Among the ever-expanding list of planned flotillas aimed at breaking the Israeli blockade on Gaza comes a new U.S.-based effort to send a boat named for President Obama's book The Audacity of Hope. Further complicating the matter for the White House is the role played by Rashid Khalidi, a friend of Obama's.
Organizers are trying to raise $370,000 to finance the trip, which could have about 50 passengers. No details have been offered about what items the boat would carry.
Andy McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor, notes American law prohibits "fitting, furnishing or arming vessels with the intent of committing hostile acts against a country with which the U.S. is at peace. (Challenging a blockade is a hostile act.)" He wonders whether the Justice Department would investigate the President's friend.
A State Department spokesman has confirmed that the U.S. is investigating IHH – the Turkish group behind the last flotilla – for possible designation as a terrorist group.
Winfield Myers comments "The real audacity this round is for Khalidi, who served as a spokesman for the PLO while it was listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department, to engage in this kind of agitprop. Audacious, but hardly surprising for a man with a long history of substituting anti-American and anti-Israel propaganda for scholarship and teaching, as CW has demonstrated conclusively."
Khalidi ,the Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University, told the Washington Post he didn't know that the boat was named after Obama's book when he signed on to the effort. Not that it would have mattered:
"But 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," he wrote, "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."
Like everyone else in the flotilla movement, Khalidi is silent about actions by the Hamas government that prompted the blockade in the first place. He also ignores the ongoing kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held four years without contact with any international relief organization.
Israel dramatically reduced the items banned from entry into Gaza last month, easing what already was a questionable humanitarian crisis for 1.5 million Palestinians living there. Factories are re-opening, formerly lucrative smuggling tunnels are closing and a new mall even opened.
As Lorne Gunter writes in Canada's National Post, what's left of the Israeli blockade is to prevent Hamas from arming, "not so it could pile on the misery of Gazans; Israel lets scores of aid shipments in every day."