|Jimbo Simmons/Photo by Brenda Norrell|
American Indian Movement and Free Palestine Movement announces Jimbo Simmons of AIM West on Gaza Freedom Flotilla Delegation
By Brenda Norrell
AIM West and the Free Palestine Movement announced that Jimbo Simmons of the American Indian Movement West (AIM West) will be a member of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla Delegation.
Tony Gonzales of AIM West said Sunday that Jimbo Simmons, Choctaw, is headed out in solidarity to break the blockade.
"AIM representative Jimbo Simmons in solidarity with the Palestine Freedom Movement is among the Gaza Flotilla delegates heading off today in an effort to break the blockade! Stay tuned about future developments and on our website at http://www.aimwest.info/ Watch this action unfold as AIM enters international waters bringing peace and extending its hand in friendship. Our prayers go out with the flotilla and with our brother Bill 'Jimbo' Simmons."
The Free Palestine Movement said, "American Indian Movement West (AIM-WEST) contains a spirit of resistance to colonization, respect for traditional knowledge and self-determination, and a commitment to inter-tribalism.
"Among the objectives of AIM-WEST is to raise awareness on issues that concern or impact upon Indians of the Americas on a daily basis ranging from racism in sports and public schools, to protection of sacred sites, mining and water contamination, youth and the rights of the child, honor and respect for treaties and agreements, political prisoners, police brutality, immigration and militarization of the borders, climate change, and green economy conversion for sustainable futures, including implementation of the recent adoption by the United Nations General Assembly of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples."
On Friday, the US State Department threatened US citizens embarking on the flotilla with fines or imprisonment. Six Congressmen urged the State Department to ensure safe passage for US citizens. Read more at: http://bsnorrell.blogspot.com/2011/06/us-threatens-activists-with.html
As the flotilla prepared to leave from Mediterranean ports, Greek attempted to block the US boat, the Audacity of Hope.
Update Monday, July 27, 2011, US passengers released this statement:
Passengers on the U.S. Boat to Gaza, The Audacity of Hope, said news reports that an Israeli "lawfare" group, Shurat HaDin, is behind the complaint delaying the departure of the U.S. boat from Greece substantiate the Americans' assertions that the complaint is frivolous. The passengers expressed confidence that Greek authorities will now quickly dispense with the complaint and allow The Audacity of Hope to sail.
On Sunday, June 26, the Jerusalem Post reported: "Sources in the Shurat HaDin (Israel Law Center) on Sunday took responsibility for lodging an anonymous civil complaint against the American-flagged ship, The Audacity of Hope, which is a part of the flotilla expected to sail towards Gaza later this week, Army Radio reported." The Israeli group is known for making frivolous legal complaints against the Gaza Freedom Flotilla.
"We reiterate that the boat we are leasing for this journey, after its refitting for the voyage to Gaza, was surveyed by a professional surveyor and successfully completed its sea trials," said Ann Wright, an organizer and passenger on the U.S. boat. "There is no reason for any further delays on this matter, we are ready to sail."
The following statement was released Saturday:
Passengers on the U.S. Boat to Gaza, The Audacity of Hope, are asking Greek government officials to clarify whether the boat they are leasing is being blocked from leaving Greece because of an anonymous request of a private citizen concerning the seaworthiness of the ship or whether a political decision has been made by the Greek government in response to U.S. and Israeli government pressure. They specifically want to know if the U.S. is using its leverage at the International Monetary Fund over the implementation of an ongoing bailout of European banks with massive Greek debts to compel the Greek government to block the U.S. Boat to Gaza from leaving Greece.
On the morning of June 23, the American passengers learned that a "private complaint" had been filed against the U.S. Boat to Gaza, which is part of an international flotilla scheduled to sail to Gaza in the next few days. This complaint, its origin still unknown to the Americans, claimed that the boat is "not seaworthy" and therefore requires a detailed inspection. On June 25 a police order declared that until the complaint is resolved the boat will not be permitted to leave.
The passengers are wondering if Israel, which has extensive economic trade and investments in Greece, is using its clout to pressure the Greek government. "Israel has said openly that it is pressuring governments to try to stop the flotilla, and clearly Greece is a key government since several of the boats plan to leave from Greece," says passenger Medea Benajmin. "It is unconscionable that Israel would take advantage of the economic hardship the Greek people are experiencing to try to stop our boat or the flotilla."
Given the very close relationship between Israel and the U.S., and the public efforts by Israel to denounce and try to stop the flotilla, the passengers on the U.S. boat want to know if the Obama Administration is using U.S. leverage at the IMF to compel the Greek authorities to stop the U.S. boat from leaving Greece. Greece's economic and political crisis is a result of extreme austerity measures imposed by the European Union and the largely U.S.-controlled International Monetary Fund. Past U.S. governments have used their influence at the IMF to impose political conditions on indebted countries that have nothing to do with restoring economic growth.
Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, said: "Greece is not going to be able to meet the targets that it is pledging to the IMF and the European authorities. In this situation the IMF and therefore the U.S. government will have enormous leverage because the Fund and EU authorities will decide what will be acceptable benchmarks for Greece to receive future tranches of IMF/EU funding."
"We are guests here," said Robert Naiman, a passenger on the U.S. boat. "But we ask the Greek authorities to be honest with us. What is the origin of this complaint? Is the decision to stop our boat from leaving truly due to legitimate technical issues that can be resolved, or is it a sign that our boat will be stopped from leaving no matter what we do? What is the role of the Israeli and U.S. governments in the Greek decision to stop our boat from leaving?"
"We have a right to protest the blockade of Gaza," said Ann Wright, an organizer and passenger on the U.S. boat. "To its credit, the Greek government, like the Red Cross, Amnesty International, and Oxfam, agrees with us that the blockade on Gaza must be lifted. But for years, the only effective international action to challenge the illegal blockade has been freedom flotillas. We call upon the Greek government, which agrees that our cause is just, not to stand in the way of our peaceful protest in pursuit of our shared goal of lifting the blockade. The boat we are leasing for this journey, after its refitting for the voyage to Gaza, was surveyed by a professional surveyor and successfully completed its sea trials. There is no reason for any further delays on this matter, we are ready to sail."