ATHENS, Greece - 235 years after the American colonies declared independence from Britain, the passenegers on the U.S. Boat to Gaza call for a new American Declaration of Independence, this time from Israel.
The passengers issued their call from the decks of the U.S.-flagged boat, The Audacity of Hope, which is currently confined to a Greek military pier near Athens, while its captain sits in jail.
Like the Founders in Philadelphia, the passengers in Athens recognize that "When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them to another, a decent respect for the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separataion."
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Just as the Founders cited "a long train of abuses and usurpations" committed by the British, The Audacity of Hope passengers detailed the Israeli abuses motivating their call for U.S. independence:
- For generations Israel has engaged in a systematic campaign to disposess Palestinians of their lands and drive them from their ancestral homes.
- Since 1967 Israel has occupied East Jerusalem the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights in open defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions and the Geneva Conventions. Residents of these occupied territories have been subjected to numerous forms of mistreatment, including military attacks, arbitrary arrests, home demolitions, and the confiscation of vast areas for the construction of illegal Jewish-only settlements and roads.
- Since the mid-1990s Israel has imposed an ever-tightening regime of economic strangulation on the Gaza Strip. Since 2006 in particular the 1.5 million people of Gaza have been kept in isolaton and under siege, with severely limited access to medical care, clean water, and construction materials needed to rebuild after Israeli military attacks. They have been prevented from fishing in their coastal waters, growing crops on much of their farmland, or exporting almost anything.
- Israel has used its powerful influence inside the U.S. to secure Washington's backing for these illegal and counterproductive policies. In addition to more than $3 billlion per year of U.S. taxpayer dollars in military aid, Israel has gained uncritical American diplomatic support, including repeated use of the American veto in the Security Council to stymy any U.N. effort to enforce international law and to hold Israel accountble for its crimes.
- In recent years Israel has reacted with brutal violence against international as well as Palestinian and Israeli activists who have dared to step in where the U.S. and the U.N. have feared to tread. On May 31, 2010, Israel's vicious assault on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in international waters caused the deaths of nine unarmed human-rights volunteers, including the 19-year-old American citizen Furkan Dogan.
- This year Israel, in collusion with the U.S., has deployed a variety of economic, diplomatic, and other pressure tactics to undermine the sovereignty of Greece, Turkey, and other nations and force them to obstruct the Gaza Freedom Flotilla II in defiance of their own maritime regulations and procedures. In addition, Israel has carried out a campaign of unbridled distortion and defamation against the organizers and participants in this year's flotilla. When that failed, Israel's agents resorted to life-threatening sabotage operations against at least two of the flotilla's ships.
"In light of this long - but still very partial - list of abuses and usurpations committed by Israel, it's past time for the U.S. to end its 'special relationship' with Israel and declare its independence from that country," said a letter that the passengers will deliver to the U.S. Embassy in Greece on July 4. "Just as the original American Declaration of Independence inspired popular sturuggles for independence and democracy all over the world, we humbly call on other countries that have been subjected to Israeli pressure and manipulation, particularly Greece and Turkey, to join us in our campaign to rid our country of this scourge."