- Coalition that seeks to end Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip
Founded in 2010, US To Gaza (USTG) describes itself as “a coalition of organizations and a grassroots campaign of individuals” whose initial priority was “to launch a U.S. boat” that would help “break the [Israeli] blockade of Gaza and … end the occupation of Palestine.” At issue was the continuing naval blockade that Israel had first imposed on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip in June 2007, in the wake of a relentless barrage of terror attacks originating in Gaza and directed against towns in southern Israel. According to USTG, the blockade “is suffocating the lives of the people of Gaza and denying them their liberty.” By banning the importation of “vital building materials and other supplies,” while restricting exports and travel “without permission from Israel,” Gaza, says USTG, is essentially “an open-air prison.” “The U.S. government is complicit,” USTG adds, “through established policies that uncritically support Israel in its brutal attack on the Palestinian people and on those who attempt to intervene on their behalf.”
From its inception, USTG announced that it would seek to raise at least $370,000 to cover the purchase price of a boat large enough to carry 40 to 60 people, plus the cost of a crew, plus whatever fees would be required to license and register the vessel. USTG planned to christen the boat “The Audacity of Hope,” after the title of Barack Obama’s 2008 memoir. In the fall of 2010, the organization would coordinate the timeline for its boat’s journey with that of a flotilla of ships hailing variously from Europe, Canada, India, South Africa, and parts of the Middle East.
USTG has received organizational endorsements for its efforts from: Al-Awda (New York chapter); Code Pink; the Free Gaza Movement; the International Solidarity Movement; Veterans for Peace; and the War Resisters League.
Individual endorsements have come from such notables as:
- Anna Baltzer, who has worked with both the International Solidarity Movement and the International Women’s Peace Service;
- Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink and Global Exchange;
- Phyllis Bennis, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and an advisory board member of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation;
- Leslie Cagan, co-chair of the anti-war coalition United For Peace and Justice;
- Cindy Corrie and Craig Corrie, parents of the late anti-Israel activist Rachel Corrie;
- Angela Davis, the lifelong communist and former member of the Black Panther Party;
- Hedy Epstein of the Palestine Solidarity Committee and the International Solidarity Movement;
- Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative Nonviolence (and former director of Voices in the Wilderness);
- Rashid Khalidi, the Columbia University professor who founded the Arab American Action Network and sits on the board of trustees for MIFTAH;
- Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights;
- author Alice Walker; and
- officials from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions-USA, and MADRE.