A bill introduced in Congress would ask Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to submit a report determining whether organizations that participated in a failed flotilla to Gaza in July should be designated as a foreign terrorist organization.
The bill, offered last month by Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., and co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of 12 others, notes that a United Nations investigation into a previous flotilla effort says that Israel's maritime blockade of Gaza is legal. "Israel's blockade [on Gaza] is acknowledged by the United States as necessary and legal given Hamas' control of Gaza, intention to secure greater weaponry for aggressive purposes and open desire to destroy Israel," the bill says.
Greece prohibited the departure of Freedom Flotilla II to the Gaza Strip this summer. The bill also asks that the State Department report "express support and gratitude" to Greece for thwarting the flotilla.
"Recent past history has suggested that the sole intent of the flotillas is to provoke an Israeli military response in the international waters of the eastern Mediterranean Sea," the bill says. The first flotilla in May 2010 was organized by a coalition of international organizations including the Islamist Turkish organization IHH and the Free Gaza Movement. Nine passengers died after leaders of the IHH-owned Mavi Marmara ship launched a premeditated attack on Israeli commandos who tried to enforce the blockade on Gaza. Commandos boarded the ship following repeated warnings, and were immediately attacked by knives, axes, hammers and other weapons.
The CIA and U.S. Treasury Department have determined IHH and the Free Gaza Movement "have known terrorist ties," the bill says.
Organizers of the summer flotilla admitted that their efforts were not simply humanitarian but "about freedom for Palestinians in Gaza and the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories." In November, two boats that were part of the flotilla departed Turkey in another failed attempt to reach the Gaza Strip. Huwaida Arraf, the board chair of the Free Gaza Movement said last month that "we will keep coming, wave after wave, by air, sea, and land, to challenge Israel's illegal policies towards Gaza and all of Palestine. Our movement will not stop or be stopped until Palestine is free."