American Indian Movement activist joins Gaza Freedom Flotilla
by Brenda Norrell
Photo by Lisa Nessan
The American Indian Movement and the Free Palestine Movement announced that Bill “Jimbo” Simmons will be a member of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla Delegation.
Tony Gonzales of AIM-WEST in San Francisco said Sunday that Simmons, Choctaw, joins the flotilla 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 in an effort to break the blockade,” Gonzales said.
“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 that the 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," the Free Palestine Movement said.
Those issues range 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.
AIM-WEST is also pressing for the implementation of the recent adoption by the United Nations General Assembly of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Free Palestine Movement said.
As the flotilla prepared to leave from Mediterranean ports this week, the US increased threats to halt the US boat and Greece officials intervened to stop the boat. Meanwhile, Israel warned international journalists that they could be banned from entering Israel for ten years and their equipment confiscated.
Late last week, the US State Department issued increasingly threatening statements to US passengers on the flotilla, ultimately threatening fines or imprisonment. Then, six Congressmen urged the State Department to ensure safe passage for US citizens. Finally, Greece officials intervened and said the US boat, the Audacity of Hope, was not seaworthy.
Late Saturday, passengers on the U.S. boat to Gaza asked Greek government officials to clarify their actions concerning the boat they are leasing. Greek officials said the boat was blocked because of an anonymous request of a private citizen concerning the seaworthiness of the ship.
However, US passengers asked whether a political decision has been made by the Greek government in response to U.S. and Israeli government pressure.
Passengers said 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. On June 25 a police order declared that until the complaint is resolved the boat will not be permitted to leave, according to the passengers statement.
Ann Wright, retired colonel and voice against the war in Iraq and US torture, is a passenger, along with author Alice Walker. Passengers include Tucson border activist Gabriel Schivone, 27, member of the humanitarian border group No More Deaths; Hedy Epstein, an 86-year-old Holocaust survivor, and Medea Benjamin of Code Pink.
Wright, a former US Ambassador, resigned from the State Department in 2003 to protest the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
On Saturday, Wright said, "We have a right to protest the blockade of Gaza."
"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."
Six Congressmen wrote Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging safe passage.
“A year ago, Israel took military action against the ‘Gaza flotilla’ in international waters, which resulted in the deaths of nine civilians, including one American citizen. In addition, ten Israeli commandos and more than 20 passengers were injured in this tragic incident. In order to avoid another confrontation this year, we urge all parties to practice maximum restraint and avoid violence.
“We wholeheartedly support Israel's right, and indeed its duty, to protect its citizens from security threats. The measures it uses to do so, as in the case with any other nation, must conform to international humanitarian and human rights law. We are encouraged that The Audacity of Hope organizers have stated that their cargo ‘is open to international inspection’ and that they ‘are fully committed to nonviolence and the tenets of international law.’”
The six Congressmen were: Representative Dennis Kucinich, OH-10; Representative William Lacy Clay, MO-1; Representative Sam Farr, CA-17; Representative Bob Filner, CA-51; Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC) and Representative Barbara Lee CA-9.
The passengers of The Audacity of Hope are: Nic Abramson, Johnny Barber, Medea Benjamin, Greta Berlin, Hagit Borer, Regina Carey, Gale Courey Toensing, Erin DeRamus, Linda Durham, Debra Ellis, Hedy Epstein, Steve Fake, Ridgely Fuller, Megan Horan,Kathy Kelly, Kit Kittredge, Libor Koznar, Melissa Lane, G. Kaleo Larson, Richard Levy, Richard Lopez, Ken Mayers, Ray McGovern, Gail Miller, Carol Murry, Robert Naiman, Henry Norr, Ann Petter, Gabe Schivone, Kathy Sheetz, Max Suchan, Brad Taylor, Len Tsou, Alice Walker, Paki Wieland and Ann Wright.