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Intense Israeli lobbying stalls Gaza flotilla

A US contingent is bringing Arabic translations of a book about Martin Luther King Jr., saying they want to show Palestinians that nonviolent resistance can work. But they're stuck in Athens.

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Wright says at first, the complaint that the boat was unsafe, made June 23, came from an unclear source.

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"The name didn't make sense; there was only a first name on the complaint," she says. This morning, Israeli Army Radio reported that it was made by an Israeli law clinic, she says. The organizers have been waiting since the 23rd for an inspection to be made. "This is a delaying tactic to keep us out. We're eager to be inspected, so they can come on board and ensure that we have no weapons, that everything is in order."

Those on the US boat and all the other participants say they're committed to nonviolence, and any resistance if they're boarded when they near Gaza will be passive.

Does blockade help or hurt Israel's security?

Ron Prosor, Israel's ambassador to the UN, wrote a letter to the body last week implying that the activists are seeking to provoke violence.

"The goal of the flotilla is not to give humanitarian aid but to provoke and aid a radical political agenda," Mr. Prosor wrote. The Israeli government has insisted that additional aid isn't needed for Gaza. "The UN, for example, transfers aid to Gaza on a daily basis through the acceptable ways," he wrote.

But though it is called an aid flotilla, with modest supplies on board some ships, the organizers say the real intent of the action is to draw attention to the blockade of Gaza itself, which they say stifles Gaza's economic life. Gaza's fishing industry has also collapsed due to limits on how far local boats can go offshore. The US boat isn't bringing aid at all, but rather letters of solidarity from US groups and citizens.

"If people are talking about the blockade, we win," says Naiman. "The humanitarian cost, the illegality – spotlighting that is part of our purpose. If they let us through, we can show that we came through and life will go on. The Israeli policy is based on the premise that 'life on earth will end if we let a boat through.' Up until June of 2010, they said we need all these restrictions to stay safe. But miraculously, they lifted some restrictions after the last flotilla and life went on as normal."

"This is about the use of force and the collective punishment of 1.5 million people" in Gaza, says Wright. "I certainly understand the Israeli government's concerns for its own national security … but sometimes their policies jeopardize their national security, rather than enhance it."

"When you pen up 1.5 million people, don’t let them control any aspect of their lives, and bomb them a lot, you’re going to create a proportion of people that will lash out at you," she says, also acknowledging that Gaza militants have launched countless rocket attacks on southern Israeli towns. "Not that I condone any of the rockets that have been fired from Gaza. Every human life killed by them is horrible ... but I would say 99.99 percent of people I talk to in Gaza abhor that use of missiles, and it doesn’t do anything for their nonviolent struggle.”

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