Many New Yorkers concerned about the plight of the people of Gaza, especially in the aftermath of the deadly Israeli raid on a flotilla trying to break the blockade of the coastal strip, plan on heading out to Brooklyn tomorrow to hear survivors that were aboard the Mavi Marmara ship tell their stories.
Giving testimony will be a former Turkish politician and member of IHH, the humanitarian organization that was one of the groups that spearheaded the flotilla, a Viva Palestina member and a filmmaker, all of whom were aboard the Turkish ship when it came under attack by Israel, leading to the deaths of 9 people.
But some New York politicians, like City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Representatives Jerry Nadler, Anthony Weiner, Carolyn Mahoney, Charles Rangel and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, would like to stop the event from happening.
The New York Daily News reported yesterday:
Local officials are demanding that the State Department investigate the visa applications of Gaza flotilla activists before two of them speak at a Brooklyn church.
"We have an obligation to protect our borders against Hamas," Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan/Queens) said at a Times Square press conference Monday that included City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Chelsea) and Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-Harlem). "Use extra caution. Take this threat seriously."
She and other members of New York's congressional delegation pledged to deliver a petition with more than 23,000 signatures demanding the State Department do visa checks of Mavi Marmara ship passengers planning a speaking tour that includes a stop at the House of the Lord Church in Boerum Hill on Thursday.
The petition was put together by the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC), an umbrella group for many Jewish organizations in the city.
It's highly doubtful that these politicians and the JCRC will get their way, thankfully. Before the petition drive regurgitating Israeli propaganda got off the ground, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters that "the IHH has not been designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization."
But even if they are not successful, it's a troubling attempt to create a climate of fear by invoking the specter of Hamas and terrorism.
Al-Awda New York: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, the organization that is putting together the event, put out a statement following the calls by local politicians and the JCRC. Here it is:
Two weeks ago Israeli naval commandos stormed a Turkish ship loaded with humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza. They murdered 9 unarmed passengers. The oldest, Ibrahim Bilgen, was 61. the youngest, Furkan Dogan, a U.S. citizen born in Troy , N.Y., was just 19.
On Thursday, June 17, two eyewitnesses to this horror, U.S. filmmaker Iara Lee and British political organizer Kevin Ovenden, and Ahmet Unsal, a former Member of Turkey’s Parliament, have been invited to tell their views and stories at a public forum at Brooklyn's historic House of the Lord Church. The meeting is cosponsored by dozens of organizations.
They come with nothing but words. But words of truth strike fear into the hearts of certain hate-filled New York politicians who have voted time and again to turn U.S. taxpayers' dollars into missiles and bombs for Israel's war machine.
On June 14, City Council speaker Christine Quinn, Reps. Jerry Nadler, Anthony Weiner, Carolyn Mahoney, Charles Rangel and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer gathered in Times Square at the behest of the so-called "Jewish Community Relations Council." They shamelessly demanded that the State Department investigate the invited speakers for "ties to terrorism." They want to prevent or delay their entry the United States. This is a clear attempt to not only deny the passengers' right to speak but to deny the people of the United States the right to hear their words.
The group of politicians who issued this call have supported every act of terror by the Israeli state against the native people of Palestine and its neighbors. They cheered the 2008-9 terror bombing and invasion of Gaza that slaughtered 1,400 people, including hundreds of children. They applauded Israel's 2006 mass murder of 900 Lebanese civilians. They hail the cruel blockade that denies food, medicine, electricity and sanitation to the people of Gaza and they dare to support the killing and kidnapping of Turkish, U.S., British and Irish citizens who tried to break that blockade.
These political hacks now attack our very right to learn and discuss the issues involved. They seek to pin the label of “terrorist” on any who oppose the vicious and immoral blockade of Gaza and the endless stream of U.S. guns and dollars to Israel's brutal war machine. And they want to hide the truth about what happened that bloody night on the Mavi Marmara.
We call upon all people who believe in justice and freedom to resist this attack on our rights. Let your elected representative know that you have the right to hear what the courageous survivors of the Mavi Marmara have to say. And let's pack the House of the Lord Church Thursday night. Let's answer this vile attempt at intimidation with a powerful mass meeting.