage from the passengers has been released. So far the only video and photos to be seen are those provided by the Israeli military. For a fair investigation of the assault, the military must release the photos and video taken by passengers.
In response to this assault, dozens of people gathered in Burlington, Vermont on May 31 to mourn the dead and to express their sadness and outrage over Israel’s blatant lack of respect for international law.
Two days later more than fifty citizens visited Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy’s office to insist that the US government not remain silent about the Israeli government’s mishandling of innocent people in Gaza and the West Bank, and denounce the repression against humanitarian aid workers and human rights activists. The activists stated that “The US is alone in our support for Israel” and demanded that the Senator not be complicit in Israel’s crimes against humanity any longer. They also demanded an end to military aid to Israel.
Senator Leahy is a leading member of the Appropriations Committee which authorizes funding for Israel amounting to more than $300 billon a year. Over $2 billion of that goes directly to aid the Israeli military.
The Leahy Amendment, introduced by the Senator as an amendment to the 1997 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act, prohibits US security assistance to foreign military or security units “against whom exist credible allegations of gross violations of human rights.” Leahy should insist that his own amendment be applied to the Israeli military.
Remaining silent on this issue is no longer acceptable. If left unchallenged by the public and the US government – Israel’s sole sponsor in the world – the military and political leaders of Israel will be emboldened to continue their aggression against aid workers and other civilians.