I covered a boat cruise around Manhattan last summer that raised money for the Audacity Of Hope — not Barack Obama’s book, but the blockade-breaking aid ship for Gaza’s Palestinians determined to actually land without the deadly violence surrounding the May 31, 2010, attempt by the “Gaza Freedom Flotilla.” It was just like your typical Circle Line sunset cruise — apart from the Palestinian flags waving from the boat, taunts from pro-Israel supporters as it departed, and presence of Palestine-sympathetic figures on board, like activist Emily Henochowicz and Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman.
Now the actual voyage of the Audacity of Hope is only weeks away. It could end up just as violently as last year’s attempt.
Speakers on the boat made clear that the phrase “audacity of hope” should not be attributed to the president, whom they had universally lost faith in on Palestine, but to the person he’d thrown under the bus after stealing his quote for the title of his book: the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. At that time, with first-hand memories of what had happened on the Mavi Marmara still fresh for many aboard, the idea of sending another boat to Gaza seemed like a distant goal.
Neither supporters nor opponents expect it to go down any differently this time around. Last year, the Israeli military boarded the ships in international waters, and ensuing gunfire left nine people dead.
An initial report from the Human Rights Council of the United Nations found that “at least six of the killings can be characterized as extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions.” A second report — expected soon — is reportedly near a stalemate when it comes to assessing blame.
Here in New York, there has been fallout over the flotillas. Furkan Dogan, at 18 the youngest casualty, was a native of New York state. While studying abroad in Israel last year, Cooper Union art student Emily Henochowicz was demonstrating against Israel over Dogan’s and the eight others’ deaths they day after they occurred when she was hit in the face by a tear gas canister and lost an eye.
Also, Siege Busters Working Group was evicted from the LGBT Center earlier this year for planning a dance party to raise money for the Audacity, setting off controversy over the role of free speech at the city’s largest gay community space.